Everything, and we do mean everything, that Lady Day recorded for Verve from 1945 to her death in 1959! And it's not just the songs-you get to hear concert introductions, rehearsals and between-take studio chatter, too. Critical opinion on this period of her career is mixed, and there's no denying that Billie's voice isn't at its peak, but it never was her voice so much as her interpretive skills that were at the heart of her appeal. 256 tracks!
That's right: Ten CDs with everything Billie Holiday recorded on Verve Records between 1945 and her death in 1959--not only the songs, but concert introductions, some of the rehearsals, and between-take studio chatter, too. All of which makes for a definitive portrait of Lady Day in her final years. For a long time these recordings were disparaged because it was said her voice was no longer fine and mellow, "ravaged" by hard living, jail time, booze, and drugs. And there's no question that her later tone is darker, more brittle and unstable than it had been in the '30s--but somehow I find myself listening to this music more often than those Brunswick/Columbia or Decca sides, anyway. Like Frank Sinatra, who so often paid tribute to her influence, Holiday's artistry was never based on virtuosity; it was about interpretation, bringing out the emotions in a song and giving a personal reading. She never stopped doing that, and for all the "strange fruit" you'll find in this collection, it's a gold mine. --Jim Emerson