Top Artists – Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald – The Rodgers & Hart Song Book, Volume 1

xxxxx

  • 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. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Sings the Harold Arlen Song Book #2

xxx

  • This STUNNING stereo pressing of the Harold Arlen Song Book earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades, or close to them, on both sides
  • One of the best copies to hit the site in a long time, Ella is incredibly rich, Tubey Magical and breathy throughout
  • Check out all the great songs here: Come Rain Or Come Shine, It’s Only A Paper Moon, One For My Baby, Get Happy, I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues, Over The Rainbow, and more
  • 5 stars: “Of all of her Songbooks, the Harold Arlen and Duke Ellington sets are the most jazz-oriented.”

(more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Swings Lightly

More Ella Fitzgerald

xxxxx
xxxxx

  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this original Bow Tie Verve Stereo pressing is going to be very hard to beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Lovely All Tube sound from 1958, with a huge, rich orchestra conducted by one of our favorite arrangers, Marty Paich 
  • Grammy Award for Best Improvised Jazz Solo – these were the days when Ella was on top of the world
  • “The bright, sunny optimism of Fitzgerald’s style comes through in several tracks, including ‘If I Were a Bell’ (which also includes several remarkable variations on the melody), and ‘Teardrops From My Eyes’ (which alternates between rock and jazz beats—not a big leap back then!)”

When you are lucky enough to find an album chock full of standards from the Great American Songbook, you cannot help but recognize that this era for Ella will never be equaled, by her or anyone else.

The recording is excellent, with space and midrange richness that might just take your breath away. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – These Are The Blues – Another Top Ella Title

xxxxx

  • An outstanding early Stereo copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Only the best vintage pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1963
  • Allmusic Users 4 1/2 stars: “Ella Fitzgerald was never thought of as a blues singer but she does a surprisingly effective job on the ten blues songs here, including “See See Rider,” “Trouble in Mind,” “St. Louis Blues,” and Bessie Smith’s “Jailhouse Blues.” She somehow sings more or less in the style of the classic blues vocalists of the 1920s and largely pulls it off. …organist Wild Bill Davis (with assistance from guitarist Herb Ellis, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Gus Johnson) dominate the ensembles. It’s an interesting set.”blues

(more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Swings Brightly With Nelson

xxx

 

The sound is rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of a classic vintage jazz vocal album. You could easily demonstrate your stereo with a record this good! The space is HUGE and the sound so rich. 

Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Rhythm Is My Business

xxxxx

  • This outstanding copy of Ella’s superb follow-up to Clap Hands boasts insanely good Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • What took us by surprise was the richness and sweetness of this early Stereo Verve – so many of Ella’s early albums don’t have the smooth, natural vocals heard on this pressing
  • We absolutely love the swinging R&B organ Bill Doggett brought to these big band sessions, all backing an exceptionally well recorded First Lady of Song
  • “Ella Fitzgerald is in the spotlight throughout, mostly singing swing-era songs along with a couple of newer pieces… [her] voice was in its prime, and the charts are excellent.”

This copy is about as quiet as any domestic original Verve stereo pressing can be found. The monos of this title — which naturally are five times more common — have that hard, honky sound that so many mono cuttings made from Ella’s stereo recordings are cursed with.

Clap Hands is a notable exception to that rule, and of course any of her albums recorded in mono sound best in mono, when cut right and pressed right.

1962 was a great year for Ella. She released this album early in the year and followed it up with the Grammy winning Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson. Later in the same year Verve released Ella Swings Gently with Nelson, and it’s interesting to note that all three of these classic albums were recorded late in 1961. The woman could do no wrong! We would have to wait for her first release of 1963, Ella Sings Broadway, before she put out a clunker. But who’s fault is that? The music is fine, it’s the recording that’s bad (as far as we can tell; we have yet to hear one sound good). (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Get Happy!

xxxxx

  • Ella’s 1959 release for Verve (in stereo!) makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • The sound is big, rich, lively and dynamic, with Ella’s astounding vocal range rendered as only an All Tube Analog chain can
  • These sides reproduce both the breath, as well as the front and center immediacy, of The First Lady of Song’s vocals, with tubey rich orchestral arrangements in support
  • “As usual, Ella uplifts all of the material and her best moments come on ‘Somebody Loves Me,’ a heartfelt ‘Moonlight Becomes You,’ a scat-filled ‘Blue Skies’ and (somewhat surprisingly) ‘St. Louis Blues.’… the formerly obscure ‘Get Happy’ finds Ella Fitzgerald at the peak of her powers.”

*NOTE: On side two, a small mark makes 1 loud then 1 moderate pop in the middle of track 2, Blue Skies.

The space here is HUGE and the sound so rich. Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Swings Gently with Nelson

xxx

  • An excellent sounding stereo copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Here are the natural, present, wonderfully breathy vocals that can only be heard on these vintage vinyl pressings
  • “In 1961 Ella Fitzgerald recorded two albums with Nelson Riddle’s Orchestra. Her voice was in peak form and, even if the backup band was somewhat anonymous, Fitzgerald uplifted the 15 songs on this set… Although the accent is on ballads, several of the songs are taken at medium tempos and she swings throughout. Highlights include “Georgia on My Mind,” “The Very Thought of You,” “It’s a Pity to Say Goodnight,” “Darn That Dream,” “Body and Soul” and a cooking “All of Me.””

(more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – The Rodgers & Hart Song Book, Volume 2

xxxxx

  • An incredible sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from the first note to the last
  • The 1956 recording quality is excellent, with space and midrange richness that might just take your breath away
  • 5 stars: “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.” – All Music (Vol. 1 & Vol. 2)

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. 2 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
  • The richness of the sound of this pressing is what earned it such high sonic grades
  • 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

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.

Hi-Fidelity

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.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Give It Back To The Indians
Ten Cents A Dance
There’s A Small Hotel
I Didn’t Know What Time It Was
I Could Write A Book
My Funny Valentine

Side Two

Bewitched
My Romance
Wait Till You See Her
Lover
Isn’t It Romantic
Blue Moon

AMG 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.