"Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook" Coming Soon From Analog Spark

Originally released as a double LP back in 1956, Ella Fitzerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book was both the first of her eight "songbook" albums and the first release on Norman Granz's then brand new Verve Records (MG V-4001/2).

This release from Analog Spark celebrates the much celebrated album's 60th anniversary. As with previous re-issues from this label, the production spares no expense to do it correctly, including spreading the thirty two songs over three RTI-pressed records instead of the original's two. Ryan K. Smith at Sterling Sound cut lacquers from the original mono master tapes.

The original's gatefold gives way to a nicely produced laminated cover box set, with the annotation formerly in the original's gatefold now well-printed in the box's insides. The artwork reproduction is perfect.

Thirty two songs were recorded live with orchestra in three sessions at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, February 7- 9 and March 27th 1956.

The elegant classics, filled with both Porter's melodic and lyrical genius —familiar to just about everyone, almost regardless of age (or so I like to think!— include "Just One of Those Things", "Begin the Beguine", "From This Moment On", "I Get a Kick Out of You", "Too Darned Hot", "Night and Day" "Let's Do It" and "You Do Something to Me".

While many stage show and movie songs do best in context, these Porter classics obviously do not. Strung together they produce a joyous look back at an era of sophisticated popular musical culture that was at the same time accessible to all.

Granz spared no expense in giving Fitzgerald the lush backdrops both she and the songs deserve, using a big band and when appropriate a small (but large sounding) string section. All of the arrangements were by Buddy Bregman, who also conducted.

Sonically this was never a great sounding production. While it was recorded at Capitol, for some reason it lacks the depth and warmth of Sinatra and Nat "King" Cole records of that era. Ella's voice is certainly cleanly presented but it's somewhat bright and occasionally harsh. Perhaps it was the wrong microphone?

The original pressing is of course more "tubey" because the entire chain was so. By comparison this reissue sounds far more transparent, with blacker backgrounds and a great deal more detail but it also can sound hard and bright if you turn it up too high.

The original no matter what you do to it will sound warm and on one level easier on the ears, but it's also clogged and "colored" in an old-fashioned way. I'm not sure if Ryan K. Smith just ran the tape flat or if he applied some EQ. in my system at least, a bit of high frequency shaving might have made for a more pleasant sound.

Still, given the choice between the original and the reissue, it's like an Iranian revolution: a hundred veils are lifted! For Ella fans, this is easy to recommend. Ella singing Cole Porter will put a spring in your step!

Not yet available but coming soon.

AnalogJ's picture

"A bit too bright" seems to be a common complaint about all of Analog Sparks' work. I found the West Side Story a really good listen, but a bit too bright and strident. I was interested in the Fiddler On The Roof release, but I have passed because it has been panned quite a bit for being too bright. Yes, the original was too bright, but here is a where a modern engineer can perhaps tinker and improve upon the original. Apparently, the Analog Spark release has not done so. So I'm not sure of their track record at this point.

Kirby's picture

Hi AnalogJ, as I've stated below , I own seven of their reissues now and am over all quite pleased with the sound quality, but that's my ears on my system. In all honesty they are the only copies of these albums I own except for Brubeck's Jazz Goes to Collage and A Sparks is the better of the two. As I'm typing this I'm listening to Ellington Uptown and yes it's a little bright(lots of horns on that one),but I have nothing to compair it to and it still sounds pretty good. For $25 for a single,$40 for a double and The Ella three disc for $60 I think (In my opinion only) they are a good deal, perhaps not the best, but very good overall for the price. I would recommend their reissues to anyone who doesn't own really good copies of these albums already. Enjoy our wonderful hobby.

John G's picture

Great album, lucky to have an orange label original mono in great condition. My favorite Ella songbook is the Jerome Kern.

Martin's picture

This double album, 8 songs a side, almost 30 minutes a side was a massive undertaking and a big investment, for those days, huge.

It was recorded Feb. and March of 1956 at Capitol, Melrose (KHJ Studios), engineer Val Valentin.

The 2 hour album itself was assembled in September 1956. The four sides were also mastered at Capitol at the same time and the first pressings were pressed at RCA, Rockaway, NJ.

So much for the original pressing and history.

Now comes the interesting bit. About a year later, for some reason, apparently consumer complaints that their records skipped........ There was a massive redo of this double album.

They REDUBBED all four sides.

Seriously. They did the following.

On Feb. 7, 1957 at Radio Recorders, Hollywood, the four Capitol Studio tapes were redubbed using the Radio Recorders "Cinema EQ" which (for whatever reason), lost all information below 55 cycles, boosted the 5k range by +4 and killed all top end over 10k with the limiter set on "stun" (4:1).

These new reels were then marked "Master" and the old Capitol reels marked "NFM" (Not For Master).

The parts were then recut using the new "easy play" tapes. Ami Hadani cut the new mono parts, boosting the midband (???), I have no idea why, another 2 db at 3k and reduced the bass -2 at 150 cycles.

So, there is a big sound discrepancy between the original 1956 pressings using the original parts and other pressings made after the start of 1957. I have an original and a later pressing. It ain't subtle.

However, it gets more complicated, later, when they broke the album apart and changed the artwork - late 1950's … - some of the recuts on those versions may have gone back to the original Capitol tapes for cutting since the mastering gear had become more sophisticated by then. Some of these LP versions seem to have more bass. Apparently. I don't have any of those though.

Michael, I don't know what pressing(s) you have of this album, but this may be a reason for your comment "Sonically this was never a great sounding production" and "The original no matter what you do to it will sound warm and on one level easier on the ears, but it's also clogged and "colored" in an old-fashioned way.

My first pressing sounds pretty good to me. The later ones, not so good...

So, now, before I plug for this reissue, a question to Ryan Smith, Which tapes did you use? The old "good" tapes, or the redubbed master from 1957?

thomoz's picture

It sure does sound like (based upon your story and MF's audio analysis) that the second cut's takes were used with the 4khz spike and compression applied. I would love to be wrong though!

vogelzang's picture

How does one tell an original 1956 from the redo 1957?

John G's picture

"How does one tell an original 1956 from the redo 1957?"

One thing required would be a "R" in the runoff groove which indicate Rockaway, NJ pressing plant.

bkelley3rd's picture

I have the Speakers Corner two LP version in my collection mastered from Kevin Gray. It features the same cover image and design.

Martin's picture

uses the good tapes

Lincoln Matt's picture

I have the 1976 Polydor/Verve (VE-2-2511) version of this album. The credits list Robert Ludwig (Masterdisk) under mastering. It is stamped Masterdisk, but without RL - looks like a lower case e after the Masterdisk logo.

I just listened to it last night. It doesn't seem overly bright or lacking in bass. I guess it was not from the 1957 master, or at least Robert Ludwig was able to minimize the damage.

rl1856's picture

"Martin" what is the source for your information ? I would like to read more.

I have many vintage Verve LPs in my collection (and all of the Songbooks). Thankfully my CPSB is an orange label pressing numbered V-4001-2. But all 4 sides have an "h" at about 3:00 in the run out groove, rather than an "R". Record 1 S/2 has "RE2" in the run out groove after matrix information. This is the only place it appears. What is the significance ?

I have noticed a tendency for Verve mastering to highlight the singer in the mix. Given that many of the originals were mono, what I hear is narrow image placement receding almost to the horizon (so much for a lack of depth in mono). Then a singer that is at a higher volume level, and sounding like they are floating above the accompaniment. I call it the Verve Halo Effect. I bring this up, because in thinking about the 1957 remaster, some of what I hear could be attributed to the eq changes made at that time. And it would not surprise me if subsequent Verve mono and early stereo titles incorporated this EQ, if only to prevent complaints. Something to think about.

Martin's picture

you have the following in your deadwax markings:

all small print
all sides with an "H" off at 3 oclock to the matrix stamp

If so, that is a true, complete first cutting of this record.

cjp123's picture

And as best as any of us can tell who have been obsessing about this, including Steve Hoffman himself, who did an issue of this on cd for DCC, Martin is correct. I have both the 1956 issue, the 1957 issue, and the Analog Spark. Big difference between the 56 and the 57 redo. Personally, I think the Analog Spark is by far the best of the bunch--particularly in hearing detail of the instruments. Ella's voice sounds quite good on the 56 issue, but it's as if the instruments are coming out of a tin can compared to the Analaog Spark.

Kirby's picture

I have seven of their reissues and they all sound spectacular . Three more on my wish list including this one. A great product at a great price.