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Music Review: Ella Fitzgerald – Love Letters from Ella

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As record stores vanish, as more and more people get their music digitally, as the physical medium is phased out, well… honestly, I don't know what the heck is going on out there. I do know that, just like everybody else, the major labels are trying to figure out how to navigate the scary waters of music commerce. Special editions of CDs, expanded versions with video content, coupons for special song downloads, it's all part of the plan. And so is this, a joint release between Concord records and coffee monolith Starbucks. This is part of a trend with Starbucks, one that feels weird to me. Weird, but maybe necessary.

In any event, Concord has unearthed some real gems with this collection of love songs. There's a gorgeous "Cry Me A River" (with the London Symphony Orchestra), a very intimate "The One I Love," a duet with Joe Pass, and a lovely "Our Love Is Here To Stay," performed with Andre Previn. My ears haven't heard Ella's voice in quite a while and this was a real treat.

Now, let's get to the last important bit of information. Much of this release was constructed in much the same manner as Ray Charles' Ray Sings, Basie Swings, with the orchestration and other parts added after the fact. The Amazon editorial content described this perfectly: aural Photoshopping. I've got to say that this really bothers me. I'm not even really sure of the motivation in either case. Both Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles were enormous talents. Did they really need to be propped up in any way at all? Would fans have ignored posthumous releases if they hadn't been 'sweetened' in this manner?

The music world has a long history of technological and social change. Technologically, we have gone through several forms of recorded media in just a handful of decades: vinyl records, reel-to-reel tape, 8-track tapes, cassettes, CDs, and now: bits. Just take a look at the video below, proof that cross-pollination between the worlds of music and business has been going on for a long time.

Just listen to that voice. Does an instrument that singular need any help?

I don't think so.

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About Mark Saleski

  • Posthumous releases are a very tricky thing, and another good example of the many challenges facing the music industry these days.

  • Is it live or is it bells-and-whistles? Nice write-up, Mark.