Forever Ella – Ella Fitzgerald (Verve/Polygram 1996)
UK Chart Position – 19
My second essential Ella Fitzgerald album released in 1996 gave her a Top 20 UK album chart placing – her first for thirty-six years! In its very healthy running time of 76.5 minutes we get 21 tracks and only two that overlap with “The Incomparable Ella” and that is why I would consider it to be an Essential CD.
Verve, being primarily a Jazz label have made a more jazz influenced selection from the smooth standards that seem to dominate “Incomparable Ella” and on “Forever” we get examples of her duetting with great pal Louis Armstrong and his trumpet, there are live performances, a little more deviation from the established melody of a tune and examples of her scat singing. The songs come from the same selection of great twentieth century American songwriters but tend not to be their best known songs. Quite often, again, Ella provides the definitive versions of these songs. The recordings are from 1956-63 and are beautifully reproduced.
We open with the Gershwin brothers’ “Someone To Watch Over Me”, a song which over the years has developed a slight menacing tone to it- reminiscent of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” but there is no sign of stalking in Ella’s version. It is sung as a pure love song, as the Gershwins intended. It is one of the highlights of the album and provides an ideal opener. The Gershwins are present again for a song which was written, alongside DuBose Heyward for “Porgy And Bess”. “Summertime”as a song may have suffered from just too many versions, an over-recorded, over-performed jazz standard. For me the best version is probably by Sarah Vaughan but Ella’s is a close-run thing. Ella and Louis Armstrong recorded a whole album released in 1957 dedicated to the songs on “Porgy And Bess” which is a high-standard recording (I have it as part of a three CD set “The Definitive Ella & Louis” released at a bargain price in 2009 by Not Now Music). It is unusual in that it opens with a lengthy trumpet solo from Louis until Ella eases in. The whole thing is languid, as indeed it should be.
Louis duets vocally with Ella on another two tracks on the album (one came from the 1956 album “Ella and Louis” and the other from the follow-up “…Again” from a year later.) “Tenderly” is a beautiful love song and “I Won’t Dance” shows the great fun side of their relationship and is a real charmer. (I also love the way Ella pronounces “Monsieur”!)
Talking of pronunciation on the version of “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” Ella very definitely sings “as rich as Rocketfeller” rather than the Rockefella we would expect to hear. I’ve always been fascinated as to the reason for this. Was there something which stopped them singing the name of the tycoon- some legal thing perhaps? Was it a private joke or did she just get it wrong? I always think “Rocket-feller” would be a nice person to know, whatever the state of his wealth- some kind of 1950’s superhero!
Cole Porter songs provide three tracks on the album, “I Get A Kick Out Of You” features on the “Incomparable Ella” release but there is also “I Love Paris” and for me, another of the highlights of the album “You Do Something To Me” performed with huge warmth with that lovely refrain that shows the genius of Porter’s songwriting;
Let me live ‘neath your spell.
Do do that voodoo that you do so well.
For you do something to me
That nobody else can do.
It is quite unusual for the time to have lengthy vocal tracks on albums, yet Ella takes over 7.5 minutes easing her way through “These Foolish Things” (a song written by Harry Link, Jack Strachey and Holt Marvell). It’s at a slower pace than one usually hears this song and admittedly does go on a little bit. Elsewhere we have the perkiness of “Mountain Greenery” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”, a couple of live tracks in “Gone With The Wind” and “Lullaby Of Birdland” and a lengthy dooby-dooby-do scat section in “Blue Skies”.
The album’s closer is a song very much associated with the Rat Pack “One For My Baby (And One More For Me)” is an unusual song for a woman, but that never worried Ella – her “Change Partners” (not on this compilation) doesn’t bother to change any genders which always sounds like a brave move. Although Sinatra may have considered this his song, I prefer Ella’s version.
With this CD and the “Incomparable Ella”( if I have to choose just one CD then it would be “Incomparable”) you would have an essential selection of songs. If you would like a little more Ella I would recommend the 5 CD 2009 Demon Music release “100 Hits – Ella Fitzgerald” as that can be picked up at a bargain price and maintains a high standard throughout- although there is quite a bit of overlap between the two CDs reviewed and this. A 1995 MCA release “The Best Of” has some interesting earlier tracks including a duet with the Ink Spots and for a more unusual choice look out for “The Reprise Years” a 2006 release from Rhino. This is a compilation of tracks she recorded in London in the late 60’s and early 70’s when she was in her fifties and looking for a more relevant sound. It’s the song choices that makes it seem very different from what you have heard Ella do before – Motown tracks such as “Get Ready”, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, “Ooo Baby Baby” and “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game”, contemporary soul songs such as “Knock On Wood” and “Sunny”, the odd Beatles tune and the very unpolitically correct Randy Newman song “Yellow Man”. It’s much better than its curiosity value suggests but not as essential as the two Ella CDs I have recommended.
“Forever Ella ” is currently available from Amazon in the UK for £10.53 and used from £0.01. In the US it is available for $16.70 and used from $0.01. There is also another album with the same title released in 2007 with a completely different track listing and different cover. As this contains remixes of classic Ella tracks by Layo & Bushwacka, and Miguel Migs you might wish to exercise caution.