Nowhere was Ella Fitzgerald's mastery of America's "classical" music more evident than on the legendary songbook albums of the 1950s. Of the songwriting giants covered in the series, the collection of songs by George and Ira Gershwin was arguably the greatest. OH, LADY, BE GOOD! BEST OF THE GERSHWIN SONGBOOK collects 17 of the strongest cuts from the 5 original LPs. Why Gershwin? Ella's painstaking attention to musical perfection helped turn many songs into standards, but Ira Gershwin's lyrics seemed to speak to Ella most directly of all. Ira, who was present at these 1959 sessions, wrote lyrics that conveyed a sense of lightness and romanticism, qualities that fit Fitzgerald's vocal style to a tee. Ella's unique abilities are showcased on her masterful version of "Someone To Watch Over Me." While many singers have captured the song's sense of longing, Fitzgerald refuses to overdo it. She won't be too dismayed if the man of her dreams doesn't come through the door, but wouldn't it be just great if he did? A similarly refined mood threads its way through "The Man I Love" and "A Foggy Day," while the more upbeat tunes ("'S Wonderful," "Nice Work If You Can Get It") swing confidently.
Some would say Ella didn't pay much attention to the words she sang. But her insistence on recording many of the neglected verses that precede the well-known choruses on OH, LADY, BE GOOD prove otherwise. This commitment to the true gems of American songwriting helped the songs, and these performances in particular, become "standards" for a generation.