Thursday, August 18, 2011


Billie Holiday - Lady in Satin (1958)

This was apparently a controversial pick among The Book's editors, as the legendary-in-her-own-lifetime Lady Day was long past her prime when it was recorded. Holiday had been riding a pale horse towards oblivion for two solid decades, with both heroin and hard drink having ripped much of the rich and mellow tone from her voice, so the "satin" in the title of this, her final album, seemed like a reference to coffin linings rather than evening gowns. And yet, as a testament to the resilience of authentic genius - a quality that shines through even the most glaring of handicaps - the album undeniably works. On the more melancholy cuts - and the track list is fittingly rich in downbeat subject matter - you could even argue that the scratchy catch in Holiday's throat works in the material's favor. There's a reason why she was often called "the suicide's favorite." As I sit here listening to this most mournful of swan songs, I am reminded of Rick Rubin's monumental "American" project with Johnny Cash. Are there better Billie Holiday collections than Lady in Satin? Yes. Are any of them as poignant? Definitely not.

Had I heard it before? Yes.
Did I like it then? Somewhat.
Do I like it? Yes. A lot.
Am I keeping it? Yes.
Standout Tracks? Every cut is a masterpiece, but "I'm a Fool to Want You" and "You Don't Know What Love Is" are powerful stand outs.

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