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Exquisite Ella: Perfect Porter
on 12 April 2006
In any rational list of the 20th-century's top song-stylists, Ella Fitzgerald would have to rank in the Top 5. Ella had a wonderful, distinct voice and style. Many singers have great skills. Many have perfect pitch and great intonation. But very few singers can use their voice like a fine instrument. Ella was one of those select few.
Apart from having a wonderful voice, Ella was next to incomparable when it came to interpreting lyrics. It is no wonder that lyricists loved her and were ecstatic when she covered one of their songs. It is also no wonder that during the course of her career Ella recorded various "Song Books" in which she took the work of a great composer/lyricist and dedicated an album or two to their work. Ella did Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, Rodgers & Hart, the Gershwins', and Jerome Kern song books among others. They are all wonderful to listen to, all 5-star performances (with the possible exception of the Gershwin song book) but my favorite of all her song books is this one: "Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book".
Although the first half of the 20th century had a surplus of great songwriters (see the above) there was something about Cole Porter's that has kept those lyrics fresh and even edgy in the 21st-century. The pairing of Fitzgerald and Porter then is the equivalent of the perfect. A lyricist whose lyrics are funny, witty, charming and, yes, poetic and a singer capable of doing justice to those great lyrics makes for a memorable CD.
This is a 2-CD set (the product description lists it incorrectly as 4). It contains an awful lot of Porter's great songs. Anything Goes, Too Darn Hot, Let's Do it, and I'm Always True to You in My Fashion are my highlights for CD-1. Night and Day, I've Got You Under My Skin, Love for Sale, and You're the Top, top off CD-2. Ella recorded these in 1956, exactly half a century ago under the auspices of the wonderful producer Norman Granz. Verve Records has restored the masters and the sound quality is excellent for a re-mastered recording.
Cole Porter once said that "In olden days a glimpse of stockings, was looked on as something shocking, Now heaven knows, anything goes." Well, all these decades later these songs go great with anything. You can enjoy them "in the still of the night" or "all through the night". These songs "do something to me" and I can say nothing more than this CD is the tops, it's the Tower of Pisa, it's the smile on the Mona Lisa.
If you can find this available, do yourself a favor and buy it, then sit back and enjoy.