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Billieís Blues
1935 Ė 1946
Retrospective RTS 4142




1. I Wished on the Moon
2. What a Little Moonlight Can Do
3. If You Were Mine
4. These Foolish Things
5. I Cried for You
6. Did I Remember
7. No Regrets
8. Summertime
9. A Fine Romance
10. The Way You look Tonight
11. Who Loves You?
12. Pennies from Heaven
13. I Canít Give you Anything but Love
14. Iíve Got my Love to Keep Me Warm
15. This Yearís Kisses
16. I Must Have a Man
17. The Mood That Iím In
18. My Last Affair
19. Carelessly
20. Moaniní Low
21. Iíll Get By
22. Mean to Me
23. Easy Living
24. Iíll Never Be the Same
25. A Sailboat in the Moonlight
1. Swing, Brother, Swing
2. They Canít Take That away from Me
3. Nice Work if you Can Get It
4. My Man
5. Back in Your Own Back Yard
6. You Go to My Head
7. Iím Gonna Lock My Heart
8. I Canít Get Started
9. Long Gone Blues
10. Fine and Mellow
11. Some Other Spring
12. Them There Eyes
13. Night and Day
14. The Man I Love
15. Body and Soul
16. All of Me
17. God Bless the Child
18. I Cover the Waterfront
19. Billieís Blues
20. Heís Funny That Way
21. Lover Come Back to Me
22. Lover Man
23. That Old Devil Called Love
24. Donít Explain
25. Good Morning, Heartache
26. Strange Fruit

These two records contain the largest collection of Billie Holiday recordings I have come across, so it has to be a must for the many fans of Lady Day. Considering that she died 50 years ago, she is well liked by many who were not around at the time of her demise. She was not a jazz singer in the sense of Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan, but she had a unique style that is immediately recognisable. 

On many of these tracks she performs the role of "with vocal refrain". During the 1930s, the bands were more important than the singer and so he or she was allocated just one chorus, usually the middle one. How things have changed! 

Most of the songs are well known; I found the personnel of the backing groups very interesting. On the first two tracks alone, the backing band includes such illustrious names as Benny Goodman, Roy Eldridge and Ben Webster. The star names continue with Jonah Jones, Chu Berry, Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney involved in just the first five tracks. 

It is noticeable that Billie sounds at her very best when Teddy Wilson is at the keyboard and her soul mate Lester Young is involved. It was Billie who called him "Prez", the president of the tenor sax! In return it was Lester who named her "Lady Day". 

Her life was, apart from her singing, a total disaster; she got involved with both drugs and alcohol, to say nothing of a very turbulent personal life in which she seemed to find all the most unsuitable partners. 

Lester Young plays the first chorus on This Yearís Kisses; it became a favourite tune of Lesterís, which he often played on personal appearances. Buck Clayton sounds less convincing in his chorus on the same tune. 

Disc two begins with Billie singing with the Basie Band, with whom she worked for about a year.  Lester was in the band at that time as was his tenor partner Herschel Evans. The remaining tracks on the second disc continue to have the presence of many famous musicians. Buck Clayton, Vido Musso, Charlie Shavers, Buster Bailey, Dicky Wells, Hot Lips Page, Harry Edison, Emmett Berry, Jimmy Hamilton and many more make contributions to various tracks. 

Disc two finishes with Strange Fruit. Billie always wanted to sing this song last; she said she was overwhelmed by the words of Lewis Allan. She was not a leader of racial unrest, however, just someone who wanted to enjoy singing with the best musicians available. It seems she was most successful in this dimension of her life, as her work is still greatly appreciated 

The album contains excellent discographical information as well as sleeve-notes. 


Don Mather




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