"In the Wee Small Hours" was the very first 12" album Frank Sinatra recorded, a superb collection of ballads arranged by Nelson Riddle that went to the top of the charts in 1955. Riddle created a melancholy sound that perfectly suited these songs of loneliness and despair, and which showcased Sinatra's sudden maturity as a vocalist. Everybody who could read a newspaper or listen to a gossip on the phone knew that Sinatra's love affair with actress Ava Gardner had ended badly, and it was impossible not to have that tabloid fact provide his singing with an obvious poignancy with this selection of songs. However, what was important was that Sinatra had raised his singing to a whole new level, showing a mastery of phrasing that would define the rest of his career. Special mention needs to be made of the piano work by Bill Miller, which also stands out in Riddle's sparse arrangements. In addition to the title song by Bob Hilliard & David Mann, there are a series of standards of this type such as Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo," Cole Porter's "What is this Thing Called Love?," Arlen & Harbaurg's "Last Night When We Were Young," and a trio of Rodgers & Hart tunes. My vote for the best track would go to Hoagy Carmichael's "I Get Along Without You Very Well," a song that epitomizes the mood of the entire album and highlights Sinatra's singing prowess. With the "In the Wee Small Hours" album the crooner who had been the heartthrob of the nation's Bobbysoxers gave way to the saloon singer who became one of the most important musical figure of the 20th century (Bing Crosby, Elvis, and the Beatles are the others who define that ultimate level). This is a must have album for Sinatra fans, the oldest record on my list of ten essential Sinatra albums.