Top Artists – Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Ella and Louis

  • You’ll find very good Hot Stamper sound or BETTER on both sides of this early mono pressing – if only a record of this quality could be found on quieter vinyl!
  • One of the greatest duet albums of all time, if not THE GREATEST – a Desert Island Disc to beat them all
  • Problems in the vinyl is sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around it if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Ella and Louis is an inspired collaboration, masterminded by producer Norman Granz… Gentle and sincere, this is deserving of a place in every home.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Santana’s first album is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.
  • If you’re a fan of vintage Pop and Jazz Vocals, this 1956 release is an absolute Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1956 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Click and pop counters might want to give this one a miss. It’s not as quiet as a modern pressing would be, but it’s as quiet as this title can be found on vintage ’50s Verve vinyl. If you have a top quality, heavily tweaked front end and a quiet cartridge, you might be good to go, but if you are picky about your surfaces, we recommend you give this one a miss.

Those of you looking for a cheaper, quieter alternative to spending hundreds of dollars on one of our Hot Stampers should look into the original Speakers Corner pressing or the CD, both of which we’ve played and both of which are quite good. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie in Stereo

More Ella Fitzgerald

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

  • A STUNNING pressing of Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • We have a devil of a time finding copies that sound this good, play this quietly, and have no audible marks or wear
  • The vocal naturalness and immediacy of this early stereo pressing will put Ella in the room with you – it lets her performance come to life
  • Only the best pressings bring her performance to life the way this one does
  • Our single Favorite Female Vocal album here at Better Records, one that gets better with each passing year
  • “Another typically wonderful LP of Ella Fitzgerald in her prime…this is an excellent (and somewhat underrated) set.” [It is definitely not underrated by us, we think it’s the best record the lady ever made]
  • If you’re a fan of Ella’s, or vintage Pop and Jazz Vocals in general, this Top Title from 1961 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1961 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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

We’re absolutely crazy about this album, and here’s a copy that more than justifies our enthusiasm. You will have a very hard time finding better sound than we are offering here.

Longtime customers know that I have been raving about this album for more than two decades, ever since I first heard it back around 1995. I consider it the finest female vocal album in the history of the world. I could go on for pages about this record. Suffice it to say this record belongs in every right-thinking Music Lover’s collection.

Fans of The First Lady of Song are encouraged to give this one a very hard look. It’s not cheap but this kind of quality never is. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald / Whisper Not and Comments on Her Pablo Period

Hot Stamper Pressings of Ella Fitzgerald’s Albums Available Now

Ella Fitzgerald Albums We’ve Reviewed

Our commentary from ten or fifteen years ago. Please to enjoy.

Whisper Not is one of the best Ella records we’ve played in a very long time. I’m telling you, this is Ella at her best! Having just played a lovely sounding copy of Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie, an album that tends to err on the bright side, I now realize that this album has the opposite problem — it’s a little bit smoother in places than it should be. Of course that’s a much more tolerable problem than the reverse.  

These are the comments for the last copy we had on the site.

For whatever reason, I’ve never stumbled upon a clean copy of this record. Consequently, I’d never heard it up until recently.

But my local record store had one sitting in the bin one day in lovely condition, which presented me with the perfect opportunity to find out whether this album presented the early “good” Ella or the later “bad” Ella.

Because some time in the ’60s she started making bad records. I know. I’ve played them. Misty Blue comes to mind but there are more than a dozen that we used to have on this blog in the Hall of Shame, and we will be putting them back up here at some point.

Everything she ever did for Pablo comes to mind. Some of you out there have told me that you actually like some of her Pablo material, but I cannot share your enthusiasm for those recordings. In my opinion she had completely lost it by the time she hooked up with her old buddy Norman Granz in the ’70s.

On the cover of this record she looks a little frumpy, and 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 much go to Marty Paich, one of my all-time favorite arrangers. Ever since I heard what he did for Art Pepper on his Modern Jazz Classics record for Contemporary I have been a big fan. This album just solidifies my love for the guy.

A couple of high points on this record: 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 is the Johnny Mercer songbook album.)

Anyway, take it from an Ella fan, you can’t go wrong with this one.

(more…)

Letter of the Week – “The stereo is immersive and big. The mono is palpable and solid.”

Hot Stamper Pressings of Ella Fitzgerald’s Albums Available Now

Ella Fitzgerald Albums We’ve Reviewed

Mono or Stereo? On This Album, Both Can Be Good

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

No two copies of a record sound the same. To put an even finer point on it, not even two White Hot Stampers sound the same.

I’ve been delightfully going back and forth between the stereo and mono white hots of Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie and taking great interest (and pleasure… and some frustration…) with how different they sound.

The stereo is immersive and big. The mono is palpable and solid. I prefer the band on the stereo, but the mono puts Ella in the room with me. Since this album is all about Ella, I’ll be returning the stereo.

Thank you for the chance to hear both versions. Your generous return policy is helping me build a collection of records I really love.

Aaron

Aaron,

Thanks for your letter.

It is indeed interesting to take two top copies of the album — we call them White Hot Stamper pressings — and play them against each other. In this case it is even more interesting because you were able to compare the best sounding Mono pressing with the best sounding Stereo pressing, something, by the way, we would do in the course of every shootout for this album.

We’ve written about the album extensively, and you can find our commentaries using the link below:

Reviews and Commentaries for Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie.

As for your preference for the mono, we can’t disagree with you about the sound. We used to prefer the mono ourselves. Lately we prefer the stereo. This is probably something that would be both system-dependent and listener-dependent. To each his own.

Either way, mono or stereo, when you play one of our White Hot Stamper pressings, you are hearing the greatest female vocal recording of all time with better sound than you would have ever thought possible.

At least that’s the way we feel about it.

(more…)

Ella Fitzgerald / Like Someone In Love – Good in Mono, Better in Stereo

  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this MONO original pressing from 1957 (the only way to fly) will be hard to beat
  • Ella’s voice is noticeably breathier, fuller, more relaxed and more musical here than it is on most of the other copies we played
  • An album that is beyond difficult to find with decent surfaces and undamaged inner grooves – most copies we get in are just trashed
  • “Most of the songs are veteran standards, Stan Getz’s warm tenor helps out on four tunes, and her voice was so strong and appealing during this era that all of her recordings from the mid- to late ’50s are enjoyable and easily recommended.”

Take it from an Ella fan, you can’t go wrong with this one, assuming you can put up with some ticky vinyl. This is about as quiet as we can find them. Like Someone in Love is five times rarer than Clap Hands, and twice as likely to be noisy.

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, 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!

The space is huge and the sound so rich. The vocals have dramatically less hardness and the orchestra — especially on side two — is not brash for once.

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 – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie in Mono

More Ella Fitzgerald

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

  • A STUNNING Mono pressing of Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Our single Favorite Female Vocal album here at Better Records, one that gets better with each passing year
  • We have a devil of a time finding copies that sound good and have no audible marks or wear, but on this title there is simply no way around problems with the vinyl
  • The vocal naturalness and immediacy of this early pressing will put Ella in the room with you – more than anything else, it lets her performance come to life
  • “Another typically wonderful LP of Ella Fitzgerald in her prime…this is an excellent (and somewhat underrated) set.” [It is definitely not underrated by us, we think it’s the best record the lady ever made]
  • If you’re a fan of Ella’s, or vintage Pop and Jazz Vocals in general, this Top Title from 1961 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1961 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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

We’re absolutely crazy about this album, and here’s a copy that more than justifies our enthusiasm. You will have a very hard time finding better sound than we are offering here.

Longtime customers know that I have been raving about this album for more than two decades, ever since I first heard it back around 1995. I consider it the finest female vocal album in the history of the world. I could go on for pages about this record. Suffice it to say this record belongs in every right-thinking Music Lover’s collection.

Our last shootout was early 2019. Fans of The First Lady of Song are encouraged to give this one a very hard look. It’s not cheap but this kind of quality never is. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald & Count Basie – An Import in 2004 Killed the Speakers Corner Reissue

More of the Music of Count Basie

More of the Music of Ella Fitzgerald

This review was written in 2004. We had never heard a clean, domestic original copy up to that time, mostly because they were always in such poor condition. Eventually we did, figured out how to clean it, and never looked back.

You might consider this a Wake Up Call. By 2007 we were awake enough to stop buying Heavy Vinyl to resale. The better our system became, the less competitive those modern remasters sounded. It was yet another Milestone Event in the History of Better Records.

Please to enjoy our commentary.

This early British import (similar to the one you see on the left) KILLS the Speakers Corner 180 gram reissue.

I still like their version, but this is what it should have sounded like: tonally much fuller and richer. The 180 gram copy suffers from the standard reissue MO — brighter is not necessarily better, and definitely not when you have a big band and a vocalist, as is the case here.

I’ve never heard this album sound better and I doubt that it really can sound much better than this. This copy makes me want to turn it up as loud as the stereo will go and let those wonderful Quincy Jones arrangements come to life. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – The Duke Ellington Songbook, Vol. 2

More Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald Albums We’ve Reviewed

  • A stunning sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on ALL FOUR SIDES!
  • Forget the originals – like so many of the early songbook pressings, they suffer from painfully hard and honky mastering EQ (and gritty sounding vinyl)
  • We know whereof we speak when it comes to early Ella records – we’ve played plenty of them and found that most just don’t sound very good
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout* — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Duke’s spectacular catalog dazzles, and his sprightly, lush textures are transfigured under Fitzgerald’s warm-timbred voice and elegant, precise delivery… each tune as familiar as it is delightful to hear in this new context.”

This mono reissue is the only way to find the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from modern records. As good as the best of those pressings may be, this record is going to be dramatically more REAL sounding.

(more…)

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Ella and Louis on Import

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound and some remarkably quiet vinyl can be found on both sides of this mono import
  • Anyone with two working ears can tell that this superb import LP was mastered from the real tapes — you know, the ones that are locked away in Verve’s vaults
  • And that means that only digital copies of the tapes are being made available to mastering engineers who want to recut the record, sad but true (or likely to be true anyway)
  • One of the greatest duet albums of all time, if not THE GREATEST – a Desert Island Disc to beat them all
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Ella and Louis is an inspired collaboration, masterminded by producer Norman Granz… Gentle and sincere, this is deserving of a place in every home.”
  • If you’re a fan of Ella’s, Louis’s, or vintage Pop and Jazz Vocals in general, this is The Top Title from 1956, and one that certainly belongs in any right-thinking audiophile’s collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1956 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The sound is big, open, rich and full, with the performers front and center. Ella and Louis are no longer representations — they’re living, breathing persons. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. Their voices are so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

This Verve import (from a country whose records we rarely offer as Hot Stampers, almost never in fact) has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

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Ella Fitzgerald / Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie – Classic Records Reviewed

Sonic Grade: F

There is no reissue, and there will never be a reissue, that will sound as good as a good vintage pressing of Clap Hands.

The Classic Heavy Vinyl Reissue is a disgrace; I would rather play the CD.

(20 years ago, when I still had a CD player in my system, the CD was one of my favorites for testing, along with Blue and dozens of other well-recorded vocal albums.) 

Long time customers know that I have been raving about this album from way back in 1990 or so – 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 music. Suffice to say this is a record that belongs in every human being’s record collection.

Just not the Classic Records pressing of it.

Reviews and Commentaries for Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie.


Visit our Hall of Shame to see what are in our opinion some of the worst sounding records ever made.

Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another.

The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the all-too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more intolerable.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Classic Records – Classical

Classic Records – Jazz 

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries 

(more…)