For all the perfection and sheer emotional skill behind Ella Fitzgerald's five legendary decades as a singer, it's hard to remember that, sometimes, the lady was just an entertainer. Unafraid to tackle light novelty material in the hopes of getting a hit, these 36 songs (on two CDs) document the impact of Ella's mighty voice on such trifles as "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home?" and "Hotta Chocolatta." It's a little disorienting for those who most readily associate her with more substantial songs, but she approached these songs -- released separately from her more lofty concept albums on Verve -- without prejudice. As flimsy as many of them are, they're nonetheless thrilling. It was probably harder to make "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" swing this hard, or to make "Beale Street Blues" sound somewhat fresh, than it was to canonize the Cole Porter songbook.
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