A smart, thoughtfully assembled four-CD collection, A Voice in Time charts the early development of Francis Albert Sinatra -- the standard by which all other classic American pop vocalists are measured. His journey to board chairmanship is charted from his first recordings with the Harry James Band in 1939 through his Victor years with Tommy Dorsey and finally during his extraordinary Columbia years, when he was teamed primarily with conductor/arranger Alex Stordahl and fashioned an extraordinary body of work that, amazingly, got even better when he moved to Capitol in 1953. The titles of the four discs pretty much tell the story: Disc 1, "The Big Band Years: 1939-1942," featured a young, even tentative Sinatra fronting James's and Dorsey's bands. The young voice is smooth and plaintive, but Sinatra sings with an emotional distance that would disappear when he started his solo career with Columbia and became, in the words of Disc 2's title, "Teen Idol: 1943-1952." Which is not to suggest Disc 1 is lesser Sinatra: His readings of "If I Didn't Care," "I'll Be Seeing You," the jaunty Irving Berlin gem "Blue Skies," and Cole Porter's "Night and Day" are strictly first-rank swooning material. Once into Disc 2, and on to Disc 3 ("The Great American Songbook," which starts with "All of Me" and goes on to collect work penned largely for film and Broadway by giants on the order of Carmichael, Arlen, Mercer, Berlin, Porter, the Gershwins, Kern, Hammerstein, et al.) and Disc 4 ("The Sound of Things to Come"), Sinatra increasingly asserts his personality on the lyrics; his phrasing becomes at once more precise and more rhythmically acute, and his emotional involvement in the material achieves a depth of feeling and nuance rarely approached by any other recording artist, ever. In Stordahl he had a studio alter ego who could challenge his artistry with both big, brassy arrangements ("When You're Smiling") and lush, heart-wrenching, string-driven charts ("Hello, Young Lovers," which drew a performance from Sinatra that is breathtakingly restrained and composed, as sung by a character whose broken heart hasn't killed his yearning for or memory of love; the impossibly winsome romantic testimony "We Kiss in a Shadow"; and the soaring, tender billet doux "My Girl" -- sequenced in a jaw-dropping trifecta on Disc 4). At the end of the time frame covered by this set, Sinatra was only three years away from his epic concept album for Capitol, The Wee Small Hours, but in the years charted on these discs, Ol' Blue Eyes wrote the book on 20th-century classic pop vocalizing. Historians and lovers alike can luxuriate in the treasures herein and get to the rest in due course.