- A superb copy with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl for a pressing of this vintage
- The 1956 recording quality is excellent, with orchestral space and midrange richness that puts this pressing well above most of what we played
- 5 stars: “The arrangements by Buddy Bregman for the string orchestra and big band only border on jazz but she manages to swing the medium-tempo numbers and give sensitivity to the ballads. With such songs as “You Took Advantage of Me,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “It Never Entered My Mind,” “Where or When,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “Blue Moon,” it is not too surprising that these recordings were so popular.”
This ’50s LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.
Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real ELLA FITZGERALD singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 60 years old!), I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide.
What the best sides of Ella Sings The Rodgers & Hart Song Book, Vol. 1 have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1956
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all of the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
- The richness of the sound of this pressing is what earned it such high sonic grades
No doubt there’s more — there always is — but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Ella – What to Listen For
Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top (to keep Buddy Bregman’s orchestral arrangements from becoming congested, hard or shrill) did best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.
Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural ambience and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.
Tube smear is common to pressings from every era and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.
We know a fair bit about Ella’s recordings at this point. As of today we’ve done commentaries for more than a dozen different Ella Fitzgerald albums, and that’s not counting the sixteen (yes, 16!) titles we put in our Hall of Shame. We’ve searched high and low for her records and played them by the score over the years.
A Big Group of Musicians Needs This Kind of Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that — a copy like this one — it’s an entirely different listening experience.
What do we love about these vintage pressings? The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. The unique sound of every instrument is reproduced with remarkable fidelity. That’s what we at Better Records mean by “Hi-Fi,” not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that passes for Hi-Fidelity these days. There’s no boosted top, there’s no bloated bottom, there’s no sucked-out midrange.
This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I’m pretty sure our customers do, and whoever picks this record up is guaranteed to get a real kick out of it.
Have You Met Miss Jones?
You Took Advantage Of Me
A Ship Without A Sail
This Can’t Be Love
The Lady Is A Tramp
Johnny One Note
I Wish I Were In Love Again
Spring Is Here
It Never Entered My Mind
Where Or When
Little Girl Blue
AMG 5 Star Rave Review (For Vol. 1 & 2)
The second of Ella Fitzgerald’s famed Songbook series features her singing 34 of the best songs co-written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. The arrangements by Buddy Bregman for the string orchestra and big band only border on jazz but she manages to swing the medium-tempo numbers and give sensitivity to the ballads. With such songs as “You Took Advantage of Me,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “It Never Entered My Mind,” “Where or When,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “Blue Moon,” it is not too surprising that these recordings (originally released on a two-LP set) were so popular.