Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Sings Rodgers & Hart Song Book
Genres: Jazz, Pop, Broadway & Vocalists
Only Frank Sinatra has put his indelible stamp on as many pages of the American Popular Songbook as Ella Fitzgerald. But while Sinatra specialized in mood-themed albums (his composer-based collections were compiled from ma... more »
Only Frank Sinatra has put his indelible stamp on as many pages of the American Popular Songbook as Ella Fitzgerald. But while Sinatra specialized in mood-themed albums (his composer-based collections were compiled from material already released), Fitzgerald's ambitious songbooks devoted themselves to one great songwriter after another: Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, and so on. Her two-volume Rodgers and Hart project ranks with the best, and if Buddy Bergman's arrangements are a bit sweeter than his Cole Porter settings, or Nelson Riddle's Gershwin treatments, they suit the material just fine. And what a wide range of material it is (with original verses intact!), intermingling novelty show tunes ("Give It Back to the Indians," "Johnny One Note"), sophisticated standards ("Manhattan," "Blue Moon," "The Lady Is a Tramp"), and lush ballads ("Isn't It Romantic," "It Never Entered My Mind"). But the most exquisite thing Fitzgerald ever recorded is her seven-minute "Bewitched" (a.k.a. "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered") on volume 2, casting a spell of hushed reverie that makes time stand still. --Jim Emerson
Dual perfection - the finest songs, the finest singer
PDB | Redlands, CA USA | 06/05/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although neither the first nor the most fêted of Ella Fitzgerald's Songbooks, this collection drawn from the huge output of Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers is unquestionably the best. What sets the Rodgers and Hart Songbook apart from the other albums in the series that Ella recorded for Norman Granz's Verve label, quite simply, is the quality of the material that she had to work with. Her voice was such a magisterial instrument and her command of the expressive power of words so subtle that she seldom performed anything which drew on the full scope all her abilities. In the course of this double album, we get to see every facet of her talent. With Hart and Rodgers, Ella's enormous generosity of spirit, her love for song and for singing, her sheer humanity are put wholeheartedly at the disposal of very great music. Make no mistake, this is a desert island album. Richard Rodgers is most widely known for his nicely conceived but largely undemanding settings of the lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein - above all, perhaps, in 'Oklahoma' and 'The Sound of Music.' However, it has been recognised by many, especially jazz musicians, that Rodgers' earlier work with Lorenz Hart shows the full measure of his talents. When he worked with Hammerstein, the lyrics came first: the notoriously elusive Hart, on the other hand, preferred to write words for tunes that had already been composed. Before he was constrained by Hammerstein's trite little rhymes, Rodgers produced pieces that, among the great Broadway composers, are equalled in melodic suppleness and harmonic variety only by Jerome Kern. Hart, in return, wrote lyrics that are by turns scintillating in their wit and searing in their poignancy. Some of his experiments in rhyme are deliciously knowing: "Beans could get no keener re/ception in a beanery ... We could find no cleaner re/treat from life's machinery"; "The city's clamor can never spoil/ The dreams of a boy and 'goil'"; "When love congeals/ It soon reveals/ The faint aroma of performing seals,/ The double-crossing of a pair of heels"; and so on. Yet what ultimately makes Hart's lyrics so great is their apparent naturalness. There is a conversational ease about all his words, and he never needed to mangle sentences for the sake of scanning or rhyming. Song never seemed so unforced an extension of normal speech, and therefore never so touching. Ella Fitzgerald is famed primarily for up-tempo performances which showcased the sweetness and zest of her superbly flexible voice. We certainly see plenty of evidence of Ella's vocal brightness in the Rodgers & Hart Songbook. In numbers such as 'Mountain Greenery,' 'Manhattan' and 'I Wish I Were In Love Again' (from which the above quotes are drawn) her voice dances above the exuberant charts of Buddy Bregman, who was responsible for the bulk of the orchestral arrangements in this set. Yet Ella's delicacy in handling tender sentiment, romanticism and wistfulness - in the ballads, or 'pretty' numbers as she called them - is not sufficiently acknowledged, even today. For anyone who remains sceptical, this double album offers wonderful examples of all of these mellower and darker shades of feeling. 'With A Song In My Heart,' one of Rodgers' loveliest melodies offset by a ravishing extended musical metaphor from Hart, shows just how warm and embracing Ella's voice could be. Similarly, she conveys fully the dreamy romanticism of such songs as 'Where or When' and 'Blue Moon.' In the saddest of the songs - above all, perhaps, the heart-wrending 'Little Girl Blue' - Ella proves that conspicuous emotion is not always as telling as subdued emotion. Lorenz Hart recognised this, for his lyrics rarely wear their heart on their sleeve. To my mind, the greatness of Ella Fitzgerald is that she can touch you to your heart's core without any mannerism or straining after effect (of the kind often all too evident in the work of Billie Holliday): the simplicity of her renderings can in itself move you to tears, and beyond tears.It's hard to think of a down-side to this collection. If I have one very, very minor complaint, it is that Buddy Bregman, though workmanlike, is not as effective an arranger across the emotional range as other collaborators such as Nelson Riddle, Paul Weston, Frank DeVol or, of course, Duke Ellington. Having said that , his contribution to the brighter sides is splendid; in particular, he helps to make Ella's recording of 'Manhattan' so memorable that it is really impossible to imagine any other. On some tracks Ella works with a smaller group, in arrangements by the pianist Paul Smith, and in one case alone with the guitarist Barney Kessel. The Smith arrangements, and the jamming sessions with his quartet, are amongst the best in the collection - in particular, the brilliantly witty treatment of Rodgers' and Hart's last, darkly comic song, 'To Keep My Love Alive,' and the torch-song-with-a-sting-in-the-tail, 'Bewitched.'For those who are put off by the (very moderate) price of the Master Edition double album, and would rather test the water by buying half of the collection first - don't. The restoration of the original running order, the excellent accompanying information and the attractive presentation of the new edition all help to justify the larger outlay. The real reason for treating yourself, however, is that you will, I guarantee, get to the end of the second CD and wish that there were another thirty-four songs to follow. If you only ever intend to buy one of the Verve songbooks, make it this one."
Been playing it for weeks!
K. Lovin | Los Angeles | 06/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've had both CDs in this set in my car for weeks and I can't move on! The combination of Ella Fitzgerald's instrument and Rodgers and Hart's songs is incomparable. I also like the variety Buddy Bregman's arrangements add to the whole package. In my opinion, the hallmark of Rodgers and Hart is the smart, quirky lyrics and patterns, not to mention the beautiful melodies. Try "Dancing on the Ceiling" to see what I'm getting at. There's even a touch of the bawdy in that Ella does all of "Bewitched" (other artists usually sing about half); "Horizontally speaking, he's at his very best." Wow! Other standouts in this collection are "With a Song in My Heart," "Where or When" and of course, "My Funny Valentine." This may be the best CD I've bought in years. I could listen to it all day, oh wait, I do listen to it all day!"
This lady's no tramp--she's a genius!
Miles D. Moore | Alexandria, VA USA | 10/25/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Billie Holiday may have plumbed greater depths of despair, and Frank Sinatra may have cornered the market on romantic longing. But when it came to sunniness and sassiness--as well as beautiful tone, perfect pitch and diction so perfect that lyric sheets were made superfluous--nobody could hold a candle to wonderful, fabulous Ella Fitzgerald. Her special talents made her uniquely gifted as an interpreter of the songs of Rodgers and Hart. No one else could put Hart's witty lyrics across with such gleeful force while doing full justice to Rodgers's exquisite melodies. The fun she has with songs such as "Everything I've Got Belongs to You" or "To Keep My Love Alive" is transparent, as is the melting beauty she brings to romantic ballads like "Where or When" and "Isn't It Romantic." Her performance of "The Lady is a Tramp" is one of the enduring classics in the history of American popular music. And those who claim that Ella lacked the insight into lyrics that Lady Day and Sinatra possessed will be confounded by her performance of "I Wish I Were in Love Again." Sassy good humor, mixed with worldly wisdom: Dorothy Parker was never so insightful."