Wednesday, May 17, 2006

16. Billie Holiday - Lady In Satin (1958)

Track Listing

1. I'm a Fool to Want You
2. For Heaven's Sake
3. You Don't Know What Love Is
4. I Get Along Without You Very Well
5. For All We Know
6. Violets for Your Furs
7. You've Changed
8. It's Easy to Remember
9. But Beautiful
10. Glad to Be Unhappy
11. I'll Be Around


Ok, this is probably a "love it or hate it" album. Personally I love it. This has a lot to do with a pattern you will probably see in my reviews. The more raw something is the better I like it. It doesn't come much more raw than the completely fucked-up voice of a 40-something year old heroin addict Lady Day sounding like a 70 year old woman.

A lot of people will be completely put off by the croaking of Holiday in this album, but give it a chance. It will grow on you, not just because you can see she has a beautiful voice under there, but also because it makes the whole album much more "real", in a way that not many albums of this time were. The absolute nakedness of Billie's voice is extremely touching in this album. Probably the best drug deterrent album ever, sit a heroin addict down and make him listen to this and he will think twice.

The effect is helped by the heartaching mood of all the songs in this album. There isn't a single swinging, uplifiting song in it. It is a sequence of sad songs, even when the lyrics aren't that grueling the interpretation just brings it down to new lows. But there is not a single bad track in this album. Even when the arrangements try to cover up Billie's difficulties in the songs they only highlight the despair. It's a very very very rainy afternoon album. Good thing I live in Manchester.

You have to admire Billie Holiday for ever agreeing to record this, not only that but the fact that this was her favourite recording. It takes a huge set of metaphorical balls to do this. And when you hear it you understand that this could have been nothing less than her last album, comparable to the idea of Johnny Cash's cover of Hurt much later on. So, this is an album that is nothing less than unmissable, even if you do hate it, it goes beyond the music itself and into the history of one of the most important female singers in history.

Buy it at Amazon: UK or US

Track Highlights

1. I'm a Fool to Want You
2. I Get Along Without You Very Well
3. Violets for Your Furs
4. Glad to Be Unhappy

Final Grade



Billie Holiday died one year later in 1959, 44 years old.

From Wikipedia:

The recording featured a backing from a 40-piece orchestra conducted and arranged by Ray Ellis, who said of the album in 1997:

"I would say that the most emotional moment was her listening to the playback of "I'm a Fool to Want You." There were tears in her eyes...After we finished the album I went into the control room and listened to all the takes. I must admit I was unhappy with her performance, but I was just listening musically instead of emotionally. It wasn't until I heard the final mix a few weeks later that I realized how great her performance really was."

This is seriously depressing.


Anonymous said...

Eh, I think this album earned some acclaim merely because of effort points. I like it, yeah, but I find her "Songs for Distingue Lovers" better, and frankly it's a bit underappreciated.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your reviews, this is a great record.