- Big, balanced, lively and musical, these two sides had some of the best sound we heard in our most recent shootout
- Superb engineering from the man behind so many great sounding Verve records, Val Valentin
- “These fine-tuned arrangements also provide the perfect launching pad for Fitzgerald to place her own stamp on material associated with other singers.”
This vintage Verve stereo 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 51 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 outstanding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
- 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 1967
No doubt there’s more 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.
The Best Sounding Ella Recordings
The key to any Ella recording on Verve is to find the pressing with the most presence, breathiness, richness, tubiness and all the other good stuff that vintage analog records can give you, whilst minimizing the midrangy EQ that is found on many of her albums.
And it can be done. This copy is proof! Hardness and honkiness are no strangers to her records, but the best pressings make the EQ on her vocals sound maybe not perfect, but right for the music.
Copies with rich lower mids did the 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.
Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. 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.
What We’re Listening For on Whisper Not
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Val Valentin in this case — would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
A couple of high points: Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, the song Ella sang on her masterpiece, Clap Hands, is here rearranged for the players at hand, and the interpretation is fresh and moving. The song I Said No is filled with silly double entendres and is a hoot.
But I have to say those are two high points picked almost at random. Every track on this album is wonderful. I think this is one of her three or four best recordings ever. Another would be the Johnny Mercer songbook album.
Anyway, take it from an Ella fan, you can’t go wrong with this one. You could demonstrate your stereo with a record this good. But what you would really be demonstrating is music that the listener probably hasn’t heard, and that’s the best reason to demonstrate a stereo!
Marty Paich, Arranger Extraordinaire
On the cover of this record Ella looks a little frumpy; I was afraid this album was going to be frumpy too. I’m glad to say that the opposite is true. This album swings with the best she’s ever recorded. A lot of the credit must go to Marty Paich, one of my all-time favorite arrangers. I have been a big fan of his work ever since I first heard what he did for Art Pepper on his Modern Jazz Classics record on Contemporary from way back in 1959. The arrangements on Whisper Not just solidify my love for the guy.
Sweet Georgia Brown
I Said No
Thanks for the Memory
One of my favorite tracks on the album. Ella’s version here is definitive. This track alone is worth the price of the album.
Spring Can Really Hang You up the Most
Arranged for big band, this interpretation is every bit as emotionally satisfying as the brilliant version Ella does on Clap Hands.
Old MacDonald Had a Farm
Time After Time
I’ve Got Your Number
Wives and Lovers
Matchmaker (from Fiddler on the Roof)
AMG 4 Star Review
Whoever decided to put pianist Marty Paich and Ella Fitzgerald together in the studio in 1966 deserves a bit of credit for the great music on Whisper Not. Together, Fitzgerald and Paich deliver a dozen beautifully sung, carefully arranged standards. An orchestra tastefully backs Fitzgerald’s vocals, offering cushy support without overdoing it.
Even lighter pieces like “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “Old MacDonald” are given stately renditions. There’s a fun version of “I Said No,” filled with silly double entendres, and a relaxed take on “Thanks for the Memory.”
Norman Granz takes full advantage of stereo capabilities, creatively mixing the instruments to the right and left tracks while leaving Fitzgerald’s voice front and center. Paich adds to the overall sound quality by varying the arrangements from song to song, carefully wrapping each tune in the right package. These fine-tuned arrangements also provide the perfect launching pad for Fitzgerald to place her own stamp on material associated with other singers.
While both “Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be)” and “You’ve Changed” will be recognized as Billie Holiday classics, Fitzgerald delivers light, elegant versions that are distinctly her own. Whisper Not captures two intelligent artists working toward a common goal and creating beautiful music in the process.