In my constant search for music knowledge, I often ruminate on how the various decades produced a type of artist and a kind of sound. For instance, between 1955 to 1965 were the rock n roll years. There was everyone from Elvis, Chuck Berry, The Beatles, Cliff Richard and so on… Different artists but all doing the same kind of music.
Then came the period 1966-76, which saw the birth of psychedelic rock and the rise of the singer-songwriter. From 1977-87, music saw the emergence of disco into punk and shameless glam pop-rock. The 1988-98 was the era of the alternative artist, where you could be any of the following: post-punk, grunge, goth-pop, boy-band and many other such hyphenated genres that defined that decade.
But since the 21st century has kicked in, I find that it’s been a free-for-all music world. It has been an age where artists have changed genres, styles, as they have seen fit. There is a place for an Amy Winehouse as much as there is for an Amy Lee. Usher does soul as well as hip-hop with the same elan. Eminem takes a genre seemingly specific, but makes it into a universal sound. Beyonce and Lady Gaga crack it side by side.
And as time goes by, the rigid boundaries of genre, that might shape the identity of an artist, begin to blur like never before. The challenge of the artistes therefore, is stronger than ever to write good songs. The good thing is that there is no trend an artist has to conform to anymore. And surely, the game’s afoot… if I may say so.
Twelve Nights in Hollywood
This is the stuff dreams are made of. A true treasure has been uncovered and made available to many generations of music lovers out there. (Yes! Even you kids who don’t know what jazz is, can now get a taste of it at its best). Way back in the May of 1961 and 1962, Ella Fitzgerald performed six nights each at a small jazz club in Los Angeles called the Crescendo (a mere 200-seater venue). And it was here that this record was recorded in its entirety. And these four discs contain those twelve magic nights that will live on in eternity.
This begins with the introduction which mentions other jazz artists who will be playing at the club before the host introduces Fitzgerald to a enthusiastic round of applause. She immediately launches into Lover come back to me a short, swift ditty that quickly segues into Too close for comfort and goes from one song to another as Fitzgerald begins to reach beyond the traditions that she has adhered to in her earlier work.
Fitzgerald begins to warm up now, as she begins to lead us on an adventure into song and sound. This second disc features her taking on hit songs like A-Tisket A-Tasket, It’s de-lovely, The lady is a tramp, and a unconventional version of Blue moon (miles away from the familiar Elvis version) are some of the tracks that make the 18 songs on this second disc.
In 1962, Fitzgerald returned to the club for six more nights of song and music, choosing a set of songs vastly different from her previous set. In the year between, she recorded and released six albums and some of that material finds itself here. Love for sale by Cole Porter, Love is here to stay by Gershwin, Little girl blue by Rodgers and Hart. And you haven’t lived till you’ve heard her sing Mack the knife.
By now the party is in full swing and Fitzgerald is on fire. Starting off with All of me, the madness keeps coming in full power. Songs like Broadway, Hallelujah, I love him so, Angel eyes and Bill Bailey, among the 20 on this disc, are testimony to the singer’s monumental epicness. And let me tell you, friends, no woman singer has ever brought joy and the meaning of what it is to be alive in a song as Fitzgerald. These 77 recordings of timeless songs are a document to an intrinsic period in music history.
A treasure of a Lifetime.