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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Forever Ella

Universal 9848373



1. Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye
2. Cry Me A River
3. Manhattan
4. The Best Is Yet To Come
5. I Get A Kick Out Of You
6. Cheek To Cheek
7. Don't Fence Me In
8. Get Happy
9. Night and Day
10. Let's Face The Music and Dance
11. Summertime
12. Someone To Watch Over Me
13. Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)
14. They Can't Take That Away From Me
15. Let's Fall In Love
16. You Do Something To Me
17. One For My Baby
18. A Fine Romance
19. Wait Till You See Him (De Phazz remix)
20. Angel Eyes (Layo & Bushwacka mix)
Ella Fitzgerald - Vocals

As this is the 90th anniversary of Ella Fitzgerald's birth, it is no surprise that many albums of her recordings are being released or re-released. This is the first of three CDs I have for review. We live in an age of "The Very Best of..." and "The Greatest Hits" - and this album has "The Ultimate Collection" printed down the side of the CD case, while the other two albums are called respectively "The Essential Collection" and "The Very Best of..." However, as George Orwell might have said, some "Very Bests" are better than others.

This CD starts well enough, with Ella's classic versions of Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye and Manhattan among the first three tracks. These are from her marvellous Songbooks, which (we tend to forget) made many listeners aware of the riches in the compositions of such people as Rodgers & Hart and Cole Porter. Those songbooks are generously represented here, with five songs by Cole Porter, three by Harold Arlen and three by the Gershwins. Two of the Gershwin songs - Summertime and They Can't Take That Away From Me - are duets with Louis Armstrong, with whom Ella made some of her most memorable recordings. Their contrasting personalities fused wondrously together, with Louis's eloquent trumpet as an added bonus. Even the excessively lush orchestral backing in Summertime couldn't prevent Ella and Louis giving a classic performance. And They Can't Take That Away From Me has that inimitable feeling of cheerful togetherness which marked out their collaborations with Oscar Peterson and his jazz confederates.

That's the good news. But calling this album "The Ultimate Collection" is stretching the facts. Where is Ella's first hit, A-Tisket, A-Tasket? Where is her uproarious version of Mack the Knife? And why are there none of her ebullient live performances with Jazz at the Philharmonic? In truth, the ultimate collection of Fitzgerald tracks would probably comprise at least a dozen CDs, since she was not only very prolific but also so many of her recordings should be in every jazz fan's collection. This doesn't excuse the compilers' inclusion of the last two tracks - remixes with horrible mechanised hip-hop rhythms. The final Angel Eyes adds so much echo that Ella sounds as if she was singing in the midst of a caving expedition.

At least the album gives us more than 78 minutes of music, but the presentation leaves much to be desired. The cover picture looks more like Sarah Vaughan than Ella Fitzgerald, and the sleeve contains merely the recording dates of each track but no personnels and no indication of which album they came from. Ella Fitzgerald is such a supreme singer that nobody should turn down a free gift of any collection of her work but this CD could have been much better if more care had been taken over its selection and presentation.

Tony Augarde


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