Every once in a while something special seems to come into the hands of music lovers.
I have several buddies who love vinyl records — one who's lived long enough to have collected them the first time around and another much younger one, who fell in love with the format while listening to his dad's and mom's LPs when he was a kid. Yep, he's now obtained all the high-tech gadgetry needed to summon music from the clouds in a variety of formats, but not a lot of things get him as excited as getting a new 180-gram vinyl record.
I've talked with lovers of vinyl records about what they like most about the format — and several of them have said it's the whole experience.
Even before my friend plays a new record for the first time, he's filled with anticipation. He gently pulls the shrink-wrap off it, feels the cover's texture with his fingertips and then, gently places the needle on the record — awaiting those first, blissful sounds.
Another friend gets his biggest buzz from running across rare or long-sought-after vinyl LPs, with the original pressings from their first-time around. Most people who regularly flip through the vinyl offerings at thrift stores, antique shops or yard sales have a story about finding that rarity among the dross and thinking "Wow! How did that get in there?" It's the experience one gets when flipping past a whole section of albums by the Mantovani Orchestra (yawn) and finding one by Van Morrison (yes)!
That brings me to another point. Somehow, it seems those who really treasure those albums the most are the ones who usually stumble upon them. I'm convinced it's more than luck. You're thinking about a particular song by say, Hank Williams, and maybe even singing some of the lyrics: "Good-bye Joe, me gotta go, me-oh-my-oh." Then a couple of hours later you're in the grocery store, wheeling through the canned food section, and there it is: a 27-ounce can of Jambalaya Fixins'.
It's got to be more than luck. It's synchronicity. Now, I'm feeling fine because I've written about synchronicity without mentioning an album by The Police. (Oops! I did it again).
Whatever is the word for it, I'm thankful for those seemingly random events that have turned out to have quite an impact upon my musical life.
Who knows why I decided to go to the McAlester Public Library one day a few years ago and thumb through their CD collection? Why did I stop when I reached a three-disc collection of Frank Sinatra music called "The Capitol Years" — a 75-song collection of Sinatra's recordings from the years 1953-1961.
Hmmm. Since Elvis Presley cut his first Sun Records hit in Memphis in 1954, followed by Chuck Berry, on Chess in 1955 and by Jerry Lee Lewis, back on Sun, in 1956, I figured "The Capitol Years" would show me what Sinatra had been up to during the formative years of rock 'n' roll. I'd heard Sinatra's 1940s stuff, when he caused the bobby soxers to swoon, and his 1960s hits, when he battled groups such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for the top of the charts, but most of what Sinatra did in the 1950s was a blank to me.
I thought checking out "The Capitol Years" would be a good way to fill that gap in my musical education.
That wasn't the only reason I checked the disc out, though. During that time, if a person donated a book, recording or movie to the library, they'd often be honored with a short notation attached to the donated work. I'd noticed a lady named Margaret Whiting had donated a lot of the books I'd checked out during a certain point in my life, books by Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others of their generation.
It occurred to me that Margaret Whiting had great taste in literature. I figured she must have great taste in music, too,
Sinatra's album "The Capital Years" was filled with aural masterpieces. Not only did I hear Sinatra at the height of his considerable vocal powers, i also heard music led by some of the greatest conductors and arrangers in popular music, including Gordon Jenkins, Billy May, Alex Stordahl and, of course, the great Nelson Riddle.
And the songs! Lots of them are now familiar, thanks to the numerous recordings by everyone from Michael Bublé to Rod Stewart. Up to that point, a lot of my knowledge of the Great American Songbook began with Willie Nelson's masterpiece, "Stardust."
How could I have missed so many great songs? Amazing.
Each of the three discs on "The Capitol Years" were filled with some of the best songs I've ever heard. A sampling of the 26 tracks on disc one alone included "I've Got the World on a String," "They Can't Take That Away from Me," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning," "You Make Me Feel So Young," "I've Got You Under my Skin," Too Marvelous for Words" and the great "Young at Heart."
Among the 24 songs on disc two are "The Lady is a Tramp," "Night and Day," "I'm a Fool to Want You," "Witchcraft," "Chicago" "Autumn in New York," the exhilarating "Come Fy with Me" and the poignant "Angel Eyes."
The 25 songs on disc three include the goose-bump-inducing Sinatra version of "Ebb Tide," "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry," "Here's That Rainy Day" "I've Got a Crush on You," the heart-rending "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road" and "All the Way."
I went all the way into discovering more of Sinatra's Capitol recordings after I became immersed in "The Capitol Years." I learned the songs were taken from a series of albums Sinatra recorded from 1953-1961, so I collected as many of those as I could find.
If the McAlester Public Library had not had the three-disc set of "The Capitol Years" on its shelves that day, and if Margaret Whiting had not donated the set to the library, my musical and cultural life would be much poorer.
Would I have discovered the music on my own at a later date? Probably, maybe, but really... who knows. I'm just glad that someone donated that boxed set of "The Capitol Years" to the local library.
Sometimes at night when I'm listening to some of my favorite recordings by Sinatra, I'll pause for a moment and think to myself, "Thank you, Margaret Whiting."
Contact James Beaty at email@example.com