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Vocal Jazz - Released June 1, 1958 | Columbia - Legacy

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Vocal Jazz - Released March 3, 1958 | Verve

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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1956 | Clef Records

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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1956 | Clef Records

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Jazz - Released March 24, 2015 | Columbia - Legacy

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Vocal Jazz - Released June 1, 1958 | Columbia - Legacy

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Jazz - Released March 24, 2015 | Columbia - Legacy

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Jazz - Released March 24, 2015 | Columbia - Legacy

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1956 | Verve

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Vocal Jazz - Released October 26, 2010 | Columbia - Legacy

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1956 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released November 6, 2009 | Verve Reissues

Although many of Billie Holiday's recordings for Commodore and Decca are often overlooked -- at least in comparison to the songs that bookend her career (for Columbia and Verve) -- they include some of her best work, beginning at the end of the '30s with "Strange Fruit" and stretching to the end of the '40s with "God Bless the Child." In 1939, Billie Holiday was a jazz sensation without a hit record. She gained that hit record, and began her journey to musical immortality, when her label Columbia refused to record "Strange Fruit," and jazz fan Milt Gabler welcomed her to his aficionado label, Commodore. Gabler recorded Holiday often over the next ten years, both at Commodore and through his work at Decca in the mid-to late '40s. While on Commodore, Holiday focused on downcast ballads, including "I Cover the Waterfront" and "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues" (dubbed "loser" songs by Gabler), but she also excelled with warm and affectionate material too, "Embraceable You" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street." Regardless of the material, her backing consisted of small groups usually led by a pair of saloon-sound maestros: Doc Cheatham on trumpet and Eddie Heywood on piano. That sound was in for a switch when Holiday moved to Decca, however, beginning with another big hit, "Lover Man," a pop ballad with the full crossover treatment -- strings and all. (Gabler had no compunction about false notions of purity, and he happily recorded Holiday with strings and backing choruses whenever the song demanded it.) Even more than her work for Commodore, Holiday's work for Decca was melancholy and resigned in the extreme, with sterling treatments of yet more loser songs: "Don't Explain," "Good Morning Heartache," "You Better Go Now," and "What Is This Thing Called Love." Individually, the songs are excellent, and as a package, The Complete Commodore & Decca Masters can hardly be beat. It's a splendid accompaniment to similar sets devoted to Billie Holiday's Columbia and Verve output, and while completists will bemoan the lack of the many alternate takes -- most of the Commodore sides have two alternate takes for each master recording, available elsewhere -- this is all the war-years Billie Holiday one could hope for. ~ John Bush
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1957 | Verve

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Vocal Jazz - Released January 30, 1996 | Legacy - Columbia

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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1961 | Verve

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Jazz - Released October 22, 1991 | Verve Reissues

There are many jazz lovers, even dedicated ones, who cannot afford to part with the 150 dollars or so that the ten-disc Complete Billie Holiday on Verve commands, so this two-disc distillation will do very nicely as a detailed summary of her troubled, soulful Verve period. Set out in chronological order with a mighty overreaching sweep, this mini-box covers virtually the entire period, with a generous helping of the JATP events of the 1940s, jumping a few years into the jazz all-star backings of the '50s and the 1956 Carnegie Hall concert, and closing with her heartbreakingly ravaged final sessions with Ray Ellis' string orchestra. Along the way, several Holiday landmark tunes like "Don't Explain," "God Bless the Child," "Lover Man," "Fine and Mellow," and "He's Funny That Way" are revisited and reinterpreted from a bitter, life-worn perspective. But not all is stark tragedy, for life-affirming tracks like the 1957 "Stars Fell on Alabama" and "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You" add some balance to the picture. For very sensitive listeners, 128 minutes of Lady Day in her twilight years may well be all they'll need. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1994 | Clef Records

The first of seven volumes to present all of Billie Holiday's Verve recordings, JAZZ AT THE PHILHARMONIC gathers live performances from 1945 to 1947, as well as her 1957 Newport Jazz Festival set and the two songs she sang at the Seven Ages of Jazz Festival in 1958. Throughout, Holiday's voice transcends fluctuations in sound quality to swirl straight into the listener's blood. Lady Day exhibits total control of her achingly expressive, emotionally charged voice and sweeps it through the phrasings of "Fine and Mellow," "The Man I Love," and "Trav'lin' Light" with the fluid ease and interpretive brilliance of a seasoned instrumentalist. There is a noticible difference in vocal timbre in the Newport recordings-- thicker, darker and more bluesy. While not as techinically proficient as her earlier work, there is an appeal to this style as well-- since the sweet, sexy embellishments in "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and the sustained notes in "My Man" suggest new approaches to time and phrasing. JAZZ AT THE PHILHARMONIC is a memorable collection and, at moments, manages to capture Holiday at her finest.
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Jazz - Released July 1, 1959 | Verve Reissues

In many ways, a sad event. 1988 reissue of an album with Ray Ellis and his orchestra. It's poignant in a tragic way. ~ Ron Wynn
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Blues - Released August 12, 2019 | AAO Music

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Jazz - Released September 22, 1992 | Verve Reissues

There is no end in sight to the debate over Billie Holiday's career as a vocalist: Is the essence of her art to be found in her early recordings for Columbia or in the recordings she made for Verve at the end of her short and, by all accounts, miserable life? The early work finds her in clearer voice and singing with energy and conviction, while in the later recordings her voice is ravaged, yet more soulful and perhaps more nuanced. In 1992 Verve made its case for the latter position by releasing a monumental ten-disc box set containing everything Holiday recorded for the company between 1945-1959, and simultaneously released this 16-track sampler as a palliative to those who didn't have 150 dollars lying around. Nothing here will settle the argument for good, but this album does offer a good cross section of the latter part of her career, from the small-ensemble work with pianists Oscar Peterson and Jimmy Rowles to a nice performance of "All the Way" with an orchestra conducted by Ray Ellis. This probably should not be anyone's only Billie Holiday album, but it's a valuable, and at times moving, document of the end of a sad but illustrious career. ~ Rick Anderson