Nancy Sinatra – Shifting Gears

Famous daughter and ’60s sex kitten Nancy Sinatra has also had a lengthy and interesting career as a pop vocalist, which hopefully has been rediscovered by record collectors amid all the recent attention shown to her greatest musical collaborator, Lee Hazelwood. A decent sampling of Sinatra’s work was released recently via Shifting Gears, a collection of unreleased deep cuts that are covers of Hollywood, Broadway, and pop standards.

It should come as no surprise that the handful of keepers on this album are penned by Sinatra’s mainstream pop contemporaries, as singing accessible and catchy songs ready for mass consumption has always been her strong suit. Whether die-hard Nancy fans want to think the rest of us are too lazy to mine for deep cuts or not, she’s best known for “These Boots are Made for Walking” for a reason. That’s not a slight, as great pop singers from the golden era of the ’60s are just that: great. It’d take a true vocal talent like Sinatra to match up well with the big, stage-worthy backing tracks on cuts like Neil Diamond’s “Holly Holy.” It’d take sensuality, which Sinatra has always had in spades, to fully emote all of the lust packed in another Diamond classic, “Play Me.” Best of all, it takes Sinatra’s grasp on pop-style mood-setting to give her take on Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” more of an exotic beach vacation feel than any current pop-county frat house hit that’s supposed to evoke such imagery.

Though the album is rounded out by several classy Hollywood and Broadway homages to Papa Frank’s peers, those mediocre selections are overshadowed by the album’s pop-rock cuts. Sure, the beautiful acoustic version of “Cockeyed Optimist” from South Pacific is a nice addition, but the orchestra version is completely forgettable. Other passible cuts from the stage and screen include “Why Did I Choose You” from the Yearling, which shows that Sinatra can tell a story with words as well as she can deliver a catchy hook, and “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” which really could be as easily grouped with the pop standards, as most listeners will associate it with the Fugees now anyways.

Just as it reads on paper, this is a variety platter, cobbled together from Sinatra’s back catalog. If anything, the inclusion of forgettable covers of show tunes and a cut from Jesus Christ Superstar along with moving takes on such obvious FM radio hits as the Beatles’ “Something” reveals that Sinatra has always been a great pop vocalist, no less talented than any singing stage or film starlet.

Nancy Sinatra
Shifting Gears
[Boots Enterprises]