2006 release of this unreleased 1972 album of Jazz standards, recorded immediately after the success of the film and soundtrack to the Billie Holiday biopic Lady SIngs The Blues. Contains all twelve of the album's original cuts plus four additional bonus tracks for a grand total of 16 true diva classics.
Nearly 35 years after being tagged for debasing Billie Holiday's legacy with her slick pop vocals in the biopic Lady Sings the Blues
--an approach producer Berry Gordy claims he had her take to make her "more relatable to a general audience"--Diana Ross gets a chance to redeem herself with these jazzier, alternate versions of the same material. Recorded around the time of the 1972 film (several bonus tracks come directly from the movie sessions), the original album was conceived as a companion piece to the soundtrack. But it was shelved and, we are told, lost in the vaults until recently. The good news is that when she commits herself to jazz, with a group of top jazz musicians behind her (playing arrangements by Benny Golson and Oliver Nelson), Ross holds her own. Her renditions of Holiday staples such as "You've Changed" and "Easy Living" are a bit mild, but lovely and relaxed. She makes up for the basic thinness of her voice with her cool, immaculate handling of melody. It's when she relies on her pop-soul instincts, as she does on a painfully awkward reading of "I Loves You Porgy," or has to contend with album arranger Gil Askey's Vegas-style touches, that she sounds unconvincing or unsteady. But Ross' diehard fans won't want to be without "Blue" and her more casual admirers will be intrigued by this departure. --Lloyd Sachs