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Sunday, 03 January 2010


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I have nothing to add, Mike, just that I've always wanted to explore Billie Holiday's music and now I have a great roadmap to guide me on my journey. I'm grateful. Thankyou.

That one fills some of the gaps from the two I recommended--there is very little overlap with "All or Nothing at All" but four songs are taken from "Lady Sings the Blues." A good compilation, though, it looks like to me.

As you get more fanatical about having all of BH, there is a lot out there to sift through. I was approaching this piece more in the spirit of, what would you buy if you're going to buy just a few things.

Anyway if you like Jazz Masters 12, you might want to add All or Nothing at All." But maybe not "Lady Sings the Blues" unless you don't mind buying a few songs twice.


"Mom and pop were just a couple of kids when they got married. He was eighteen, she was sixteen and I was three" Can't read anything about Lady Day without remembering the first sentences ofher biography, probably one of the saddest stories I've ever read.

Thanks for your posts, extremely helpful, considering Billie Holiday is one of those artists that "produced" more records after her death than she did in her whole life. In fact, Amazon sells 548 different Billie Holiday cds.

I stopped buying her discs because I always found I already had some or most the songs once I started listening to each "new" acquisition. Then I tried the opposite strategy and bought the 10 disc Verve box, extremely expensive, only to find that most of the extra material, additional takes, etc. was nearly worthless.

Now I know what to buy!

Now y'see Mike, this kind of thing is why I hang out here more than at any other photo bar in the street - where else is the latest and greatest in equipment mingled (mangled??) with the authoritive opinion of 'one who knows' about vinyl, Bille, Etta et al. As someone who is just beginning to find a serious interest in jazz (and blues) it's a treat to see these pearls and use them to fill in my blanks. (c:

Sweet column mate, loved it, keep up the good work. Thanks.

Mike, I am not sure about the Columbia box set from Spain you recommend. While the art work looks like the original complete Columbia recordings - which coincidentally I am just in the midst or listening through again - the title it uses is the same as another collection [http://www.amazon.com/Lady-Day-Complete-Columbia-Golden/dp/B00009RAYR/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1262593570&sr=1-3], which was a single disc. I can't quite see how US Amazon can offer teh 10-disc box for only $ 56, particularly if they import it from the EU.

Even less convincing is Amazon Germany: http://www.amazon.de/Lady-Day-Complete-Holiday-Columbia/dp/B0029XIWCY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1262593854&sr=8-1 though, if this is true - and it look too good to be true - it's the bargain of all time.

PS: Since Bessie Smith, one of Ms Holiday's idols, has already been mentioned [and has been served well on CD], may I throw in the name of Annette Hanshaw. Unfortunately all but forgotten and not easily obtained on CD - and not all of her recordings are in the public domain so I cannot recommend to look for them as downloads from the Internet.

Strings accompaniment has ruined too many fine jazz and even pop vocal works for me. Julie London, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, and Billie Holiday are just a few. Thank goodness most of them have better recordings. I could be wrong, but I'd prefer that a bow should never enter a jazz recording session. I have Billie Holiday The Silver Collection, by the way. Thanks for the tips on the others.

What do you think of "Billie's Best" from Verve (PolyGram 1992)?

Why don't you give credit to whoever made the photo at the top of this thread?

Mark S+,
It's by William P. Gottleib. I've added it to the caption now. The JPEG source is the Library of Congress.


Thanks for this wonderful walk through her work. I have a few of the recordings from the Verve period, which I enjoy quite immensely, and just ordered the Columbia set from your link.

While I fully understand how Lady in Satin is severely flawed, relative to her other work, and perhaps even from a normal Jazz-singer perspective, it remains my favorite album from hers. I do recommend it to people, and provide the usual caveats.

For me, it joins that small pack of records made mostly of passion (even if drugged, depression or drunken) in the twilight of someone's career. True, Nick Drake's Pink Moon retained his musical mastery, arguably at his peak, but I find Lady in Satin to have an air of relevance to a life, in as much as Ian Curtis' involvement with Joy Division's Closer. Yes, I am a "post-punk" kid (or older than that), and may be the outside-jazz perspective where a record like Lady in Satin holds great value and sentiment.

I understand. What I'm concerned about are people who say, in effect, "I keep hearing about this Billie Holiday. Maybe I'll try one of her records. What's her best?" And then they buy "Lady in Satin" and they don't like the strings OR the singing and that's the end of that. That seems a shame. Those people would be better off starting out with a Columbia-period best-of. I don't have any quarrel with people like you who understand LIS in its proper context.


Were Brunswick and Vocalion under Columbia's parentage? I burnt Billie Holiday's early recordings on those labels into my brain at an early age -- for me, her swelling voice in the last chorus of "He's Funny That Way" (1937 or thereabouts) defines the heart of the singer. Her late work has the texture of an experienced woman but I prefer the girl you can still hear in the Vocalion recordings.

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