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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Over the Rainbow, Beyond Praise, 3 Dec. 2001
By A Customer
It is probably fair to say that many more people will know the names of the composers Richard Rodgers and Jerome Kern than that of their brilliant contemporary, Harold Arlen. Yet, ironically, one of Arlen's numbers is probably better known to millions than any by Rodgers or Kern. The song in question is 'Over the Rainbow.' On this album, which is in itself a kind of dazzling rainbow, containing in its musical spectrum tenderness and regret, quirky humour and driving energy, Ella Fitzgerald lifts us into that magical place where blue birds fly. Her soaring performance of 'Over the Rainbow' is the highlight of a double LP that is altogether beyond praise.
Ella's collaborator for this collection is the arranger Billy May. Never having been a fan of May's distinctively brash big band sound, I have to confess I avoided the Arlen Songbook as long it was available only on two over-priced separate CDs. However, when the more reasonable Master Edition double came out and I finally succumbed - chiefly to complete my set of the Ella Songbook series - I felt entirely foolish for having been so prejudiced. May's charts, which use a great range of different orchestral forces, match the impeccable rightness of Ella's interpretations. None of the other Verve songbooks is more finely tuned, and apart from the cooking Ellington set, I can't think of any that is so thrilling.
In the liner notes for the new edition, May is quoted as saying that he did not see eye to eye with the producer, Norman Granz. Because Harold Arlen is generally regarded as the most blues-oriented (and by extension jazz-oriented) of Broadway/Hollywood composers, Granz apparently wanted every number to be a jazz side. However, May's annoyance with Granz's bullying doesn't show in the music: all the openings for jazz solos seem natural and unforced, and the charts bubble with fun and excitement.
To those who know already just how subtle Harold Arlen's music is, this album will be pure, concentrated delight. Ella had recorded many of the songs before - 'Blues in the Night,' 'As Long as I Live,' 'One for My Baby' and 'Let's Fall in Love' had appeared in the couple of years immediately prior to this 1961 release, and others, such as 'That Old Black Magic' were staples of her concert repertoire - but they never sounded better. With the possible exception of the rather ordinary 'Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead' (left out of the original album but restored here as a bonus track) every number throws new light on Arlen's music, and allows Ella to explore the clever lyrics of such writers as Ted Koehler and Johnny Mercer in new ways.
This will probably never be the most celebrated or popular of Ella Fitzgerald's songbooks, just because Arlen is not pure Broadway, like the Gershwins, or pure jazz, like Ellington. But make no mistake, the Harold Arlen Songbook is without doubt the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A glorious reminder of the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald, 12 Jan. 2003
By 
T. Chenery "Trevor Chenery" (Chalfont St Giles, England) - See all my reviews
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This double album was on my Christmas present list since August 2002 when I realised that my CD collection was missing one icon of 20th century popular music, Ella Fitzgerald. I'm a total Billy May fan and have been collecting his albums for years where he has been bringing a unparalleled extra dimension to performances by Sinatra and Cole - and other singer fortunate enough to work with him - with his hit-the-ground-running brand of arrangements. But when you add Billy to Ella, the two of them to Harold Arlen's joyous music and then throw in Ted Koehler, Johnny Mercer, E Y Harburg for inspirational lyrics words of praise on the page become meaningless. This is the first of Ella's, Verve label songbooks that I have bought. If the rest are half as good it looks like my Christmas list is sorted for years to come. It's sublime, totally and utterly sublime.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ella sings the Harold Arlen Songbook, 27 Nov. 2010
By 
Dr. H. A. Jones "Howard Jones" (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook

This delightful collection of 26 different Harold Arlen tunes (plus two alternative takes) is arranged and conducted by Billy May who, along with Nelson Riddle, was a frequent studio arranger for Capitol Records. The collection here however is on Norman Granz' Verve label.

There's a good selection of the various lyricists with whom Arlen worked: Ted Koehler (who was his first collaborator in about 1930) on `Stormy weather' and `Ill wind'; Johnny Mercer on `Blues in the night' and `That old black magic'; `Yip' Harburg on `Over the rainbow' and `Happiness is just a thing called Joe'; Leo Robin, Ira Gershwin, and more. The enclosed booklet gives the titles of the shows from which the tunes are taken.

Billy May's backings vary from wistful on `Ill wind' to up-tempo on `That old black magic', and everything in-between. Virtually every track is a `standard': there obviously wasn't room to include some other lovely less well known Arlen numbers like `Last night when we were young', `What's good about goodbye'. But we mustn't quibble over what's not there but appreciate the lovely 26 tracks we do have, now digitally restored on CD. Highly recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magic!, 21 Feb. 2006
By A Customer
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Can't fault this collection, or any of the Songbooks. Sheer magic from a performer who does not date! The songs are wonderful - what more can you say - or want?
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ella and Billy May - sheer magic, 10 Aug. 2004
Utterly magnificent. The vocal mastery of Ella combined with May's arrangements make this album a must own.
Ella's take on "That old black magic" is a joy.
"Let's take a walk around the block" is a track I had no knowledge of prior to buying this album - for me personally a hidden gem that I had to play over and over.
Thoroughly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely sublime, 7 May 2012
By 
S. Green (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Having started with just a couple of "best of" selections from the songbooks by Ella Fitzgerald I have now managed to gather together the full set without breaking the bank by going for the the full Verve box set (much as I would have like to). They are all superb, scaling heights of musicality that modern singers/musicians could only dream of. The Arlen set is in my opinion the cream of the crop, and in such company that's high praise indeed. The lyrics, the music, the arrangements, and of course the vocal performance of Ella itself combine to produce a performance so sublime it almost beggar's belief. A copy should be sent to modern day "singers" such as Beyonce and her ilk, plus contestants on such programmes as "The Voice" for them to listen to and learn the distinction between shouting (albeit in tune) and singing, and how to interpret a song and perform it rather than just belting out "money notes" for the gratification of a cloth eared audience who equate volume with talent. This is the real deal, listen and be amazed at what the human voice can do
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5.0 out of 5 stars Out of this world, 14 Sept. 2013
By 
Eric Mascarin Perigault (Panamá) - See all my reviews
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As we move into the Songbooks by Ella, they get better. The sound quality and Billy May arrangements are unbeatable. Not to mention the performances and songs. Norman Granz did his work in Verve with great dedication. Very good.

A medida que avanzamos en los Songbooks de Ella, ellos se mejoran. La calidad del sonido y los arreglos de Billy May son inmejorables. Ni hablar de las interpretaciones y las canciones. Norman Granz hacía su trabajo en Verve con gran dedicación. Muy bueno.
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5.0 out of 5 stars yet another great from ella, 6 Jan. 2009
By 
lovemurakami "tooty2" (uk) - See all my reviews
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The songbook series of recordings which ella recorded are some of the finest cds around. With this ella produces yet again superb vocals, working with the great Billy May who creates some wonderful arrangements. If your're looking for jazz standards, easy, sweet lushcious vocals and a swinging band then give this a try.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 6 Feb. 2015
By 
Mr. D. Allan - See all my reviews
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brilliant
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars so many classics, 17 Sept. 2013
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I bought this album for one specific track but was delighted to find a whole wealth of classic songs - great stuff!
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