Ella Fitzgerald's recordings have been subject to extensive reissue in the '90s, but if you just want to hear a lot of her early work in an undiscriminating fashion, there's this 1998 British budget compilation: three discs and 60 tracks with minimal annotation, selecting from the start of Fitzgerald's recording career, 1935, to 1947. (Presumably the cut-off is occasioned by a 50-year-copyright rule in the U.K., since these recordings are nowhere credited to Decca Records, which originally released them, or to Universal, which controls them now, at least in the U.S.) Subtitles on the discs suggest that the first is given over to the singer's work as a member of Chick Webb's band, the second to her period leading her own orchestra and with a small band, and the third to collaborations. In practice, this isn't quite the case.
The first disc does contain 20 Webb cuts, among them such hits as "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" and "Undecided," but the first half of the second disc also consists of Webb recordings. And while the third disc does feature such partners as the Ink Spots, Louis Armstrong, and Louis Jordan, there are also lots of tracks on which Fitzgerald is the sole attraction. What you get, then, is a roughly chronological, three-hour survey of the singer's first 12 years of recording, including some of her hits and better known tracks. There are Fitzgerald favorites such as "(If You Can't Sing It) You'll Have to Swing It" and "Oh, Lady Be Good," and such standards as "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," "Tain't What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It)," "Just a Simple Melody," "I Want to Be Happy," "Imagination," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street," "It's Only a Paper Moon," "You Won't Be Satisfied (Until You Break My Heart)," and "I'm Beginning to See the Light," all rendered in Fitzgerald's pure, childlike voice. And there are a lot of forgettable songs given adequate readings.
The result hardly makes for a comprehensive or scholarly examination of the singer's work (except that it tends to confirm the impression that she was given plenty of inferior material at Decca). But as background listening for a bargain price, it's fine.
|You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini) / Sam Coslow||Ella Fitzgerald||3:00|
|I'll Chase the Blues Away / Kenneth Harrison / Edgar Sampson||Ella Fitzgerald||2:36|
|Rhythm and Romance / J.C. Johnson / Arthur Schwartz / Richard A. Whiting||Ella Fitzgerald||3:07|
|Under the Spell of the Blues / Kenneth Harrison / Edgar Sampson||Ella Fitzgerald||3:06|
|Sing Me a Swing Song (And Let Me Dance) / Stanley Adams / Hoagy Carmichael||Ella Fitzgerald||2:36|
|Vote for Mr. Rhythm / Ralph Rainger / Leo Robin / Al Siegel||Ella Fitzgerald||2:31|
|Wake Up and Live / Mack Gordon / Harry Revel||Ella Fitzgerald feat: Charles Linton||2:41|
|I Got a Guy / Marion Sunshine||Ella Fitzgerald||3:25|
|Holiday in Harlem / Chick Webb||Ella Fitzgerald||3:12|
|If Dreams Come True / Benny Goodman / Irving Mills / Edgar Sampson||Ella Fitzgerald||2:40|
|My Heart Belongs to Daddy / Cole Porter||Ella Fitzgerald||3:11|
|A-Tisket, A-Tasket / Van Alexander / Ella Fitzgerald||Ella Fitzgerald||2:40|
|Ella / Chick Webb||Ella Fitzgerald||2:49|
|Undecided / Sydney Robin / Charlie Shavers||Ella Fitzgerald||3:19|
|'Tain't What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It) / Sy Oliver / Trummy Young||Ella Fitzgerald||3:05|
|Pack Up Your Sins and Go to the Devil / Irving Berlin||Ella Fitzgerald||2:58|
|Rock It for Me / Kay Werner / Sue Werner||Ella Fitzgerald||3:16|
|Just a Simple Melody / Sammy Cahn / Saul Chaplin||Ella Fitzgerald||3:02|
|When I Get Low I Get High / Marion Sunshine||Ella Fitzgerald||2:31|
|I Want to Be Happy / Irving Caesar / Vincent Youmans||Ella Fitzgerald||4:29|