Entry count: 2684
Ella Fitzgerald - Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook

Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook

Released: April 14th, 1956

8.5
Album Review Ella Fitzgerald

The events we write about at Gaslight Records happened in some form or another 50 years ago to the day. Roll along with us and imagine you are back in 1970.

Support Gaslight Records

At my request, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook was on regular rotation at my house when I was a kid in the 90's. Through this album, Ella seemingly extended an invitation to somewhere better and I took it. We shared a secret, a playful wink, a sing-along, and perhaps even a dance. We shared in the good times of my youth.

Hence upon rediscovering this album a few years later, it sound-tracked my daydreams and triggered a nostalgic mood that had earlier taken me out of adolescent tedium. This time however, it instead transposed to a summer in the city, where there was whiskey and wisecracks, romance and mornings that arrive all too soon.

Music that is sheer escapism. Well why not? It's been vital to me throughout certain times in my life, and this is one of those records that will always provide that feeling.

This record has not just been significant to me however.

Ella reportedly remarked that this album was a turning point in her career. She had been playing the small jazz club circuit, devoting her voice to bee bop. Her strengths in the technique of scat were well recognized within the jazz community, yet her dedication to this style of music was inhibiting her from reaching a wider audience and a voice like Ella's was deserving of universal recognition.

Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook was released in 1956. The success of the album cued a tour and Ella began playing at clubs throughout the US – previously wherein the only black people were cleaners, not the stars of the headline act. The year prior, Ella was restricted to playing smaller venues due to rules imposed by many club owners which prevented African-American people from entering such establishments. One such place was 'Mocambo'; Hollywood's premier nightclub. Marilyn Monroe had been frequenting the club at the time and discovered that her favorite singer, Ella Fitzgerald, was prohibited from performing there. Subsequently, Marilyn approached the nightclub's manager, and in a bid to lift the ban, guaranteed to sit front row for seven nights in a row on the condition that Ella would be performing. Monroe fulfilled her promise and Ella was never forced to play lesser clubs again.

In the same year Ella's manager Norman Granz started the record label Verve; created around Fitzgerald's sky rocketing profile. It was Granz's influence that propelled her into new musical territory and prompted the songbook series: each record of which presents an exploration of the works of a single songwriter, beginning with those of Cole Porter. This format ultimately highlighted Ella's greatest artistic trait: her profound ability to reinterpret the work of others. As Ira Gershwin once said, "I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them."

Cole Porter's jaunty melodies superbly showcase Ella's vocal prowess, her faultless intonation, and the devotion she gives to each note. Ella's impeccable diction works to highlight the whimsical innuendo and wordplay in Cole Porter's work. She's having a damn good time with this material and it translates beautifully on record.

Cole Porter was a prolific song writer. He predominantly composed for Broadway and Hollywood musicals with his first hit being the musical Paris in 1928; most notably introducing the number 'let's do it, let's fall in love'.

'Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. Let's do it, Let's fall in love.'

And if the double entendre seemed debatable at first;

'the Dutch in old Amsterdam do it, not to mention the Fins. Folks in Siam do it, think of Siamese twins…'

The lyrics here give some insight into how Porter treated language – words were there to be played with.

Of course it is open to interpretation. The song has been covered countless times since it was written 84 years ago. When Sinatra and Shirley Maclaine sing it, we hear a PG rated courtship. Yet the same words as cooed by Ella Fitzgerald can only suggest a seduction at play.

Perhaps there is something on my mind as I listen to this album now, but seduction sure seems to set the tone of this record. In 'get out of town' Fitzgerald tells of a lust she wants to satisfy, but perhaps is forbidden to. In the end it is an affair that can only be ended by physical distance.

'Just one of those things' embraces the passionate encounter and decisions made by the body rather than the mind.

The subject of sex appears to snake its way into several of these tunes under Ella's guidance: a lover who visits unannounced in 'all through the night', only to be gone by daybreak, which in turn casts the spell of perpetual longing. The exasperated temperament of 'too darn hot'. Too darn hot for what? One can only imagine.

This songbook as delivered by Ella Fitzgerald has charm and persuasion, it's dark and funny and sexy and handsome. The enchanting production and the swoony arrangements of the huge studio orchestra add to the suggestive power of the lyrics. The listener has little choice but to surrender to the imagination and rapture on display here.

Need to be transported? Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook.

More recent news

Watch The Jackson 5 perform single from their debut album on Ed Sullivan

News

December 23rd, 1969: Watch The Jackson 5 perform single from their debut album on Ed Sullivan

Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 is the latest release from Motown

 
The Clancy Brothers have released a new album of Christmas songs: Listen

News

December 20th, 1969: The Clancy Brothers have released a new album of Christmas songs: Listen

Irish folk group, The Clancy Brothers have recorded 11 songs to bring a little joy to your Christmas

 
See photos from The Doors album cover shoot in Los Angeles today

News

December 18th, 1969: See photos from The Doors album cover shoot in Los Angeles today

The new Doors album is due for release early next year.

 
Four people died over the weekend at The Altamont Speedway Free Festival

Article

December 10th, 1969: Four people died over the weekend at The Altamont Speedway Free Festival

Here's the story of Altamont in quotes from many of the people involved.

 
The Rolling Stones have released a new studio album ahead of their free concert tomorrow at Altamont

News

December 5th, 1969: The Rolling Stones have released a new studio album ahead of their free concert tomorrow at Altamont

As The Stones finish their run of U.S. concert dates they have released their eighth album, Let It Bleed.

 
This summer Bob Dylan sat down for an interview with Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone magazine

Interviews

December 4th, 1969: This summer Bob Dylan sat down for an interview with Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone magazine

Read the transcript below of Dylan and Wenner's interview from June this year

 
Emmylou Harris covers Bob Dylan on debut album

News

December 3rd, 1969: Emmylou Harris covers Bob Dylan on debut album

Listen to Harris's cover of Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" from her album Gliding Bird

 
Peter Stone Brown covers Bob Dylan's 'She Belongs To Me'

Live At The Gaslight

Peter Stone Brown covers Bob Dylan's "She Belongs To Me"

Recorded in Atlantic City at Dylan Fest in 2015

 
Watch Roy Orbison perform 'Oh, Pretty Woman' with Johnny Cash last week

News

October 4th, 1969: Watch Roy Orbison perform "Oh, Pretty Woman" with Johnny Cash last week

Orbison appeared on The Johnny Cash Show in Nashville

 
Mixtape October 1969

Mixtapes

October 1st, 1969: Mixtape October 1969

It's the end of Summer 1969, here's what I'm listening to.

 
Tyrannosaurus Rex released a new single 'Pewter Suitor' this week - Listen

News

October 1st, 1969: Tyrannosaurus Rex released a new single "Pewter Suitor" this week - Listen

The new single was left off the band's album Unicorn, from earlier this year.

 
'I was just about all through as a man' Johnny Cash talks to Richard Green of NME

Interviews

October 1st, 1969: "I was just about all through as a man" Johnny Cash talks to Richard Green of NME

Cash gave a brief interview recently while visiting London

 
Loading more