Ella Fitzgerald - Forever Ella
“The only thing better than singing is more singing.”
Peerless, of course. Those of you who've tried the corporate version of jazz of late may just now be starting to feel you've been sold a pup. Katie Melua, Micael Buble, Corinne bleedin' Bailey Rae. Pop singers with jazz chords. If you own a record by any of the above but lack work by the originals you need smacking. As a jazz singer Ella lacked the gutsy intensity to please the critical snobs but no-one could deliver so coolly, so sweetly. Tony Bennett considered her the finest singer of popular song. Sinatra blocked a series of composer-led releases of his own in deference to hers. Throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s she was the first lady of jazz. Though it doesn’t feature here, her ‘scat’, or improvisational, style was without competition.
The greatest songs in popular music are here. The oft-quoted 'Great American Songbook', mauled of late by clumsy crooners (Barry Manilow) and rickety rockers (Rod Stewart) is stroked to perfection. Cole Porter’s 'Ev'ry Time we Say Goodbye' is so remarkable still : “There`s no love song finer, but how strange the change from major to minor …” ‘Cry Me A River’, ‘Night And Day’, ‘Summertime’, ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’, ‘They Can't Take That Away From Me’, ‘Let's Fall In Love’. These songs, well, you know, they’re not bad at all.
Lack of sleeve notes leaves you guessing as to actual recordings. If you know the canon, then the surface-skimming quality of this single disc becomes apparent. If you don't, then this is as good an introduction as any. For those of us sat somewhere between the two, it makes you wish you had the time and cash to explore the lady's work on a deeper level. The songbook collection she did in the 1950s, each one focusing on an individual composer (Porter, the Gershwins, Ellington), is worth exploring; certainly affordable enough these days and worth it for thematic continuity.
For the couple of daft and unnecessary remixes at the end, this slinky collection misses out on full marks. But mis-guided packaging aside, this album is a risk-free purchase for anyone with fully functioning ears.