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  • Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook
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Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook Original recording remastered, Original recording reissued

15 customer reviews

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Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook + Sings the Johnny Mercer Songbook + Sings the Jerome Kern Song Book
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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Recorded in 1960 and '61, this is one of the last and very best of Fitzgerald's songbooks spotlighting individual composers. Arlen's lyrical songs, filled with bluesy touches and abstractions from the blues form, are perfect jazz fodder (he wrote for Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club, circa 1930), and beautiful tunes in their own right. Fitzgerald is in peak voice; she's attentive to the nuances of soulful lyrics (Ira Gershwin's "The Man That Got Away"), and lightly teases some witty ones (like Johnny Mercer's "Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive"). Billy May's big-band arrangements are models of self-effacing fleetness--punchy without hysteria, smooth without syrup--and enlivened by alto saxophonist Benny Carter and trumpeter Don Fagerquist. But May also brings a delicate sensibility to introductory verses, interludes, and tender ballads. Strings on a few tracks are for variety, not window-dressing. Arlen's graceful American art songs have never had a better showcase--even if they could have skipped "Ding! Dong! The Witch Is Dead." --Kevin Whitehead

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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 9, 2001)
  • Original Release Date: 1960
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Original recording remastered, Original recording reissued
  • Label: Verve Records
  • ASIN: B00005N6T2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,554 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Giovanni on October 13, 2001
Format: Audio CD
If only for these sessions, Billy May, leader of the swingin' band for so many great vocalists throught the years, provides the backdrops here for Lady Time in these timeless recordings of the immortal Harold Arlen. Norman Granz had May earmarked for this project for a long while, and the results prove it. May's brash, swinging brass infused orchestra forms the perfect frame for Ella when she wants to swing, and a blue, smoky curtain when she wants to hush down with a ballad. It is interesting to note that so many of Arlen's songs became "signature" songs for singers who utilized them. Ella, who's had a few signature songs of her own, never tries to upstage the originals here (although anytime Ella opened her mouth it became a red letter event) STORMY WEATHER, immortalized by Lena Horne, is given the full blown treatment here, included is oft-skipped verse and intro, and the band and the singer are both in fine swinging form. Ella takes a little of that pathos from "STORMY" and uses it in the lovely "MY SHINING HOUR". Here we can witness Billy May knew how to write ballad charts just as beuatifully as he could swing, and the tempo is moody, reflective. "HOORAY FOR LOVE" finds Ella in a cheery mood, exuding all the ups, downs and in-between emotions that Cupid's arrows can provide. May's easy swing tempo, infused with quick brass jots are classic.
Back to a ballad mood may be the very anchor and best gem of this whole set, the wistful "THIS TIME THE DREAM'S ON ME", with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The arrangement is nothing short of marvelous here, and Ella knows just where to use the slightest of pitch changes for dramatic effect. A definite heartstring tugger.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By daantjededaan on February 2, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Tonight I played the album which made me a devoted Ella Fitzgerald fan; it is Ella Fitzgerald sings the Harold Arlen Songbook. From the first time I played the LP my father left me, I loved her voice, and the atmosphere on this particular recording. I liked the swinging but sophisticated arrangements by Billy May. And right now when I switch my music off, I read on the Internet Billy May has passed away. He has the age for it (87), but it is a great loss anyway, although I didn't know he was still with us.
Ella sings beautiful (especially on the second dis): Over the Rainbow, Happiness is just a thing called Joe, One for my baby, the man that got away... listen to them; learn to love Ella, and think of Billy May... both their genius are somewhere over the rainbow now.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jim Holtz on June 1, 2004
Format: Audio CD
One of Ella's & this series' best! I never thought Ms. Fitzgerald could take on the challenge of doing a complete Harold Arlen set so successfully. I use to think a belter like Judy Garland could only do his melodies justice. I was wrong! Here, Ella showed that good taste & restraint works just as well! Don't get me wrong, Ella still used projection & dramactics to display the needed emotion for each song but she did it subtlety. She never overwhelmed which critics of Ethel Merman would say. Now to the songs! There are several I didn't know until I heard this tribute. Let's Take a Walk Around the Block sure romaticized the depreesion. Ella surely knew how to have fun with this dated song & still keep it fresh. This Time the Dreams on Me, which is also on the Johnny Merecr Songbook, makes me say they don't write them like that anymore. Arlen & Mercer were unbeatable. Why can't sophisticated love lyrics like that be written as often today. The classics on these 2 discs, which there are many, have never been done better! Blues In the Night opens the set with a 7 minute version that never gets boring. This was before Hey Jude & American Pie. I've never heard Ella in better voice, belting out the song in an original arrangement of this overdone but fabulous song! Accentuate the Positive is joy, gospel, & glorious pop all wrapped together. Both songs with opposite moods show how versatile Ella's singing was. With everyone knowing Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, it took Ella to record it. Why didn't Verve release it orginally? Ella has has much fun with this dark novelty song as she must have had with her own sweeter but tragic A Tisket A Tasket. Fitzgerald is up there on the fun tunes.Read more ›
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Matthew G. Sherwin HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 5, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Ella Fitzgerald possessed the unique talent to be able to record so many extensive songbooks and always come out smelling like a rose. Her voice is in excellent form throughout this two CD set; and she emotes so very well all the feelings that Harold Arlen could ever have dreamed for his timeless music.

While people know Ella Fitzgerald, not everyone knows that Harold Arlen wrote the music for such wonderful classic songs as "One For My Baby (And One More For The Road);" "It's Only A Paper Moon;" "I've Got The World On A String;" "Stormy Weather (Keeps Rainin' All The Time);" and the timeless "Over The Rainbow." Ella does great justice to Arlen's work by throwing herself completely into each tune; and the musical accompaniments by Billy May are brilliantly produced. Billy May did a wonderful job with the musical arrangements on this two CD set.

This two CD songbook also demonstrates so clearly how well Arlen could write for a very diverse myriad of songs. The music is beautiful for the hopeful "Over The Rainbow;" joyous for "Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe;" and "Get Happy;" bluesy for "I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues" and sorrowful for the torch ballad "The Man That Got Away."

The two CD set boasts beautiful pictures of both Ella and Billy May; an extensive essay by Doug Ramsey; the original liner notes for the record albums by Benny Green; and plenty of information about the life and times of Harold Arlen. Terrific!

Overall, I highly recommend this two CD set for fans of classic vocals, fans of Ella Fitzgerald and Harold Arlen, and fans of Billy May. The Ella Fitzgerald rendition of the Harold Arlen songbook does justice to Arlen's great work as well as Ella's incomparable talent.
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Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook
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