Tuesday, August 21, 2012

#31: Billie Holiday - Lady in Satin (1958)

While I do believe that Billie Holiday is an icon in American music and should be treasured, I did not enjoy this album. The instrumentation was barely necessary for 15 of the 16 tracks, the songs would have carried the same weight if it were just Holiday singing. Strings, bass, drums, and vocals - that's the arrangement for each and every track. Every once in a while you get a horn solo or a small flute part and it feels like Christmas morning, but for the most part each song runs into the next. It's a shame too, because Holiday has such a unique voice. However, the music has to stand on it's own, not simply be present and leave a huge gap in order for Holiday to swim in.

But Beautiful
Never before has a horn solo become so welcome on a record, and never before has it soared quite like it does on this track. While this record is a bit laboring to get through, tracks such as this are why Billie Holiday is a legend. The music (other than the solo) doesn't do much to really garner any attention, but Holiday's vocals do a wonderful job throughout the song convoking emotion and really selling the song.

You've Changed
Again, putting the instrumentation aside - the vocals are really, really good on this track. I really enjoyed the song even though I didn't necessarily enjoy the recording. Billie Holiday sings, "You're bored with me in every way," and unfortunately that's true. I'm not even going to bother highlighting a third song, there's really nothing else that jumped (even slightly) out at me.

All in all, I don't understand what all the fuss is about. There's no doubt Billie Holiday has a wonderful voice and she knows how to use it, but how does everyone turn a blind eye to incredibly boring instrumentation? Plus, the album was an hour long and only the highlighted songs felt different from the other 14. Also, at the end of the record is alternate takes of songs we've already heard. I really wanted to like this album, in fact, I knew I was going to like this record. Unfortunately, this will go down in the next batch of reviews as the biggest disappointment. I do want to hear another Holiday album, though. There's a reason she's an icon, I just need to find the album that made her one. However, do yourself a favor and listen to 'But Beautiful' - it really is an amazing track.

This album was chosen from the book '1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die' 15/1001

Tomorrow's Album: Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head.

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