This version of the song was recorded for Columbia Records in 1949, before Sinatra had his amazing breakthrough as an expressive artist at Capitol Records, where he began his legendary collaboration with arranger Nelson Riddle.
At Columbia he was still using his longtime arranger Axel Stordahl, whose backing of Sinatra could be a little syrupy at times. Still, you can sense here the beginnings of the almost conversational phrasing and emotional directness Sinatra brought to his great work in the Fifties.
Sinatra recorded the song twice more in the Sixties for his own label Reprise after he left Capitol. One was a decent but uninspired duet with Rosemary Clooney, the other a dreadful, punched-up hipster version which doesn’t convey even a trace of genuine emotion.
It’s easy to overlook how great the song is. Many people think of it in the versions from the Broadway play and its film adaptation (above), in both of which it’s sung in an overblown operatic style that subverts the simple conversational perfection of the lyric by Oscar Hammerstein II.
Sinatra serves the lyric pretty well in his Columbia recording, but Dylan serves it perfectly in his new version on Shadows In the Night. He makes it simple — you see a stranger who sweeps you off your feet . . . you need to go talk to her before it’s too late and you lose her forever. Dylan sings about this as though he’s someone who knows all too well what it’s like to let a golden moment pass you by.