Friday, December 31, 2004

Ella's Irving Berlin Song Book back on LP

Back in the LP catalog after at least 20 years is Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Song Book, now issued by Speakers Corner, a German firm, on deluxe 180g pressings. Everything about the original U.S. release of 1958 has been duplicated, including the gatefold cover art, the liner notes, and the labels. This is the fifth volume of Ella's Song Book series to be so issued: preceding it were the Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart, Duke Ellington, and George and Ira Gershwin volumes.


Though in many ways the weakest of the series, the familiar assets of Ella's beautiful voice and the savvy arrangements, in this case by Paul Weston, are fully in evidence. Sonically there have always been problems: though originally issued in stereo, Ella's voice is well-recorded, but the orchestra is for some reason hard and steely in the top frequencies. Though the transfer here is flawless and the pressings immaculately clean and vibrant, there's little that can be done to tame that aggressive high end without damaging the musical content. And so it remains.

Speakers Corner will probably next tackle the Arlen volume, one of the strongest of the Song Books; then it's a question of the two single LP's: the Mercer and the Kern. At that point, they will have restored to vinyl all the Ella Song Books. Caveat emptor: the Gershwin box set is already out of print and fetching sums in the $250 range. Smart shoppers will buy the Speakers Corner Ella Song Book reissues before they become scarce.



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