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Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Limited Edition) [Blu-ray] (2012)
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Limited Edition) [Blu-ray] (2012)
DVD ~ Alfred Hitchcock
Price: $179.30
39 used & new from $139.72

161 of 184 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 14 films in the UK; 15 in the US (Including NbNW), October 5, 2012
Just wanted to point out, as it's not immediately evident in the "most helpful" reviews (though it can be found in the comments) that the UK box does not contain "North By Northwest." Given the difference in pricing between US and UK sets, this may not be a deal-breaker for many people, but it is a pretty significant omission.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 31, 2012 10:47 PM PDT

Fine And Mellow
Fine And Mellow
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Ruins, March 27, 2006
This review is from: Fine And Mellow (Audio CD)
By the late 1960s, Ella Fitzgerald had been recorded in almost every conceivable context. Yet there were not many cuts, let alone whole albums, which could truly be called jamming sessions. The gap was finally filled when Ella's long-time manager, Norman Granz, set up a new record company, Pablo, in the early 1970s. The express purpose of the Pablo label was to record major jazz artists jamming, and for the recording date that produced Fine and Mellow Granz assembled a quite amazing constellation of talent. Apart from seasoned Fitzgerald collaborators such as Tommy Flanagan, Ray Brown and Sweets Edison, the octet here includes Zoot Sims, Clark Terry, Lockjaw Davis and Louie Bellson, as well as the guitarist Joe Pass, with whom Ella was to record successfully throughout the 1970s. The result, as you might hope, is an album that is at once electrifying and beautifully laid-back.

If you know Ella primarily from Verve recordings, cut when her vocal sound was unmatched in its bell-like purity, you might be dubious about buying an album pressed in 1974, when her powers were fading. By this stage, it's true, her voice was roughened by age, non-stop touring and ill-health. However, none of her musicality, her sensitivity to lyrics or her musical inventiveness had left her - indeed, they were never to do so - and the sheer vivacity of her performances here make this record a real treasure. Fitzgerald was always a humble artist, what is remarkable here is the way that she works in with the group, a soloist among soloists and emphatically not a vocalist with instrumental backing. If anything, the cracks in the ageing voice ensured that she blended with the four horns and with Joe Pass's moody guitar sound better than she would have done a decade before.

As in Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie! and in Ella's live concert programs, there is a nice variety of material on Fine and Mellow,' though the bluesy tone suggested by the title track is in evidence throughout much of the album. An obvious exception is the barnstorming 'Rockin' in Rhythm,' a blistering musical firecracker which rivals Ella's other, incandescent recording of the number with the Ellington orchestra more than fifteen years before. There is also characteristic Fitzgerald humour in several places - a cheeky exchange with Louie Bellson's laconic drums in 'I'm Just A Lucky So And So' and a delicious scat dialogue with Clark Terry during 'I Can't Give You Anything But Love.' At the other end of the spectrum, 'Polka Dots and Moonbeams' is presented as an almost straight ballad, and the art concealing art of which Ella was capable is clearly apparent in 'Round Midnight,' a ravishing song which she had, by this time, really made her own.

With all its variety, there is a satisfying 'wholeness' to this album, and this is surely due to the fact that these nine marvellous musicians were so completely at ease with and so breathtakingly inspired by one another. Such music-making is very close to the warm, human, bluesy heart of jazz. Enjoy.

Sinatra's Swingin' Sessions
Sinatra's Swingin' Sessions
Price: $12.62
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An acquired taste?, July 16, 2001
Critical response to this album has been lukewarm, at best, but it's hard to see why: this is a real firecracker, which finds the Voice and his fellow musicians on blistering form. Legend has it that Sinatra asked his arranger/conductor, Nelson Riddle, to up the tempo for all the tunes when they went into the studio to record. Whatever the truth, the effect is electrifying. Riddle's orchestra is really roaring throughout, and Sinatra never sounded more breezily commanding. Apart from a brief lull - for the melting ballad 'September in the Rain' - the pace never lets up.
Because it is so bracing (and therefore short, even with the addition of three more splendid tracks recorded at the same sessions), "Swingin' Session" certainly comes as a shock to the system for those accustomed to Sinatra's earlier swing albums with Riddle, "Songs for Swingin' Lovers" and "A Swingin' Affair," which are both much longer and more laid-back. But do we really all want nothing but clones or 'extensions' of Sinatra's earlier successes? I certainly don't. To me, the joy of this album is that it is so different in effect. It proves that Sinatra could swing hard and yet stay sophisticated.
Okay, so maybe "Swingin' Session" is an acquired taste; but the other way of looking at it is that it's connoisseur's stuff. It's also a whole lot of fun.

Ella Fitzgerald sings the Rodgers and Hart Song Book
Ella Fitzgerald sings the Rodgers and Hart Song Book
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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dual perfection - the finest songs, the finest singer, June 5, 2001
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.

Ella Swings Gently With Nelson
Ella Swings Gently With Nelson
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ella appears in all her splendor, February 25, 2001
This is an album of the most magical, achingly beautiful music-making. It really is one of those records which, in the words of one of the numbers so lusciously performed here, "makes a cloudy day sunny." There was no kind of popular song written between 1920 and 1960 that Ella Fitzgerald couldn't handle, and as a result, it's almost absurd to compare one of her albums with another. However, for sheer, transcendent beauty it's hard to beat this set of gorgeously rendered ballads. For what it's worth, it would be one of about five discs I would try to save from a house fire.
Ella Fitzgerald's 'concept' albums of the late 1950s and early '60s for the Verve label are all at least the equal of Frank Sinatra's, pressed for Capitol during the same years. In this one, as in a set of up-beat numbers released at about the same time, Ella is abetted by Sinatra's most brilliant arranger, Nelson Riddle. His total commitment to the special qualities of each singer with whom he worked, and to the special ethos of each project, is neatly shown by comparing his arrangement of 'She's Funny That Way' on this album with his backing for the same song on Sinatra's 'Nice 'n' Easy', recorded the previous year. The settings are almost unbelievably unlike one another, and yet each, in its own way, is true to the spirit of the song. Riddle's charts on 'Ella Swings Gently' are, surely, some of the very best he ever wrote. The orchestral texture is intoxicating: brilliant chords from the brass are splashed across the silky background of his lilting string lines. The result is a sound that is as colorful as Ella's voice, complementing flawlessly the warmth and sensuousness of her singing here. Though the mood and tone are consistent, Riddle never repeats himself: each number surprises and delights, and every hearing seems to reveal new splendors.
The glory of the human voice, as Sinatra and Fitzgerald both realized, is that it can mimic and surpass the effects produced by virtually any instrument in the orchestra. In this album, Ella's timbre is as effortlessly liquid and limpid as the smoothest reed solos from such colleagues as Stan Getz, Johnny Hodges and Paul Gonsalves. And in terms of range, of course, Ella has the advantage, for she can caress notes at either end of the register without any loss of resonance.
There is not a single indifferent song on this album, and never do the standards of musicianship from any of the performers waver: 'Ella Swings Gently' is perfection's self throughout. It's not even easy to pick out one track that is better than the others, but special acknowledgement is, perhaps, demanded by 'Body and Soul,' a touchstone of the jazz musician's art since the '20s. This was the last in the original line-up (it's now followed by two bonus tracks) and was obviously meant to form a fitting climax to the LP. Certainly, Ella pulls out all the stops: though understated, her performance of this song is filled with infinite yearning and veiled sadness of a kind that only she could convey. It might have been a fitting climax not only to the record, but to her career. Fortunately, it was not - there were golden years ahead for her. But this number, like the album as a whole, is a pearl beyond price.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 5, 2012 3:12 PM PST

Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Jerome Kern Songbook
Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Jerome Kern Songbook
Offered by IMS Distribution
Price: $13.37
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It COULD be cuter ..., November 28, 2000
While she was on the broad, lofty, sunlit plateau that corresponds with the `peak' in other singers' careers, Ella Fitzgerald was barely capable of singing a bum note, let alone recording a weak album. However, within the context of that supremely polished, summative exploration of American popular music, the `Songbook' series, the 1963 entry devoted to Jerome Kern is, in my view, the nearest to an indifferent collection. It should have been a cracker - Kern's constantly surprising refrains, Nelson Riddle's near-infallible sense of the most suitable arrangement, Fitzgerald's peerless, understated sensitivity to mood and melody.
In fairness, had this been the only Songbook that Ella ever recorded, it would still be a fine achievement by any standards. And there are many pleasures here. There is the characteristically subtle and un-obvious ordering of material - for instance, the album begins, aptly, with the relatively little-known but utterly charming `Let's Begin' rather than the crowd-pleasing `A Fine Romance' (which comes next) and ends on an unexpectedly low-key note with a desolate rendering of `Why Was I Born?' There are some moments of pure loveliness unsurpassed in any of Ella's or Riddle's other recordings: just listen to the way they build and round out that exquisite rising phrase in `I'm Old Fashioned' - " But sighing sighs, holding hands/ These my heart understands ..."
However, there is something slightly lackluster about the proceedings, and certain elements just don't work. For example, Riddle very seldom misjudged pace with any of his collaborators, but the tempo of `The Way You Look Tonight' - which should have been one of the jewels in Ella's songbook crown - is slow to the point of being funereal. And is it my imagination, or does Ella end `A Fine Romance' slightly flat? If these are two specific problems, there are others that are less tangible. The album just does not hang together or command your attention as do the other Riddle entries in the songbook series - not just the monumental Gershwin collection but also the underrated `Johnny Mercer Songbook,' which he arranged for Ella the year after doing Kern. If there is a single underlying problem, it is perhaps that Ella was not in her usual matchless voice for these sessions - there is a breathiness and a dullness of timbre which is certainly not present in her landmark album with Count Basie from July of the same year or, for that matter, in the Mercer songbook recorded towards the end of 1964.
In summary, if you're building up a collection of Ella's songbooks, then you won't want to leave this one out. There is an awful lot to appreciate in it both for the seasoned Fitzgerald fan and for those who simply love great tunes, often with excellent lyrics by the likes of Mercer and Dorothy Fields, sung with wit and tenderness. However, if you're relatively new to Ella's work, then my advice would be this: don't start here - experience first the lambent beauty of her work on the Berlin songbook (still, at the time of writing, available as two separate albums) or her definitive interpretation of the greatest music ever produced in Broadway, in the 2CD set devoted to the songs of Rodgers and Hart.

Stockholm Concert, 1966
Stockholm Concert, 1966
Offered by MEGA Media
Price: $12.52
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!, August 28, 2000
This review is from: Stockholm Concert, 1966 (Audio CD)
If you're reading this review because you're in two minds about whether to buy a copy of the Stockholm Concert, let me cut right to the chase: buy it. If you're trying to decide between this and another CD of Ella's, then take this one (and buy the other next week).
If you're still reading, you obviously need to be given some more tangible reasons for making the purchase. What can I offer except a list of superlatives, all of which have been quite rightly applied ad infinitum to Ella before? To say that this concert finds her "at the peak of her powers" is really pretty meaningless, because this could be said of practically everything she recorded from 1950 to 1970 (and that's taking a very small-minded view of her career). To say that she exhibits formidable variety in this concert, from roaring swing and soaring scat to sotto voce wistfulness and tender reflection, is to say only that Ella was doing here what she always did while she was on that vertiginously high plateau of her career. It cannot even be claimed as remarkable that she is complemented here by an exceptionally good band performing exceptionally well, for this is, happily, one of many dazzling recorded collaborations with the Ellington orchestra. Nor, even, can it be said that the Stockholm jazzophiles were unusually responsive, for she was similarly feted at numerous venues, with even the notoriously demanding Berlin audiences whistling and stamping at her second concert there, in 1961.
So what are the defining qualities of this concert, that make it special? The short answer - putting aside issues like the wonderfully resonant acoustic of the venue and the excellent recording quality - is that there this is a performance of staggering intensity. After more than a generation, and even with the sound coming out of a metal box, there is something so electric about this Stockholm concert that it has the power to exhilirate anew, and to bring fresh joy and delight, even on the umpteenth hearing. Rarely, in any musical context, can the chemistry between a solo performer, a band and an audience have been so thrilling that it survives, seemingly in tact, the deadening impact of being recorded.
There is not one weak or badly misjudged number in this concert, and the ordering of the program is impeccable. Any possible gripes are so trivial as to be hardly worth making. Yes, it is true that, here as often in live performance, Ella occasionally fluffs her words, and her rendering of 'So Danco Samba' may swing a little too hard for the bossanova purist. The overpowering impression, though, is that every bar of every number is infused with pure delight by Ella and all her fellas.
If one number had to be singled out for special praise, it would have to be Ella's incandescent rendering of 'Let's Do It,' so breathtakingly brilliant that it must, surely, rank at least in her top fifty recorded numbers (and that's saying something). It is sometimes opined that Ella's vocal style was too artless and innocent to do justice to Cole Porter's archly suggestive lyrics: this infinitely knowing, bawdily roisterous performance reveals such a judgement for the hooey that it is.
Buy, buy, buy!

Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim
Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim
Price: $27.99
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sinatra's Indian Summer, April 19, 2000
For those who, like me, believed that by the mid 1960s Sinatra was capable of producing little more than an ask, brittle and ultimately empty parody of himself, Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim will be an ear-opener. The grating quality which characterises Sinatra's voice even in such nicely considered albums of the first half of the decade as Sinatra-Basie, and which was to become ever more painfully pronounced, is entirely absent here. The liner notes to the Jobim album refer to Sinatra's quip that he hadn't sung so softly since he had laryngitis; one can only wish that he had been afflicted more often. The delicacy of his performances here matches the best of what he achieved in his Capitol ballad collections, and lacks the self-indulgence that, for me at least, mars such albums as No-One Cares.

If Sinatra once again revealed his masterly subtlety as an interpreter in this record, then it is, of course, in part due to the fact that he was interpreting very subtle material. The Jobim numbers which are punctuated by Latinised standards - including a bewitching rendition of 'Change Partners' - set the hushed tone of wistfulness. Moreover, the composer-performer's shyly understated contributions to the performances, both vocal and instrumental, contribute crucially to the filigree tenderness of the whole album.

For me, Sinatra & Jobim represents the dreamily lovely Indian summer to a remarkable singing career. It richly rewards attentive listening (but it should be said that it also makes wonderful table-music!). Nor should the prospective buyer be put off by the brevity of the album: less is in this case most definitely more.

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