Written by 4:59 am Audiophile Music

Review: Ella Fitzgerald to Gary Numan, Record Store Day Fun On Colored Vinyl and Tidal

Mark Smotroff gets rainbows all over his blues…

This may be the first time you’ll read about Ella Fitzgerald and Gary Numan in the same page, but sometimes necessity is the mother of invention, as they say.  Indeed, it is often hard keeping pace with all the nifty releases swirling out into the music universe around the time of Record Store Day (RSD). So, here is a round up of two disparate musical joys you’ll find on fun colored vinyl records as well as on Tidal for digital streaming convenience:

AR-EllaZardis225.jpgElla Fitzgerald’s Live At Sardi’s – Released last year digitally, Ella at Zardi’s is apparently pioneering Jazz music impresario Norman Granz’ first attempt at a live recording for his then new Verve Records label (his third entity after Clef Records and Norgran Records).  This is a doozie of a show and for RSD it received its first ever vinyl release — colored vinyl in fact, a limited edition of about 1500 according to the RSD website.  Over the course of two sets recorded in 1956 in Los Angeles at Zardi’s Jazzland on Hollywood Boulevard, we hear an already popular Ella Fitzgerald on her ascent to superstardom. She is in fine comfortable form on this small club date which includes many of her classics.  But it’s her warm informality that makes this live Ella recording especially great — here she lets down her hair, swinging loose and even somewhat sassy at times.  

AR-EllaZardisTidal225.jpgShe delivers heartfelt performances of classic now-standards of popular music (“Lullaby of Birdland,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” and her then signature hit “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.”). And, Ella also tackles some bluesy gems like “Glad To Be Unhappy” and “Cry Me A River.”  Yet, she also is playful in the small club environment, taking audience requests and attempting some songs admittedly not knowing all the words, charming her way through them with professional ease and grace, her fine band at her back all the way. The pink and blue standard weight vinyl pressing sounds great, is well centered and quiet. If you are looking for something in the high resolution digital domain, you can find this album streaming up on Tidal at 192 kHz, 24-bit quality (and up on HDTracks).  This version also sounds really nice, if a bit crisper and brighter so it depends on the type of sound you prefer. Either way you go, this show is prime period Ella worth checking out. 

AR-GaryNumanDancePurple225.jpgGary Numan’s Dance – I’ll admit up front I was not a fan of Gary Numan’s music back in the day when it was released.  And if I wasn’t into “Cars” and hit albums like The Pleasure Principle, you can forgive my then skeptical, prog-rocker-new-waver-jazzer know-it-all myopia when his 1981 album entitled Dance was released. Looking at the heavily stylized (and as I know understand, ironic given the music it contained) cover art, I rolled my eyes and moved on to the reformed King Crimson (Discipline) and its guitarists Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp as well as post-Punk/post-New-Waver bands like XTC and The Psychedelic Furs that year.  My loss. Dance is a surprisingly fine effort created with no small influence of main collaborator Mick Karn of Japan. A somewhat dark and reflective album, in many ways this sounds like an alternate universe vision of one of my favorite recordings, Brian Eno’s Another Green World. Yeah, it is that good and worthy of your reconsideration, as did I. Pressed on sweet and quiet purple vinyl, this new edition spreads out the album over three sides for better fidelity and restores the last track, “Moral” to its full original length. 

AR-GaryNumanDanceTidal225.jpgAccording to official information from the label’s website: The original 50 minute album was cut onto a single LP with a resulting compression and compromise to the sound. For this new double vinyl edition, the tracks have been mastered over three sides for improved fidelity and the fourth side contains relevant singles, B-sides and an out-take. Additionally the previously unreleased, full length version of “Moral” has been used to close out the original album. Transferred from the analogue tapes at Loud Mastering, the original album is also available in 96khz/24 bit high resolution digital.”  Must say, this album really good on the new LP — bigger and fuller than the original 1980s-era Atco Records pressing I picked up for comparison — and on Tidal as well in CD quality.  Available now courtesy of Beggars Banquet’s new The Arkiv series of reissues, you can also find the high resolution download version of Dance  (albeit sans the extended version of “Moral” and the Side Four bonus tracks, which — by the way — are also up on Tidal) at HDTracks.

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