Lady Day: The Master Takes and Singles by Billie Holiday
Certain artists are perennially popular, and are therefore destined to be remastered, repackaged, and rereleased, seemingly ad infinitum. Billie Holiday is one such singular talent, and even the most cursory of listens to the material in this latest four-disc collection reveals why. Her appeal doesn't lie in her capacity for vocal gymnastics. The jazz icon, who lived from 1915 to 1959, possessed a thin and reedy voice in contrast to titanic stylists such as Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington, making her range distinctly limited.
What the singer born Eleanora Fagan brought to her performances was a sincerity of delivery that made everything she sang ring true. Even now, up-tempo trifles like "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" and "Spreadin' Rhythm Around" sound like a fresh breeze thanks to the infectious joy evident in Holiday's voice. However, it was the sad songs that suited her best. Even if you don't read too much of her despair-filled biography into them, Holiday's interpretations of "Night and Day" and "Body and Soul" are suffused with a sense of longing that few others have equalled.
This set is a pared-down version of a deluxe 10-disc box released in 2001, also titled Lady Day, which included multiple takes of many tracks. The '01 set contained everything Holiday recorded for Columbia between 1933 and 1944. This new one features 80 songs culled from the same oeuvre, which should be plenty for casual fans, especially budget-minded ones.