Never as dramatic in her interpretations as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald nonetheless imbued the songs she chose with a personal touch. This disc, one of several recent distillations of her epochal Songbook series, wisely... more » chooses a number of relatively lesser known pieces ("Let's Begin," "You're Laughing at Me") to complement classic readings of "I'm Old Fashioned," "Oh, Lady Be Good!" and "Ill Wind (You're Blowing Me No Good)." Ella's singing tended to shield her pain, but the resigned note she brings to some of these numbers is touching. A good starter disc for those who would investigate her wide-ranging Verve catalog. --Rickey Wright« less
Never as dramatic in her interpretations as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald nonetheless imbued the songs she chose with a personal touch. This disc, one of several recent distillations of her epochal Songbook series, wisely chooses a number of relatively lesser known pieces ("Let's Begin," "You're Laughing at Me") to complement classic readings of "I'm Old Fashioned," "Oh, Lady Be Good!" and "Ill Wind (You're Blowing Me No Good)." Ella's singing tended to shield her pain, but the resigned note she brings to some of these numbers is touching. A good starter disc for those who would investigate her wide-ranging Verve catalog. --Rickey Wright
"This is the first cd I ever bought of Ella. I was doing a musical tour of great singers and decided to give her a chance. I found myself listening only to this cd, over and over. I couldn't believe that there was someone so good that I didn't know. My favorite song on the cd (and this is hard choice) is "Travelin' Light." Incandescent. Tender. Achingly pure. This cd is a really good place to start learning about Ella the ballad singer versus Ella the scat singer. Well worth the investment!"
Best of the "Best"
Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 12/17/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've been purchasing the "Best of--" CD editions as back-ups to my original vinyl copies of the "Songbooks." If you're not about to purchase the individual reissues of the Songbooks, this collection--"Ballads"--is not only the most accurately described (all of the tunes are, in fact, taken at "ballad" tempo) but the most carefully selected and artistically consistent of the anthologies. Most of the arrangements are Nelson Riddle's, and one of the exceptions, Duke's "Do Nothing Til You Hear from Me," features sterling solos by both Ben Webster and Stuff Smith. My only regret is that "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" was not one of the inclusions on this particular collection. But along with the familiar classics, such as "I'm Old Fashioned," are some rarely heard, all-too-welcome revelations, including Irving Berlin's "Now It Can Be Told." Whereas the other "Best of--" albums contain exemplary material, they also have a "text book" quality--strong, faithful renditions of tunes that other singers have left a more personal stamp on. Not so this album. It's Ella's alone."
Ella Makes The Ballad Form Her Own On This Collection
Anthony G Pizza | FL | 03/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If this outstanding Ella Fitzgerald ballads collection was released at her peak, rather than cherry-picked 40 years later from a box set of her legendary songbooks, it would hold together in the light of "blue" period Sinatra albums as Sinatra's "Only The Lonely" or "Wee Small Hours." That testifies to near-perfect song selection, empathetic arrangements (including Nelson Riddle, Billy May and, of course, Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington) and Ms. Fitzgerald's voice and approach to this material.Unjustifiably neglected for her balladry compared to oft-labelmate Billie Holiday, Ella treats the melodies here like a painter does glass: carefully, but creatively. No scat-shouting "Lady Be Good"; Ella's "Easy To Love" draws the sweet seduction from Cole Porter's lyric that more swinging arrangements miss. Her languid, sanguine versions of "Day-Dream" and "Do Nothing 'Til You Hear From Me" (more than seven minutes!) find Ella cherishing the moments spent with the ballad form. She even shows a touch of syncopation playfully swinging "I'm Old Fashioned" and Jerome Kern's "Let's Begin," both Riddle arrangements."Ballads" salutes Ella's clear, warm voice more than what she could do with it. This makes the collection an essential first purchase for those interested in her career or the jazz singing form itself."
Gives me chills in the best way
Jon Warshawsky | San Diego, CA USA | 06/07/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"No one sings like Ella. Her voice is a warm instrument in itself, and she flows through this set in comfortable perfection. This and the two other 'Best of the Songbooks' albums are simply outstanding. 'Oh Lady Be Good' and 'I'm Old Fashioned' are especially heartfelt -- listen to the range and enunciation on both. Every note she hits sounds like it's smack in the center of her comfort zone. 'There's a Small Hotel', more obscure, is magnificent -- with a tasteful arrangement and rich performance by Buddy Bregman's orchestra -- treasureable.Ella has been appreciated for a long time, but in the context of modern popular she is untouchable. Even after you've heard it a hundred times, each song is a discovery. An Ella album in the evening is like a glass of the best wine after a day of Coke and water."