Photographer: Frank Driggs.
For the Love Songs subcategory of Universal Music's Icon series of discount-priced compilations, the Ella Fitzgerald entry is, unsurprisingly, a set of her performances of songs by Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, and Richard Rodgers, songwriters to whom she devoted songbook albums. Of course, most of the songs Fitzgerald sang in her career were love songs, so this is really just a sampler of her work, with ballads alternated by uptempo numbers. The love isn't always happy, or even present, in the lyrics. Ira Gershwin's words to "The Man I Love" and "Someone to Watch Over Me" find the singer conjuring an idealized partner, not singing to a real one, and Porter's "Just One of Those Things" is a jaunty kiss-off to a brief affair. But more often than not, the songs are expressions of love, even if Fitzgerald, typically, sings them with more of a concern for musical appeal and jazz improvisation than as sincere expressions of meaning. The arrangements are in the swing mode, and the singer, while leaving room for solos, tends to sing straight at first, then return to jazz things up. This is a singer who loves music more than any lover in sight, but with a voice like that, it's hard to blame her. ~ William Ruhlmann