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Lady Day: The Master Takes and Singles

Lady Day: The Master Takes and Singles

by Billie Holiday

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This four-disc retrospective of Billie Holiday's work for the various labels under the ARC umbrella (Columbia, Brunswick, Vocalion, OKeh) between 1935 and 1942 is a truncated edition of the magnificent 230-track, 10-CD Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia (1933-1944), released in 2001. It retains both a fair sampling of the earlier box's great


This four-disc retrospective of Billie Holiday's work for the various labels under the ARC umbrella (Columbia, Brunswick, Vocalion, OKeh) between 1935 and 1942 is a truncated edition of the magnificent 230-track, 10-CD Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia (1933-1944), released in 2001. It retains both a fair sampling of the earlier box's great music -- 80 tunes -- and essential features such as Gary Giddins's 4,000-word essay and a revised version of producer Michael Brooks's track-by-track annotation, both of which serve to place Holiday's art in its proper historical context and to illuminate the aesthetic nuances of the performances. As Giddins observes, there were many Billie Holidays, depending on a listener's mood, when the recordings were made, who was backing the vocalist, and so forth, and they're all here. The songs are in chronological sequence, beginning with a wistful mid-tempo ballad, "I Wished On the Moon," from a July 1935 session with Holiday as a featured vocalist in a band led by Teddy Wilson and including among its members Benny Goodman, Ben Webster, and Cozy Cole. By October of that year, she was giving a supremely confident -- and coy -- reading of an early Johnny Mercer billet doux, "If You Were Mine." A year later, again fronting a Teddy Wilson-led aggregate (featuring Jonah Jones on trumpet and Johnny Hodges on alto sax), she's delivering some swaggering attitude in an engaging take on "These Foolish Things." A smoky version of the Gershwins' "Summertime"; her self-penned, gently swinging "Billie's Blues" (in which she references Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Matchbox Blues," which had been recorded only nine years earlier); a saucy, delightful treatment of an early Dorothy Fields-Jerome Kern gem that became a standard, "A Fine Romance"; and a languid, swaying version of "Pennies from Heaven" -- by the time the first disc ends, Holiday is in full bloom as an artist, bringing deep emotional commitment to her performances and a keen sense of drama and nuance. For most of Discs 2, 3, and 4, she's fronting her own orchestra, which she populated with giants on the order of Lester Young, Buck Clayton, Freddie Green, James Sherman, Jo Jones, Harry Edison, Walter Page, et al., and rarely makes a misstep. She digs deep into what has become the Great American Songbook, assaying material by Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh, Irving Berlin, Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, and even puts her mark on W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" and "Loveless Love" (both featured on Disc 4). Of course, there are Holiday monuments aplenty, such as "Night and Day," "You Go to My Head," "He's Funny That Way," "God Bless the Child," "I Cover the Waterfront," and the earthiest, most definitive rendition of "All of Me," recorded in 1941 with Lester Young and still unsurpassed among many exemplary recordings of this evergreen. Holiday was still making great music through the '40s, so this set serves as a clear, gripping snapshot of an artist coming of age rather than a definitive overview. In the end, though, it's simply extraordinary music, by Lady Day and all her estimable musician friends, still relevant to the human condition, still beckoning to anyone who is moved by the sound of a very human heart fully and unabashedly exposed.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Jeff Tamarkin
Billie Holiday's story is so huge, her artistry so vast, and her impact so incalculable, that even attempting to corral a representative sampling of it within a single collection of recordings is an overwhelming, perhaps foolhardy task. Many have tried, of course, and literally hundreds of options of varying quality and legitimacy, scattered across dozens of labels, are available to the consumer. Neophytes, or those not willing to commit to a gargantuan listening session, can settle for any number of single- or double-CD best-ofs that adequately present Holiday's most important, better-known music. Columbia/Legacy's single-disc God Bless the Child: The Very Best of Billie Holiday and the same label's two-disc 2001 Lady Day: The Best of Billie Holiday are ideal for that purpose, the crème de la Billie, devoid of anything not directly tied to her legend. Meanwhile, the devotee, the collector, and the completist can take ownership of massive pieces of the catalog in box sets that might be lavish and smartly curated or shoddy and unworthy. Among the more essential boxed collections of an American artist's work is Legacy's 2001 ten-CD Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia (1933-1944), whose title speaks for itself: everything the singer recorded for the label during those formative years -- her greatest -- is offered in one place, with no value judgment being made as to what's worthy of inclusion and what isn't. Lady Day: The Master Takes and Singles pares that same body of material down to four CDs that go beyond the two-disc set yet don't attempt to make a definitive statement. That earlier mega-box was broken down into six discs of master takes and four of alternate takes and other ephemera. Here the masters are again whittled down, to a total of 80, making for a more manageable and, honestly, more listenable set. These are the songs that made Billie Holiday Billie Holiday, arranged chronologically and sensibly, with an eye not toward the scholar but toward the fan. Like the larger box, one can follow the trajectory of Holiday's ascent here, but it's not as easy to get lost or even bored. Needless to say, the Columbia/Legacy sets only cover Holiday's output for that label and its subsidiaries, and those in pursuit of the larger picture will have to locate the later recordings she made for Commodore, Decca, and Verve elsewhere, although that should not be difficult.

Product Details

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Disc 1

  1. I Wished on the Moon
  2. What a Little Moonlight Can Do
  3. Miss Brown to You
  4. If You Were Mine
  5. These 'N' That 'N' Those
  6. You Let Me Down
  7. Spreadin' Rhythm Around
  8. Life Begins When You're in Love
  9. It's Like Reaching for the Moon
  10. These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)
  11. I Cried for You
  12. Did I Remember?
  13. No Regrets
  14. Summertime
  15. Billie's Blues
  16. A Fine Romance
  17. One, Two, Button Your Shoe
  18. Easy to Love
  19. The Way You Look Tonight
  20. Pennies from Heaven

Disc 2

  1. That's Life I Guess
  2. I Can't Give You Anything But Love
  3. I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm
  4. He Ain't Got Rhythm
  5. This Year's Kisses
  6. Why Was I Born?
  7. I Must Have That Man
  8. The Mood That I'm In
  9. You Showed Me the Way
  10. My Last Affair
  11. Moanin' Low
  12. Where Is the Sun?
  13. Let's Call the Whole Thing Off
  14. They Can't Take That Away from Me
  15. Don't Know If I'm Comin' or Goin'
  16. I'll Get By (As Long as I Have You)
  17. Mean to Me
  18. Foolin' Myself
  19. Easy Living
  20. I'll Never Be the Same

Disc 3

  1. Me, Myself and I
  2. A Sailboat in the Moonlight
  3. Without Your Love
  4. Trav'lin' All Alone
  5. He's Funny That Way
  6. Nice Work If You Can Get It
  7. Things Are Looking Up
  8. My Man
  9. Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man
  10. When You're Smiling (The Whole World Smiles with You)
  11. On the Sentimental Side
  12. When a Woman Loves a Man
  13. You Go to My Head
  14. I'm Gonna Lock My Heart (And Throw Away the Key)
  15. The Very Thought of You
  16. I Can't Get Started
  17. More Than You Knoe
  18. Sugar
  19. Long Gone Blues
  20. Some Other Spring

Disc 4

  1. Them There Eyes
  2. Swing! Brother, Swing!
  3. Night and Day
  4. The Man I Love
  5. Body and Soul
  6. Falling in Love Again
  7. Laughing at Life
  8. Time on My Hands (You in My Arms)
  9. St. Louis Blues
  10. Loveless Love
  11. Let's Do It
  12. Georgia on My Mind
  13. All of Me
  14. God Bless the Child
  15. Am I Blue?
  16. I Cover the Waterfront
  17. Love Me or Leave Me
  18. Gloomy Sunday
  19. It's a Sin to Tell a Lie
  20. Until the Real Thing Comes Along

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Billie Holiday   Primary Artist
Henry "Red" Allen   Trumpet
Buster Bailey   Clarinet
Bunny Berigan   Trumpet
Chu Berry   Tenor Saxophone
Buck Clayton   Trumpet
Harry Edison   Trumpet
Roy Eldridge   Trumpet
Benny Goodman   Clarinet
Freddie Green   Guitar
Johnny Hodges   Alto Saxophone
Jo Jones   Drums
Jonah Jones   Trumpet
John Kirby   Bass
Gene Krupa   Drums
Artie Shaw   Clarinet
Tab Smith   Alto Saxophone,Soprano Saxophone
Claude Thornhill   Piano
Ben Webster   Tenor Saxophone
Charlie Shavers   Trumpet
Lester Young   Tenor Saxophone
Dave Barbour   Guitar
Eddie Barefield   Alto Saxophone
Joe Bushkin   Piano
Cozy Cole   Drums,Spoken Word
Irving Fazola   Clarinet
Babe Russin   Tenor Saxophone
Edgar Sampson   Clarinet,Alto Saxophone
Grachan Moncur   Bass
Ken Kersey   Piano
Walter Page   Bass
Bernard Addison   Guitar
Artie Bernstein   Bass
Emmett Berry   Trumpet
Bill Bowen   Alto Saxophone
Harry Carney   Clarinet,Baritone Saxophone
Kenny Clarke   Drums
John Collins   Guitar
Shad Collins   Trumpet
Eddie Dougherty   Drums
Gene Fields   Guitar
Carl Frye   Alto Saxophone
Gordon Griffin   Trumpet
Jimmy Hamilton   Clarinet
Clyde Hart   Piano
J.C. Heard   Drums
Milt Hinton   Bass
Billy Kyle   Piano
Ulysses Livingston   Guitar
Lawrence Lucie   Guitar
Tom Mace   Clarinet
Carmen Mastren   Guitar
Teddy McRae   Tenor Saxophone
Wilson Myers   Bass
Hot Lips Page   Trumpet
Yank Porter   Drums
Rudy Powell   Clarinet
Irving "Mouse" Randolph   Trumpet
Allan Reuss   Guitar
Hymie Schertzer   Clarinet,Alto Saxophone
Cecil Scott   Clarinet,Alto Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
Kermit Scott   Tenor Saxophone
Alphonse Steele   Drums
Ted Sturgis   Bass
Eddie Tompkins   Trumpet
John Trueheart   Guitar
Jack Washington   Alto Saxophone
Sonny White   Piano
John Williams [double bass]   Bass
Dick McDonough   Guitar
Richard Clarke   Trumpet
Leslie Johnakins   Alto Saxophone
Jimmy McLin   Guitar
Stanley Payne   Tenor Saxophone
Hal West   Drums
Jack Sullivan   Alto Saxophone
Benny Morton's All Stars   Trombone
Chief Justice Earl Warren   Alto Saxophone
James Sherman   Piano
Margaret Johnson   Piano

Technical Credits

W.C. Handy   Composer
Steven Berkowitz   Executive Producer
Gary Giddins   Liner Notes
Michael Brooks   Liner Notes,Reissue Producer
A. Sherman   Composer

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