1959 OMAs: Album of the Year


1959 One Man Academy
Album of the Year

Come Fly with Me, Frank Sinatra

Definitely check these albums, though[1]

  • Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely, Frank Sinatra
  • Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook, Ella Fitzgerald


Early Grammy Impressions
The early years of the Grammys are weird.

I keep asking myself, "Wait, really??? How did you nominate this?"

While there are basic differences between today's musical landscape and the pre-to-early 60s -- Tchaikovsky being nominated for the 2017 award is inconceivable -- this feeling goes beyond that difference. Let's look at Henry Mancini and Cannonball Adderley as a quick and dirty example...

Henry Mancini's The Music from Peter Gunn was nominated for 1959's Album of the Year. The album is a compilation of music Mancini composed for the television show Peter Gunn. Around the same time, Cannonball Adderley dropped Somethin' Else on the world; it was not nominated.

I enjoyed listening to The Music from Peter Gunn -- it's a fun and interesting album. Somethin' Else is better.

It's easy to solve a mystery when you've already seen the end: a quick listen to the two albums and it's apparent which represents the then-future of jazz: Somethin' Else.[2]

What's fun to ponder is:

  • Was Somethin' Else such a small release, the academy didn't know about it?
  • Was the academy simply out-of-touch with what was happening in American music?
  • Was the academy willfully ignoring releases like Somethin' Else to protect music's status quo from what we know, now, will be music's inevitable future?
  • Is The Music from Peter Gunn actually better than Somethin' Else? If we were to poll today's academy and musical experts on which album is better, would we be surprised at the result?

The answer is certainly complex... it's unlikely any single thing would explain it all.

All the same, this is a question that definitely pops up a few more times over the next few years: "How did you nominate this?"

It will be interesting to see if the Grammys ever move from behind the curve to in front of it.

A quick note about Ella
Ella is great and Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook is simply too unwieldy to be considered a good "album". However, it's a great collection of songs. Put it on at a dinner party or while you're doing your Saturday cleaning. Let it fade into the background when you need, occasionally snap to and note how effing amazing Ella's voice is.

That said, this is a great opportunity to recommend a 1956 album by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald simply entitled Louis and Ella. If you are unfamiliar with the album, it might be the most wonderful thing you hear today.

Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely
I was personally shocked that Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely didn't win an OMA this year.

Objectively, the album routinely pops up in discussions of Frank's best work. Subjectively, my love for this album is reckless, enduring, and unassailable.

However: it turns out it's rather difficult to listen to the album as an album... I'd never noticed, because I usually listened to it shuffled in with 5-10 other Sinatra albums[3]. In that scenario, any particular song from the album shines as a beautifully melancholy contrast to the peppy songs on either side of it.

Listen to the album straight through, and it all becomes a bit too much. The orchestration is so heavy and Frank is doing his sad and somber thing so hard... I felt like I needed a break every four songs.

If this album were 8 to 10 tracks, instead of 12, it would be a stronger OMA candidate.

All that said, though, no one else in the entire world should ever sing "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)".

It was always you, Franky

But seriously... if you nominate Sinatra twice, he'll probably win at least once.

Come Fly with Me is a fun concept album with Frank singing of his exploits around the globe, before finally coming home on the album's final track. Sinatra from this era is already great... give me a good concept behind the album and I'm sold!

Also and finally: After listening to this album a number of times, I can say without hesitation that I love the song "Isle of Capri" more than I should. I'm not even sure I think it's a good song... I just know that I love it.

The 1959 nominees for Album of the Year

  • Come Fly with Me, Frank Sinatra
  • Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook, Ella Fitzgerald
  • Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely, Frank Sinatra
  • The Music from Peter Gunn, Henry Mancini
  • Tchaikovsky: Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor, Op. 23, Van Cliburn

Featured songs from this post: Spotify

The current One Man Academy (OMA) project is listening to the Grammy's Album of the Year nominees and re-choosing winners, absent of historical context.

All previous OMA Album of the Year Winners

  1. I can't imagine a scenario where I wouldn't recommend listening to Frank or Ella. ↩︎

  2. For what it's worth: it's tough to call Henry Mancini's album "jazz" because it sounds nothing like what we'd consider jazz today. If forced, I'd end up calling it "smooth jazz soundtrack orchestration". However, it sounds dated even for soundtrack orchestration, jazz tinted or not. ↩︎

  3. There was a point in time when I owned 12-13 Sinatra albums, and that was by far the most albums of anyone I knew... except for my friend Jess who had one or two more.

    That was a mere ten years ago, and we now live in a world where it's functionally meaningless to "own" music. From here on, it seems, the value in owning music will be as an act of love and devotion for your absolutely favorite music, probably in the form of vinyl. ↩︎