As I mentioned in ‘The Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books’ post last week, I will review each of the eight album releases in that box set over the next few weeks as a series. First up, The Cole Porter Song Book…

The perfect place to start…

Not long after arriving at Verve Records in the mid 50’s, Ella Fitzgerald and Verve founder Norman Granz began rolling out what would become their definitive series of composer/songwriter Song Book releases.

Granz’s decision to kick things off with Cole Porter is an understandable testament to Porters fundamental place as a songwriter in American popular music.

Born to midwest wealth before the turn of the 20th century, Porter shunned the expected family business path expected of him to pursue music and song writing.

And what a wonderful decision that was!

Hitting his stride in the 1930’s, Cole Porter wrote hundreds of standards classics — mostly for broadway and later for the movies — that became huge hits in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s for folks like Ella, Sinatra and just about every other singer of the era.

Timeless and beautiful, Cole Porter’s classics numbers…

Cole Porter at work…

…remain vital and immensely popular today and are still performed by virtually every current jazz and standards singer in the realm.

As such, Norman Granz was right and just to kick off Ella’s song book releases with a focus on CP’s vast catalog. That said, there was a downside for CP being first up and the Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook
album is not without it’s issues.

Granz used an “in-house” arranger/conductor…

…for the first two Ella Song Book releases. Boy genius Buddy Bregman (only 25 when he arranged and conducted the orchestra for the CP Song Book album) may have had previous commercial recording success with Cole Porter material, but I found some of his arrangements problematic — particularly on Disc 1 of the 2 disc set.

Don’t read me wrong here … Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Song Book is a solid album release. We’re talking about a simply amazing selection of Cole Porter’s best songs, and Ella’s performance hits on all cylinders … displaying her trademark smooth, evocative style underpinned by her stock and trade tonal purity, range and vocal dexterity.

Sadly a fair number of Bregman’s arrangements come off dated and stifling. It’s not one issue that pervades all the songs as much as a sense of a general style mismatch. Bregman regularly punctuates Ella’s vocals with cartoon horn bursts reminiscent of a TV soundtrack and I found his tempos often just off the mark.

In the end…

…I felt like Cole Porter’s wonderful songs and Ella’s amazing vocals were boxed in by Bregman’s weak/off putting arrangements … governing back what should have been a much better collective outcome.

The good news is that Buddy’s arrangements seem to get better as the track list progresses and thats all it really takes for a great singer like Ella to shine through with great songs.

I only hope Bregman’s quality progression continues with the other Ella Songbook album he arranged —  The Rodgers and Hart Song Book (the second Ella song book release … we’ll find out next time). It’s worth noting that Granz secured Duke Ellington, Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Marty Paich, Paul Weston and the like for the Song Book releases following the Rodgers & Hart album … there’s serious musical goodness on the way!

Picking favorites…

…from 32 of Cole Porters hits nearly impossible. Take a second to jump down to the track list below and revel in the genius that was Cole Porter (then come back!). Even Bregman’s mediocre arrangements can’t knock the shine off this superior song list, performed by a fabulous vocalist.

When I look back at my ratings on these 35 songs, really only a few of the numbers get significant down-ticks from Buddy’s handiwork.

Oddly, some of the best numbers on the album for me were the three originally unreleased bonus tracks added for the box set. These are “alternate” recordings of songs are alternative “takes” that appear elsewhere on the LP; they are retooled with simpler, trio+ guitar style arrangements and are excellent.

Buddy Bregman’s charting clouds part on the ALT numbers and Ella’s tribute to Cole Porter comes shining through with beautiful versions of “You’re The Top”, “I Concentrate On You” and “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love)” … amazing that these versions were held out of the original release. The “out-takes” that are appended to “Let’s Do It” are hilarious … let the full 8:50 roll out when you listen!

“Your The Top”; “I Concentrate on You”; Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love)” – Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Song Book*

The good news is that the “plus tracks” (and out takes) ARE included in the 1997 remaster re-issue of Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Song Book

The ’97 remastered re-issue

 Don’t let all my bitching and moaning about Buddy Bregman — Boy Genius — and his weak arrangements push you away from Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook; this album is definitely a worthwhile get. Hunt down the aforementioned 1997 remastered release and enjoy … Ella singing Cole Porter is too good to pass up!

[With respect to the ratings below, I could almost write the following not on each song: “great Cole Porter classic number; Ella sings beautiful; the arrangements are weak” … the net/net is that any check downs below +++ comes from Bregman’s charts.]

Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Song Book – Ella Fitzgerald
(VS_Guy ratings: “+++” pluses are good; “~” for meh to middling;  “- – -” minuses are not good)

Disc 1:
1. All Through The Night 3:14 ++
2. Anything Goes 3:20 +++
3. Miss Otis Regrets (She’s Unable To Lunch Today) 3:00 +++ a sweet tune about murder and vigilantly justice!
4. Too Darn Hot 3:47 +++
5. In The Still Of The Night 2:38 +++
6. I Get A Kick Out Of You 4:00 ++++ Bregman leans back with simple charts and Ella shines
7. Do I Love You? 3:49 ++ nice deep catalog number
8. Always True To You In My Fashion 2:48 ++ Great song from Kiss Me Kate 
9. Let’s Do It 3:32 ++++ Classic Cole Porter (Alt track 19 on Disc 2 is even better)
10. Just One Of Those Things 3:30 ++++ CP classic that Ella succeeds with despite meh arrangement
11. Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye 3:32 +++
12. All Of You 1:43 ++++
13. Begin The Beguine 3:36 ++++
14. Get Out Of Town 3:22 +++
15. I Am In Love 4:05 ++ “Should I order cyanide or champagne” – what a great line!
16. From This Moment On 3:16 +++

Disc 2:
1. I Love Paris 4:57 ++++ Bregman’s string charts are nice here … things are going in the right direction
2. You Do Something To Me 2:21 +++ More Cole Porter classic goodness
3. Ridin’ High 3:20 + medium deep catalog pull … Ella great/charts ~
4. Easy To Love 3:24 +++
5. It’s All Right With Me 3:07 ++++
6. Why Can’t You Behave? 5:04 +++
7. What Is This Thing Called Love? 2:02 ++++
8. You’re The Top 3:32 +++
9. Love For Sale 5:52 +++
10. It’s DeLovely 2:42 ++++
11. Night And Day 3:04 ++++
12. Ace In The Hole 1:58 +++
13. So In Love 3:50 +++
14. I’ve Got You Under My Skin 2:41 +++
15. I Concentrate On You 3:11 +++ (Alt track 18 is awesome – much better)
16. Don’t Fence Me In 3:19 +++
17. You’re The Top 2:07 ++++ Love these last three “ALT” tracks with simple charts
18. I Concentrate On You 3:00 ++++
19. Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love) 8:50 ++++

[* Please remember that all songs streamed here are for REVIEW PURPOSES ONLY and are NOT intended as a substitute for properly purchased original record company product. Give a listen and then please support the artists via iTunes, Amazon or your favorite music store. Artists/Record Labels — NO DOWNLOADS ARE SUPPORTED on this site; please contact me directly regarding the removal of any potentially infringing material.]