Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie – Our Favorite Female Vocal Album of All Time

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A distinguished member of the  Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

The first “Triple Triple” MONO copy to ever hit the site — A+++ from start to finish. Our knockout mono pressing here was fuller, more natural and more involving than any copy we heard in our shootout. with immediacy to put Ella practically in the room with you, it’s her performance that really comes to life. It’s our single Favorite Female Vocal album here at Better Records, one that gets better with each passing year.

Check out what the lucky owner of this copy had to say about it.

PR Writes

As you probably know, I own superb copies of the stereo. They both fade into pastel in comparison with this mono.

The beat on the stereo is present and accounted for, but here it is palpable and driven, giving thrust and holographic dimension to her voice. Here it really swings. There it provides pleasing atmospherics and depth and transparency; here it is compelling, forceful and electric. Here it dances. Here her voice has an intimacy, nuance and projection that is not available in the stereo.

I, too, love this recording. I was blown away by the mono, which I played on my mono system. It reminded me of the wonderful early mono Mercury recordings of Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughn and Helen Merrill, which is why I set up the mono system in the first place.

Great find, Tom.

OUR HOT STAMPER COMMENTARY

We’re absolutely crazy about this album, and we’ve finally found a mono copy worthy of White Hot Stamper sonic status on BOTH sides.

Folks, if you’re in the market for one of the most magical female vocal recordings we know of, today is your lucky day.

Folks, this record came as a SHOCK — the first and ONLY mono pressing we have ever played that not only was competitive with the best stereo copies, but actually bettered them in some ways. Some IMPORTANT ways I might add.

We’ve played quite a number of mono pressings of Clap Hands over the years, and in the aggregate they’re exceedingly mediocre. On most of the ones we’ve ever played Ella was distant, dull and lifeless. Feh! Who wants to play a record the sounds like that? Especially when the music is so good.

What’s So Special About This Mono Anyway?

Well I’m more than happy to tell you. It’s simply this: the mono lets you know that there was a bass player at the session in a way that the stereo copies — none of them — do not. The bass player is front and center (in mono where else would he be?) in the mix and he DRIVES the rhythmic elements of the songs so strongly that the songs actually seem to pick up pace compared to the way they sound on the stereo LPs.

For the first time you really get the feeling that this is a tightly-knit, swinging jazz combo that Ella is fronting. Everybody is playing together, right there in the center, with the drums and the bass as a unit laying down a super-solid rhythm line behind Ella.

What was surprising, even shocking in a way, was how much better Ella got as a singer. She swings more. She’s more energetic. She’s picked up the tempo, how I don’t know, but that’s the feeling you get when you hear her in mono on this copy.

And every bit as surprising was the fact that the slow songs got better too! Round Midnight and Signing Off aren’t faster, but she seems to somehow be feeling the lyric more, finding more emotion in it. Again, I have no idea how. I just know I heard it and felt it. It’s real.

Longtime customers know that I have been raving about this album for close to two decades; ever since I first heard it, in fact. I consider it the finest female vocal album in the history of the world. I could go on for pages about this record. Suffice to say that this is a record that belongs in every right-thinking Music Lover’s collection.

A Top Performance

The dirty little secret of the “bad pressing”, whether it’s badly remastered, badly mastered to start with, badly pressed or what have you, is the fact that more than anything else the bad sound hurts the musicians’ performances.

Conversely, the good pressings present the musicians at their best. Ella is at her peak on this album. Nobody sings jazz standards better. Most of the performances here are definitive.

If music is about emotion, this is the pressing that gets the music right.

Mono / Stereo

Here are some records that we think sound great in MONO.


This is Ella’s Masterpiece as well as a Desert Island Disc for yours truly.

What qualifies a record to be a Masterpiece needs no explanation. We will make every effort to limit the list to one entry per artist or group, although some exceptions have already occurred to me, so that rule will no doubt be broken from time to time. As Ralph Waldo Emerson memorably noted, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…”

For a record to come to my Desert Island Disc, said record:

1) Must have at some time during my fifty years as a music lover and audio hobbyist been played enthusiastically, fanatically even, causing me to feel what Leonard Bernstein called “the joy of music;” 
2) My sixty-something-year-old self must currently respect the album, and; 
3) I must think I will want to listen to the music on the album fairly often and well into the future (not knowing how long I may be stranded there).

How many records meet the Desert Island Disc criteria? Certainly many more than you can see when you click on the link, but new titles are constantly being added, time permitting.

Here are some Hot Stamper pressings of Desert Island Discs you can actually buy.

Here are some Hot Stamper pressings of Masterpieces you can buy.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Night In Tunisia
You’re My Thrill
My Reverie
Stella By Starlight
‘Round Midnite
Jersey Bounce
Signing Off

Side Two

Cry Me A River
This Year’s Kisses
Good Morning Heartache
(I Was) Born To Be Blue
Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie!
Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most
Music Goes ‘Round And ‘Round

AMG Review

This early ’60s studio session captures Ella Fitzgerald moving toward the smaller, more pointedly jazz-inflected ensembles that would shape her career in her final decades. After the lush orchestrations of her classic series of composer songbooks, which found her collaborating with the best arrangers, the intimate scale and easy interplay of a crack band provide a wonderful platform for the spirited performances here.

That Ella herself savored the opportunity is reflected in a program that includes Thelonious Monk’s “After Midnight” and a breezy, potent ride through the Charlie Parker/Dizzy Gillespie anthem, “Night In Tunisia.” With a mix of bona fide standards and revived swing classics, this is a rediscovered gem, cause enough to clap hands.

Sam Sutherland

As of this writing, all 19 of the user reviews on Amazon give the album Five Stars. Now when have you ever seen such unanimity?