The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- This wonderful copy of Ella's 1959 release for Verve (in stereo!) boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
- The sound is big, rich, lively and dynamic, with Ella's astounding vocal range rendered as only an All Tube Analog chain can
- These sides reproduce both the breath, as well as the front and center immediacy, of The First Lady of Song's vocals, with tubey rich orchestral arrangements in support
- "As usual, Ella uplifts all of the material and her best moments come on 'Somebody Loves Me,' a heartfelt 'Moonlight Becomes You,' a scat-filled 'Blue Skies' and (somewhat surprisingly) 'St. Louis Blues.'... the formerly obscure 'Get Happy' finds Ella Fitzgerald at the peak of her powers."
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The space here is HUGE and the sound so rich. Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD.
This vintage stereo LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing any sign of coming back.
Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real ELLA FITZGERALD singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 55 years old), I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we've played can serve as a guide.
What the best copies of Get Happy! have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1959
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
The First Lady of Song
The key to any Ella recording on Verve is to find the pressing with the most presence, breathiness, richness, tubiness and all the other good stuff that vintage analog records can give you, whilst minimizing the midrangy EQ that plagues many of her albums.
And it can be done. This copy is proof! Hardness and honkiness are no strangers to her records, but the best pressings make the EQ on her vocals sound right for the music.
What separated the best pressings from the others was more than just rich, sweet, full-bodied sound. The better pressings make Ella's voice dramatically more solid, three-dimensional and real coming out of the speakers. You can hear the nuances of her delivery much more clearly on a copy that sounds as good as this one does.
Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren't veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record. We know, we heard them all. There is a marked tendency on this recording to have a bit of honk or squawk, but our best copies are free from this problem.
We're glad to report this copy was doing more of what we wanted it to do than most of the other copies we played. And we know a fair bit about Ella's recordings at this point. As of today we've done commentaries for more than a dozen different Ella Fitzgerald albums, and that's not counting the sixteen (yes, 16!) titles we put in our Hall of Shame.
We've searched high and low for her records and played them by the score over the years. We plan to keep a good supply on to the site in the coming years so watch for new arrivals in the Vocal section (linked to the left).
What We're Listening For on Get Happy!
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Hardness and Brashness
Want to know what we are on about with all this talk of hardness and brashness? Easy, just play the average copy. Unless you are exceptionally fortunate and chance upon a properly mastered and pressed and cared for copy, you will hear plenty of both.
It's one of the main reasons we have such a hard time doing shootouts for Ella's '50s and '60s albums. The other of course is the poor condition most copies are in. Few pressings do not have marks that play or damaged grooves. The record players of the '50s and '60s, not to mention their owners, were ruinous on the albums of the day.
Which is simply another reason not to expect another top copy of this album to come to the site any time soon. Give us two or three years or so and we might be able to find another batch with which to do a shootout. In that time we will surely look at fifty copies, buy ten, and end up with five that are worth playing.
Obviously we wouldn't bother if the music and sound weren't so good. When you are lucky enough to find a copy that sounds as good as this one, you cannot help but recognize that this era for Ella will never be equaled, by her or anyone else.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
Somebody Loves Me
Cheerful Little Earful
You Make Me Feel So Young
Beat Me Daddy Eight To The Bar
Moonlight Becomes You
You Turned The Tables On Me
Gypsy In My Soul
St. Louis Blues
Recorded during the period of time when Ella Fitzgerald cut her famous series of "songbooks," this set is a bit of a hodge-podge, drawing its 14 selections from six different dates which find Ella backed by orchestras led by either Nelson Riddle, Frank DeVol, Russ Garcia or Paul Weston.
"A-Tisket, A-Tasket" was previously available as just a single while "Swingin' Shepherd Blues" (an alternate take) was previously unreleased.
As usual, Ella uplifts all of the material and her best moments come on "Somebody Loves Me," a heartfelt "Moonlight Becomes You," a scat-filled "Blue Skies" and (somewhat surprisingly) "St. Louis Blues." Although this was not her most essential release, the formerly obscure Get Happy finds Ella Fitzgerald at the peak of her powers.
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