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  • Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia (1933-1944)
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Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia (1933-1944) Box set, Original recording remastered

52 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, Original recording remastered, October 2, 2001
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Billie Holiday's legacy lives on in this 10 CD set. New, factory sealed.

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This box set earns the "deluxe" designation not only because of its handsome packaging, insightful essays by Holiday scholars, and testimonials from the likes of Tony Bennett, Sonny Rollins, and Etta James, but also because of the vastly improved remastered sound that makes Lady Day the definitive issue of Billie Holiday's pivotal 1930s and '40s Columbia/Vocalion/Brunswick/OKeh oeuvre. The sides here include epochal collaborations with Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Lester Young, Teddy Wilson, and others. Six-plus discs chronologically present 151 masters, with the rest of the 10 CDs' space given to alternate takes and radio air checks.

It was during the early years of this period, of course, that Holiday quickly developed into one of the 20th century's vocal monuments. Her incisive way with lyric and melody, often deploying playfulness, wit, and pain in a single song, became a model for both many a female singer, as well as Frank Sinatra and Marvin Gaye. These are records to be endlessly replayed for many kinds of appreciation. Played end to end, they introduce ideals of groove and emotional expression that remain fresh and even startling many years on. Lady Day is not only a perfect example of how to reissue key material, but is an album that will stand as a beacon for veteran Holiday fans and for the new ones it will no doubt attract. --Rickey Wright


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  • Product Details

    • Audio CD (October 2, 2001)
    • Original Release Date: 1933
    • Number of Discs: 10
    • Format: Box set, Original recording remastered
    • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
    • Label: Sony
    • ASIN: B00005Q47M
    • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,867 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    130 of 132 people found the following review helpful By J. Lund on December 28, 2001
    Format: Audio CD
    In 2001, Billie Holiday's landmark recordings from the first decade of her recording career have finally been remastered for best-ever sound quality on the 10-CD boxed set. The historical value of that collection is enormous, but not all admirers of Lady Day are going to have the half-day needed to absorb everything on there. Furthermore, there are a lot of similar-sounding alternate takes on the last few discs of the box. It's a paradise for collectors, but what about those who want a smaller dose of these jazz classics?
    This 2-CD anthology is the answer, providing a generous helping of memorable cuts, with an preference for high-quality songs (frankly, quite a few of the tunes on the boxed set aren't worthy of Britney Spears, let alone a peerless vocalist like Billie, albeit Lady Day is renowned for turning trite songs into art). There are other one-disc collections culled from these sessions, but I highly recommend this collection above all others--the sound quality is as good as possible, and with two discs there's enough of a sampling to give the listener a good idea of what Billie and her accompiament were up to during this era...and what they were up to revolutionized popular music!
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    71 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Caponsacchi HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 28, 2003
    Format: Audio CD
    Unless you plan to invest in the "Complete Lady Day on Columbia," this is the Billie Holiday collection either to start with or to own (if you plan to stick to one). There is much of value on Billie's later, Verve recordings, but they can't match the timeless beauty to be found on her Columbia sessions. The singular "emotion" with which Billie is identified wears best and longest when we feel it as a property of the song as much as of the singer. On the Columbia outings, it's the combination of Billie's musical talents and the strength of her "persona" that results in very possibly the most believable and influential interpretations of the "American Songbook" ever recorded. It's from these recordings that Sinatra learned his most valuable singing lessons: first, trust the material; second, establish a persona that, in the listener's mind, would be capable of experiencing the story and emotions of the song; third, make it "natural"--American popular song and singing are all about the art of artlessness.
    Since I own the box set of LP's already, I settled for this "Best Of" CD version. It's a judicious selection of material, the audio quality affords slightly more "presence" to Billie's voice than on the originals, the liner notes by Gary Giddins are informative and provocative, and the photos are revealing (contrasting the early buxom, spontaneous Billie with the later posed, slimmed-down star).
    Columbia-Sony has obviously invested much thought and care in the production of this package. Unlike many of my CD acquisitions, this one is not going to be played once and set aside.
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    52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Tony Thomas on March 10, 2005
    Format: Audio CD
    If there were some way to award music 200 stars, I am sure all of us would have done so for this set!

    Like others here, I have it all, but I think her work from the 30s and early 1940s from Columbia and its ancestors is not just her greatest works, but among the great works of world musical culture. Everyone with a set of ears should be more or less required to have this music and enjoy it.

    Strange Fruit was not recorded for Columbia but for the Indy label Commodore. Thus, you will not find it on this or any of the Columbia collections like this that capture her work in the period BEFORE Strange Fruit. It was recorded in the 1940s, whereas this collection contains work from Billie in the 1930s and perhaps 1940 and 1941. No doubt Sony wishes it had the rights to that side and everything else Commodore recorded, but they don't.

    The truth is, Strange Fruit is not one of Billie's Greatest works. There are about 15 tunes on this CD that have better singing, better musicians backing her, and were more important pieces of Billie's work. Strange Fruit is well known to the people who know about Billie as a person, but don't know much about Billie as a Jazz musician. Her recording, while powerful, was not very nuanced, not very jazzy, and not as good as much of the work here. Indeed, the weakness of her mid-1940s Commodore work as opposed to these recordings is that Billie was persuaded to move away from Jazz and swing to attempt to become a cabarat chanteuse of "serious" songs, a move that some also relate to the inception of heroin and the decline of her voice, a move that brought about a decline in her art.

    If you want to hear a better version of "Strange Fruit," listen to Josh White's recording which is so much more powerful, if not as well known.
    Read more ›
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    37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Harris on December 29, 2001
    Format: Audio CD
    One of the most lavish(and exhaustive, in good way)box sets to be released is "Lady Day-The Complete Billie Holiday On Columbia (1933-1944)". Consisting of 230 tracks spread over 10 CD's, this set contains Lady Day's collaborations with Teddy Wilson, Count Basie, and Benny Goodman's Orchestras. Though some of the material is lackluster(which is to be expected on a compilation of this size)all of the standards that she cut for Columbia, Brunswick, Okeh, and Vocalion are included("All Of Me", "God Bless The Child", "Them There Eyes", "The Man I Love, "I Cried For You", etc...). The packaging is beautiful, with the box resembling a 78 record storage booklet. Housed inside the cover is a 120 page booklet with rare photos, reproductions of original 78 RPM labels, and essays from Gary Giddins, Farah Jasmine Griffin, and Michael Brooks. Though the essays don't really shed any new light on Billie Holiday, they're well written and are an enjoyable read. The CD's themselves are packaged in heavy paper slip cases similar to what 78 records came packaged in. In theory it was a creative design idea but not a real practical one. You have to be very careful removing and putting the CD's back to avoid scratching them(like the Armstrong Hot Fives & Sevens box), which for me is my only beef with this box set. Lining the pockets with felt or some other soft material could have avoided this and it's a move I hope Legacy considers in the future. Sonically this is by far the best I've ever heard this material sound. The Quintessential Billie Holiday CD's suffered from heavy handed use of noise reduction, sounding muffled and dull. The songs on the box have much more presence and dynamic range.Read more ›
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