Frank Sinatra branched out with A Man Alone, “The Words & Music of McKuen” after making the album, ‘My Way’. Unlike most poets, Rod McKuen was extremely popular and successful, selling over a million copies of his books in the late ’60s. After meeting at a party, the singer decided to record an entire album of the poet’s verse and music. McKuen wrote a selection of new songs and poems for Sinatra; that material became A Man Alone.
The Voice singing the words of poet Rod McKuen is a brilliant marriage of a man with a heart doomed to a wistful solitude. The Lauras and Dindis about which he used to sing. Those lovely ladies who filled him with hope for a true love that never quite made it but he’d still try…the effort is gone. The women are now faceless strangers and none stand out, not even a friend, except for a man at peace with his lot in life.
“But no clouds come, if they did, I’d welcome them.’Cause I have very few visitors here any more. There must be a highway somewhere, roads I’ve missed, Something more than sky out beyond the window.”
Instead of wanderlust, looking to find the connection he craves, we’re left with a passive hope that there’s still something out there. Clouds, once an unwelcome shield against a bright outlook have become companions. I’m reminded of an elderly man in a nursing home, only we know he’s still able and nursing his own failures of the heart.
But it’s not depressing or even blue. It’s a beautiful acceptance of hey, maybe this is my lot in life.
“Empty is a string of dirty days. Held together by some rain.”
Some of us just have hard luck.
“Always alone, at home or in a crowd, A single man off on his private cloud, ‘Cause in a world that few men understand, I am what I am, the single man.”
Before a broken heart felt incomplete, in desperate need of solace. Craving the comfort of perfumed arms holding him in the moonlight. But now that comfort can be found in himself.
“How can you say something new about being alone, Tell somebody you’re a loner? Right away they think you’re lonely, It’s not the same thing, you know. It’s not wanting to put all your marbles in one pocket. And that’s caring enough not to care too much. Mostly, I guess it’s letting yourself come first for a while.”
On the whole, it is the conviction of Sinatra’s performance, along with Don Costa’s skillful arrangements that make the album great. Sinatra’s singing is textured and passionate, drawing more emotion from the lyrics than are actually there. Similarly, Costa’s charts are lush without being sentimental and very sympathetic to Sinatra’s vocals.
Sit back and relax, and listen to a master.