Ella Fitzgerald: Sings The Cole Porter Songbook

Double-CD reissue of the first of the singer's celebrated song-book albums adds a bonus track, rare photos and updated liner notes

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I was into Cole Porter and into long pants at roughly one and the same time, which means I was arguably one of the first persons in the UK to shell out for the vinyl version of this title, when it was issued the first time around. It had a lot going for it: 32 gems from the finest wordsmith since Sophocles was writing out of fifth century BC Athens, interpreted by the most seductive pipes since Lorelei parked her ass on that rock in the Rhine, backed by some of the cream of session musicians on the planet.

That’s superb, times three; all they needed now were charts worthy of their talent. Shame about that. Let’s be honest: Buddy Bregman won his share of plaudits for this album, but those boosters aren’t writing this review, I am, and for me, on this kind of album, he was a bad nowhere to Nelson Riddle and Billy May. To put Ella in with this stuff was like putting Shergar in with a line-up of Suffolk Punches.

Back in the day – and I was still under 20 that first time around – I knew only 26 of the 32 selections, so that extra six were a mega treat. Apart from that, liner notes were confined to the back cover, but this release comes with a 20-page booklet which lists the sources – 26 from shows, five from films, one from neither. We also get two alternate takes, and one live performance; what a great package, and how I envy anyone stumbling on this for the first time.

I’ve just listened to it again, 70 years and change after the first time, and the material is still out of the right bottle. One of Porter’s strongest suits was his ability to write ballads in a sensuous beguine tempo. He did this time and time again, and you’ll find 11 examples here, from All Through The Night through to Love For Sale. To be fair, Bregman captures this but, alas, fails to exploit it. Nevertheless I have no hesitation in recommending this album to anyone who relishes sophistication in 4/4.

Discography
All Through The Night; Anything Goes; Miss Otis Regrets; Too Darn Hot; In The Still Of The Night; I Get A Kick Out Of You; Do I Love You; Always True To You In My Fashion; Let’s Do It; Just One Of Those Things; Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye, All Of You; Begin The Beguine; Get Out Of Town; I Am In Love; From This Moment On; I Love Paris; You Do Something To Me; Ridin’ High; Easy To Love; It’s All Right With Me; Why Can’t You Behave; What Is This Thing Called Love; You’re The Top; Love For Sale; It’s DeLovely; Night And Day; Ace In The Hole; So In Love; I’ve Got You Under My Skin; I Concentrate On You; Don’t Fence Me In; I Concentrate On You (alt tk); Let’s Do It (alt tk); Love For Sale* (live) (73.28)
Fitzgerald (v) with orchestra. Buddy Bregman (arr/cond); Pete Candoli, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Maynard Ferguson, Conrad Gozzo (t); Milt Bernhart, Joe Howard, Lloyd Ulyate (tb); George Roberts (btb); Herb Geller, Bud Shank (as); Bob Cooper, Ted Nash (ts); Chuck Gentry (bar); Paul Smith (p); Barney Kessel (g); Joe Mondragon (b); Alvin Stoller (d). Los Angeles, 7-9 February and 27 March 1956. *Fitzgerald (v); Don Abney (p); Herb Ellis (g); Ray Brown (b); Jo Jones (d). Konserthuset, Stockholm, 29 April 1957.
Poll Winners Records 27363