Review: Michael Feinstein - The Sinatra Project, Vol. II: The Good Life

Classic Americana Reborn

Michael Feinstein - The Sinatra Project, Vol. II: The Good Life. Michael Feinstein

Legendary entertainer Michael Feinstein presents another album of classic Americana standards with the follow-up to his first “ol’ Blue Eyes” offering, The Sinatra Project, Vol. II: The Good Life. Known as the "Ambassador of the American Songbook," Feinstein has devoted his music career to promoting the uniquely American sound and stories captured in the "Golden Age" of American popular music. His new Sinatra Project, Vol. II continues this tradition in fine form.

Cool Daddy-O

Inspired by Frank Sinatra, the infamous Rat Pack, and the cool, mod big band sound of the 1960’s, Feinstein has selected twelve songs that span the gamut of a sultry and swingin’ music set perfect for a swanky nightclub act that would make Sinatra proud. From smoky ballads to Broadway belters, the album features Feinstein singing and playing solo piano and backed by an incredible band that relish the lush orchestral arrangements by Bill Elliott.

Without trying to impersonate Sinatra, Feinstein approaches the songs from the text and the story the song is trying to tell. He deftly finds his own voice amongst a song list of well-known popular and Broadway classics that include Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady” and “For Once in My Life.”

Pro's and Con's

If you have only heard Feinstein exploring the Gershwins’ catalogue, definitely give The Sinatra Project, Vol. II a listen. Feinstein not only croons smoothly in his legit voice, gliding from tenor to a rich lyric baritone on “C’est Comme Ca” and “I’ll Be Around,” but he proves he can belt with the best of them on the brass-infused showstoppers “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” and “For Once in My Life.”

Only two negatives keep the album from getting five stars. The choice of songs with archaic terms and sentiments that now have a negative meaning such as “Thirteen Women” and “The Lady is a Tramp” could have been avoided, but this is a common pitfall for songs from the pre-feminist era of the 1930’s through the 1960’s. Also, with only twelve songs, the album could have a little more meat, but a hundred songs would not have been enough to satisfy true devotées of Sinatra or big band tunes.

Wrap Up

The Sinatra Project, Vol. II: The Good Life is a winner with the high quality of Feinstein’s emotional and strong vocals, Elliott’s stellar arrangements, and the band’s full-out, masterful playing. You will find yourself singing along and even dancing around the livingroom while listening to the great tunes offered on Feinstein’s latest Sinatra-themed album. Consider Feinstein’s album already stamped with Sinatra’s seal of approval.

Song List

1. Thirteen Women (Dickie Thompson)
2. Hallelujah I Love Her So (Ray Charles)
3. C’est Comme Ça (Edward Kennedy “Duke” Kennedy, Marshall Barer)
4. Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby? (Louis Jordan, Billy Austin)
5. Sway (Pabló Beltrán Ruiz, Norman Gimbel, Luis Demetrio Traconis Molina)
6. Luck Be a Lady/All I Need Is the Girl (“Luck Be a Lady” – Frank Loesser, “All I Need Is the Girl” – (Stephen Sondheim, Jule Styne)
7. I’ll Be Around (Alec Wilder)
8. The Way You Look Tonight (Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields)
9. The Lady Is a Tramp (Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers)
10. For Once in My Life (Ronald Miller, Orlando Murden)
11.The Good Life (Jack Reardon, Sacha Distel)
12. Once in a Lifetime (Anthony Newly, Leslie Bricusse)

Musicians and Instruments

Michael Feinstein – All Vocals, Solo Piano on “C’est Comme Ça,” “The Good Life,” “I’ll Be Around,” and “Sway.”

Piano: Bill Elliott
Flute: Dan Higgins, Jay Mason, Jeff Driskill
Clarinet: Jay Mason, Jeff Driskill, Sal Lozano
Bass Clarinet: John Mitchell
Alto Sax: Dan Higgins, Jay Mason, Jeff Driskill, Sal Lozano
Baritone Sax: John Mitchell
French Horn: Brian O’Connor, Joe Meyer
Solo Trumpets: Willie Murillo on “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” and “The Lady Is a Tramp”
Trumpets: Wayne Bergeron, Willie Murillo, Darrel Gardner, Don Clarke
Trombones: Alan Kaplan, Charlie Morillas, Alex Iles, Craig Gosnell
Drums: Albie Birk
Percussion: Bernie Dresel
Guitar: Jim Fox
Bass: Kirk Smith
Solo Violin: Sid Page on “C’est Comme Ça” and “I’ll Be Around”
Violins: Peter Kent (concertmaster), Sharon Jackson, John Wittenberg, Julie Rogers, Kathleen Robertson, Erika Walczak, Judy Yoo, Gina Kronstadt, Susan Chatman, Carolyn Osborn
Violas: Andrew Duckles, Pam Jacobson
Celli: Cecilla Tsan, Rudy Stein