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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke

Sings the Harold Arlen Song Book
VERVE Master edition 589 108-2

Ella Fitzgerald (Vocal) with Billy May’s Orchestra.
Recorded August 1960 and January 1961 in Los Angeles.

Crotchet £25

Disk One
  1. Blues in the Night
  2. Let’s Fall in love
  3. Stormy Weather
  4. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
  5. My Shining Hour
  6. Hooray for Love
  7. This Time the Dream’s on Me
  8. That Old Black Magic
  9. I’ve Got the World on a String
  10. Let’s Take a Walk Around the Block
  11. Ill Wind
  12. Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive
Disk Two
  1. When the Sun Comes Out
  2. Come Rain or Come Shine
  3. As Long as I Live
  4. Happiness is Just a Thing Called Joe
  5. It’s Only a Paper Moon
  6. The Man That got Away
  7. One for My Baby
  8. It was Written in the Stars
  9. Get Happy
  10. I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues
  11. Out of this World
  12. Over the Rainbow
  13. Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead
  14. Let’s take a Walk around the Block
  15. Sing My Heart

When Norman Granz got Ella Fitzgerald out of the recording contract she had with Decca, so that she could record more appropriate material for his record company, I am sure that even he did not realise what a momentous moment for popular music he had brought about. He decided that he would record Ella singing the works of the great American composers, using the very best recording studios, the best arrangers and the best musicians. By this decision, he created the Ella Fitzgerald ‘Song Book’ series, which has laid down for posterity the work of these composers of popular music. The Cole Porter Album was first and Rogers and Hart, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin and George and Ira Gershwin followed it. Next up was this classic Harold Arlen Album.

To be successful in such a monumental programme required a singer with an enormous range, most of these tunes came from Broadway Shows and they use dramatic intervals to heighten the stage impact of the songs. Secondly perfect diction was required; there is no point in recording somebody’s life’s work if you can’t hear the beauty of the word forms. Thirdly, to sustain an audience through such a long performance perfect timing is required and this is where the jazz influence of Ella provided the essential musical ingredient.

The Musical Direction for this album was handled by Billy May and it would have been impossible to have anyone better suited to the task. May knows all about writing for singers, he has made musical arrangements for all the very best.

Unlike many ‘Divas’, Ella never knew how good she was, she always had the most modest demeanour and during the recording of the album, it was she who called for retakes unless her own performance was to her liking. Billy May observed later that often after the band had applauded her performance in the studio (something bands don’t very often do!), but she would call foe a retake.

The songs themselves are all really enjoyable and I was surprised that many of the less well known of them, are as enjoyable as ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, after a couple of hearings. Many different people wrote the lyrics, but they themselves are all worthy of careful attention.

This is as near to the perfect album as you can get, there is no better music, the packaging is neat and attractive and the sleeve notes both original and new, interesting and informative. Your record collection is not complete if you don’t own this album.


Don Mather



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