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Billie Holiday reissues feature:

The Millennium Collection
Lady Day Swings
Blue Billie

Billie Holiday's majestic delivery, piercing voice and incomparable interpretative skills made her one of America's greatest and most influential vocalists, even though she lacked both range and power. But no one could tell a story more effectively, or build the drama and tension within a song with equal creativity and flair. These three anthology discs focus on various aspects of Holiday's career, covering songs originally recorded either for Decca, Clef and Commodore, or Columbia's subsidiary labels.

Obviously, no 12-track disc can come close to documenting all Holidayıs finest tracks, but the Universal CD contains several landmark singles. "Strange Fruit" ranks as not only Holiday's strongest message cut, but also one of the most chilling ever composed. When Holiday cut the tune in 1939, lynching was a prominent part of this nation's fabric, and her expressive rendition made Lewis Allan's words crackle with intensity and anger. "Donıt Explain" and "Good Morning Heartache" blend fragility, anguish and disillusionment, while "God Bless The Child" and "I Cover The Waterfront" nicely mix resignation and irony. "Fine and Mellow" is a textbook swing number, and even "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" and "Tain't Nobody's Business If I Do" feature excellent arrangements and buoyant vocals. Many of these songs were pop hits, and they also mark Holiday's final great period as a performer.

Both the Legacy discs are compilations culled from the massive Complete Billie Holiday Recordings boxed set, with one collection focusing on Holiday doing primarily uptempo cuts, the other one showcasing her on either mournful ballads or lovelorn numbers.

Lady Day Swing includes several joyful, rollicking tunes like "Let's Do It," "He Ain't Got Rhythm," "Nice Work If You Can Get It," and many others that also offer tremendous solos from Holiday's premier accompanist Lester Young or his stylistic opposite Ben Webster, as well as pianist Teddy Wilson, trumpeters Buck Clayton or Roy Eldridge, clarinet icon Benny Goodman and relentless percussive support from drummer Papa Jo Jones. While there's not much variation in terms of tempos, these songs nonetheless are superbly performed examples of premier swing era compositions. Despite her skill at enunciation and pacing, Billie Holiday mostly avoided doing straight blues numbers. Her technique was vastly different from that of the 'classic' blues stylists like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, who were bawdy, brassy shouters. Yet she demonstrates on "Where Is The Sun?" "Am I Blue," and "Why Was I Born" a similar ability to wrench every bit of energy and emotion possible from a line. "I Cover The Waterfront" and "Body and Soul" arenıt necessarily blues in the strictest sense, but Holidayıs readings transform them into gut-wrenching presentations. The set also includes her own piece "Billie's Blues," plus wonderful versions of "St. Louis Blues" and "Night and Day." Billie Holidayıs incomparable singing skills defy categorization, but these discs show she was a master in any style or genre. -- Ron Wynn

(Ron Wynn is a staff writer and columnist for the Nashville City Paper, free-lance contributor to the Nashville Scene, Tennessee Tribune, No Depression, and Jazz Times, and co-host of Freestyle, heard Wednesday evenings on WFSK-88.1FM along with Jeff Obafemi Carr, Keisha Rucker and Regina Clark).

Copyright İ2002 AllThingsDeep.com.  All rights reserved.

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Released 2002 on Universal

(Click on cover to buy)

Selected Tracks:
Lady Sings The Blues
I Cover The Waterfront
My Man

 

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Released 2002 on Sony
(click on cover to buy)

Selected Tracks:
Easy To Love
A Fine Romance
If Dreams Come True

 

cover 

Released 2002 on Sony
(click on cover to buy)

Selected Tracks:
You Let Me Down
God Bless The Child
St. Louis Blues

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