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Ella Fitzgerald: Gold

While none of these singers’ extensive discographies can possibly be summarized in 30 to 40 tracks, these double-disc anthologies are carefully and thoughtfully curated in a way that gives them historical context and supreme listenability. Each one necessitated decisions by the compilers that would benefit its consistency and quality, which in some cases means that music some might consider essential doesn’t make the cut. But omissions aside, any of these uniformly excellent sets would make a perfect introductory collection for a newbie.

Fitzgerald’s Decca and Verve output, spanning 1938-64, is where producer Andy McKaie chose to concentrate, devoting one disc to each label. Fitzgerald’s fiery early collaborations with Chick Webb, Louis Jordan, Sy Oliver, Louis Armstrong and others bring the Decca half to a boil, and well-chosen selections from the Songbook recordings more than adequately characterize the sizzling Fitzgerald of the ’50s and ’60s.

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