Customer Review

63 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the buy of a lifetime ANITA SWINGS THE MOST, 11 April 2009
This review is from: Four Classic Albums: Anita Sings the Most/the Lady Is a Tramp/An Evening With Anita O'day/Anita (Audio CD)
This 4-albums-in-two-cds package was one of the best buys in my life...
I got it on UK amazon for the price smaller than the price of ANY of these single albums!

Starting with "Anita sings the most", I can say that it's no wonder that album is often mentioned as one of the best in Anita O'Day's rich and long career; working beautifully with Oscar Peterson classic trio (Herb Ellis-g, Ray Brown-b) plus John Pool on drums, Anita is equally impressive in slower tempos and in her trademark neck-breaking hyper-swinging elloquence...

One of the strength's of this magnificent singer is a strong individuality, ability to make every song a part of her hip and sometimes even sarcastic worldview... Although at first her style might remind you of Ella Fitzgerald, the liberties she takes with tempo and rhythm actually make her closer to Billie Holiday or Betty Carter, the mood she projects with her timbre makes her a distant cousin of Carmen McRae but, make no mistake, she is Anita O'Day, the one and only... With the nifty and versatile fingers of Oscar and the crew behind her, this album shouldn't have gone wrong and I feel it fullfiled its magnificent potential.
The second album "The Lady is a Tramp" is more commercially oriented; with some jazz tracks but also with very straightforward (dull) "Vaya con Dios" and quite insulting "Rock 'N' Blues" (that is, insulting to this jazz fan who couldn't believe to what lowsy use Anita and Roy Eldridge were put). That album (second part of the first CDs) has three arrangers (Ralph Burns and Roy Kral both of whom also play the piano on their respective tracks, and Larry Russell), even more musicians line-ups and no concept; it's quite anti-climactic after "Anita Sings the Most"...

However, the second CD is first class Anita all the way. The first brilliant album "An Evening with Anita O'Day" shows her working beautiful with one compact trio and two equally effective quartets, the format she often excelled in (although in the beginning of her carreer she was best known as an unorthodox big band singer):
- Arnold Ross-p, Barney Kessel-g, Monty Budwig-b, Jackie Mills-dm
- Bud Lavin-p, M. Budwig-b, John Poole-dm
- Jimmie Rowles-p, Tal Farlow-g, Leroy Vinnegar-b, Larry Bunker-dm.
She's magnificent on that album, at times ironic (Anita's Blues), at times creative beyond words ("The Man I love"), at times simply brilliant ("Frankie and Johnny", "I didn't know what time it was", "I cover the waterfront"...)...

The fourth and final album (simply called "Anita"), arranged by Buddy Bregman, presents Anita with only a slightly less swinging, but still nice company, with larger orchestra including nice brass (4 trombones - Milt Bernhart, Lloyd Ulyate,Joe Howard, Si Zentner) and, thankfully, quite unobtrusive and tastily arranged strings, plus Corky Hale on harp...
On this album Paul Smith plays piano and celeste, there are also Barney Kessel-g,Joe Mondragon-b, Alvin Stoller-dm
Starting with Cole Porter's "You're the top" (with slightly updated lyrics), Anita works through some well known songs ("Honeysuckle Rose", "A Nightingal Sang in Berkeley Square"...), giving them lovely, although not always equaly chance taking treatment ....

I've read somewhere that Anita thought Norman Granz was pushing Ella Fitzgerald too much; if it's true (and it seems to be), it's a pitty since she is Ella's equal (if not superior), but some claim that Anita's demanding character and serious drug habit prevented her from getting some gigs that Ella landed and professionally handled...
Nevertheless, Anita has still left us a nice recorded legacy as well and this edition brings us three (out of four) albums that must be near or at the peak of that legacy...
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Initial post: 14 May 2012 16:00:09 BDT
Last edited by the author on 14 May 2012 23:08:34 BDT
Thanks for an interesting and helpful review. Although I agree with your assessment of "Anita sings the most", she herself is reputed to have disliked it. (Google her and read the obituary from The Independent). Re Norman Granz, the simple fact was that Ella Fitzgerald was a nice lady who didn't have a major drug habit whereas Anita was difficult (at times impossibly so) and frequently out of her brain on heroin. She never gave Granz the credit he was due for reviving her career. She really had no business living to be 87 and wouldn't have done so if she hadn't finally cleaned up in the late 1960s. That said, if I have to choose between Anita and Ella as singers it's Anita every time although I wouldn't have wanted her as my next-door neighbour!
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