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Misty Blue: Ella Fitzgerald's Country Album

Tue Jan 21, 2014 11:41 pm

In a concert in Vienna in 1981, Ella Fitzgerald finished her frantic rendition of Old MacDonald with a short ad-lib in which she jokingly imitated the music of a hoe-down. She then told the crowd "that's the nearest we got to country and western".

Not quite.

As with Sinatra, there are no original Ella Fitzgerald albums that are totally bereft of at least a couple of wonderful performances. Her time at Capitol and Reprise during the late 1960s was a difficult time for Ella on record, but she was in wonderful voice, and the live material we have from this era is stunning. Her move to Capitol resulted in some very unlikely albums. Brighten the Corner is an album of hymns sung in a gospel style, and the Christmas album from the same year was in a similar vogue. Her independent live album from a year or so later finds her singing Sunshine of Your Love and Hey Jude. And her reprise album finds her tackling soul and rock. All of these have been reissued a number of times during the CD era, but the album that has been out of print for some time is her album of country songs, Misty Blue.

Misty Blue is a strange album, with Ella singing eleven then-famous country songs - some have endured to today, but some are forgotten. Ella is in great voice, and gives lovely performances. But the orchestration isn't strictly country, but A kind of mish-mash that falls midway between country and big band. In this respect it is close in sound to Bobby Darin’s album You’re the Reason I’m Living in which he brings a batch of country songs kicking and screaming into a big band sound with mixed results. Songs like Under Your Spell Again are classic Darin, whereas Release Me is a key example of Darin trying something and just not pulling it off.

Ella’s effort is less erratic in quality. While there is nothing here as good as the highlights of the Darin album, there is nothing as bad as Release Me either. She seems to relish some of the whacky lyrics, such as those in Don’t Let the Doorknob Hit You, but at the same time brings real beauty to a song such as Misty Blue.

But by far the best vocal on the album is Born to Lose. The backing might be pure country here but she manages sing with the gospel inflictions found on Brighten the Corner. This most simple of country melodies becomes almost hymn-like in Ella’s hands. The vocal line she dreams up when she re-enters after the chorus (at 2.15) is breath-taking, part jazz, part gospel, but still in keeping with the country origins of the song.

I’ve long had the album on LP, but had somehow missed it on CD and managed to pick up a copy for a reasonable price at the weekend. It’s not classic Ella, but it is highly enjoyable and a track such as Born to Lose is worth the price of admission on its own.

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Re: Misty Blue: Ella Fitzgerald's Country Album

Wed Jan 22, 2014 1:02 am

poormadpeter wrote: The vocal line she dreams up when she re-enters after the chorus (at 2.15) is breath-taking, part jazz, part gospel, but still in keeping with the country origins of the song.


I love Country, somehow missed this one. The vocal line you refer to is indeed stunning. Thanks.

Re: Misty Blue: Ella Fitzgerald's Country Album

Wed Jan 22, 2014 2:20 am

Yes, and she was in possibly the best voice of her career at that time too - and without a long term contract. It seems bonkers.

Re: Misty Blue: Ella Fitzgerald's Country Album

Mon Mar 03, 2014 9:45 pm

I downloaded on iTunes some months ago, and finally grabbed a copy of the cd for 2 pounds on eBay UK


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