Tuesday, December 11, 2007

1001 Albums Number 16

Billie Holiday – Lady In Satin

This is another one that I've been looking forward to. Even though I'm unfamiliar with Billie Holiday's music she's (in)famous enough to have caught my attention more than a few times in the past.

Although she's considered a jazz singer this album had far more in common with Frank Sinatra's In The Wee Small Hours than say Duke Ellington or Thelonious Monk. In fact on the two albums Holiday and Sinatra perform three of the same songs.

The arrangements are very similar to what is found on Sinatra's albums - sad, swooning strings submissively complement the vocals while other jazz instrumentation quietly keeps restrained time in the background. And, just like with the Sinatra albums, I found these arrangements to be dead boring. Fortunately this isn't as much of a disaster on Lady in Satin as it was for old Frank, as the album is easily redeemed by Holiday's voice.

Where Sinatra cooed pathetically with less convincing pathos than Bumblebee Man from The Simpsons, Holiday's distinctive singing contains genuine depth and the sadness that a life of abuse and drug addiction had given her is inescapable. While I may turn my nose up at many aspects of this album that I normally judge music on (songwriting, originality), it would be incredibly heartless for anyone to not appreciate something so honestly soulful...

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