From the Vault...


Billie Holiday
"Lady In Autumn: The Best Of The Verve Years"

© Verve Records

Year of Release: 1991

track listing
Disc One:
  • Body And Soul
  • Strange Fruit
  • Trav'lin' Light
  • All Of Me
  • (There Is) No Greater Love
  • I Cover The Waterfront
  • These Foolish Things
    Remind Me Of You
  • Tenderly
  • Autumn In New York
  • My Man
  • Stormy Weather
  • Yesterdays
  • (I Got A Man Crazy
    For Me)
    He's Funny
    That Way
  • What A Little
    Moonlight Can Do
  • I Cried For You
    (Now It's Your Turn
    To Cry Over Me)
  • Too Marvelous For Words
  • I Wished On The Moon
  • I Don't Want To
    Cry Anymore
  • Prelude To A Kiss
    Disc Two:
  • Nice Work
    If You Can Get It
  • Come Rain Or Come Shine
  • What's New
  • God Bless The Child
  • Do Nothin' Till You Hear
    From Me
  • April In Paris
  • Lady Sings The Blues
  • Don't Explain
  • Fine And Mellow
  • I Didn't Know
    What Time It Was
  • Stars Fell On Alabama
  • One For My Baby
    (And One More
    For The Road)
  • Gee Baby Ain't I
    Good To You
  • Lover Man
    (Oh Where
    Can You Be)
  • All The Way
  • Don't Worry 'Bout Me

  • WSVNRadio Archives
    A B C D E F G H I J K L M
    N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

    Billie Holiday related sites:
    Billie Holiday Website
    Previous Review: #1205
    Various Artists--A Tribute To Stevie Ray Vaughan
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    Johnnie Ray--16 Most Requested Songs
    Billie Holiday
    "Lady In Autumn: The Best Of The Verve Years"

    One source of music I cannot absolutely say I really know alot of, is Contemporary Jazz. Sure, I've heard the names, but I never really followed their careers, knowing exactly which songs and albums that made them famous. So it was hard to determine what kind of CD to get, by Billie Holiday. Her career spanned from the 1930s to the end of the 1950s. (The year 1959 would become her untimely and shameful death). As I observed her Lady In Autumn: The Best Of The Verve Years, Verve Records would be the home of many famous early Jazz greats (Sarah Vaughan, Dizzie Gillespie; in later years of Rock music -- The Righteous Brothers and The Velvet Underground) This 2-disc set would capture Holiday's later recordings, from 1946 to 1959. The liner notes mention of these recordings were from her years at the following record labels: Clef, Verve and MGM. Some say that this was her "weakest" part of her career. In 1947, she was arrested for what would be her downfall, drugs, and her drug abuse would lead her to her untimely death in 1959, at the young age of 44. Aside from that, this 2-disc set captures Jazz at its finest. Her drug abuse may have caused her voice to change, as most critics pointed out. For me, I never really followed her music while growing up. Most of these songs on this set would be co-written by Billie Holiday, and would become jazz standards.

    Disc One's first four tracks were from a live album, Jazz At The Philharmonic - Concert. This concert was held at the Embassy Theater in Los Angeles, on Monday, April 22, 1946. Each song captures a soulful Billie Holiday, as by this time, these songs were already well-known to her audience: "Body And Soul," "Strange Fruit" (which Billie explains to the audience before the song: "Thank you, thank you, thank you very much ladies and gentlemen, and now I'd like to sing a tune that was written especially for me, it's titled "Strange Fruit." I hope you like it.") The remaining two songs are "Trav'lin' Light," and the ever popular "All Of Me."

    The next two songs were also from another live album, Billie Holiday At J.A.T.P. - Concert. "(There Is) No Greater Love" and "I Cover The Waterfront." This concert was held at Carnegie Hall in New York, on Saturday, May 24, 1947. Like the first four live tracks, the audience applauds as Billie begins singing these two latter songs, and they applaud afterwards. And they should -- each track showcases pure soulful Jazz, as Billie always did. (As many decades has passed since these recordings, they are still fresh, and never aging.)

    Three songs follow from Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra: "Those Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)," "Tenderly," and "Autumn In New York." All of these recordings are obviously priceless, yet "Tenderly" can be the best of this 3-set. Even the orchestration stands out on this track, as well as Holiday's voice.

    Four songs emerge next, from Billie Holiday & Her Lads Of Joy, (1952). "My Man" is a song that I remembered, but by name only. My only rememberence of this song was by Diana Ross, as she portrayed Holiday in the movie Lady Sings The Blues. Who doesn't remember this immortal classic "Stormy Weather" ? I don't recall Billie Holiday's version here, but I have heard this song recorded by many, many other popular acts. It's a classic standard. "Yesterdays" is another well recorded track. "(I Got A Man Crazy For Me) He's Funny That Way" is another song, where both the orchestration and vocals blend very well. [These four tracks have a sexy approach, and it seems that Billie Holiday enjoyed recording these tracks, although by this time, she had already been experiencing with personal drug addictions.]

    Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra provides the next three songs, (1954). "What A Little Moonlight Can Do" is an excellent, upbeat, hop-and-skippin' scat jazz number. Once again, her voice and the orchestra are fantastic. (Especially the orchestra on this one.) "I Cried For You (Now It's Your Turn To Cry Over Me)" is another soulful song, both by orchestra and voice. "Too Marvelous For Words" is a good title for this particular song; it IS a very marvelous track.

    The next song is from Billie Holiday with Tony Scott & His Orchestra: "I Wished On The Moon," (1953). It's one of those mood-setting songs, good music for a little late-night romance (which this whole disc can also be used for). The orchestration towards the end of this song is truly classic, the horns, the guitar, piano ... great stuff. (And for those of you wondering, Tony Scott was a clarinet player.)

    Once again, we go back to two tracks by Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra, ending the first disc: "I Don't Want To Cry Anymore" and "Prelude To A Kiss"; (1953). Both songs achieve greatness, in both music orchestration, and voice.

    Disc Two starts off with three songs by Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra, (1953): "Nice Work If You Can Get It" [NOW THIS IS GREAT JAZZ!!], "Come Rain Or Come Shine" [SEXY!!] and "What's New" [Very Soulful].

    As mentioned earlier, Billie Holiday would co-write songs that would become Jazz standards. The first one on this collection is with Tony Scott & His Orchestra (1956) -- "God Bless The Child." (I remember this song by Blood, Sweat & Tears.) This is Classic Jazz.

    Does this album keep getting better and better? You bet... Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra continues onward, with two more songs, from 1956: "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me" and "April In Paris." Both are GREAT songs.

    The next three songs come from her Carnegie Hall sets with Chico Hamilton (1956). First set: "Lady Sings The Blues" and "Don't Explain." (Both songs were co-written by Billie Holiday, and would become jazz standards.) "Fine And Mellow" (also co-written by Holiday and a jazz standard) was from Holiday and Hamilton's second set. All three songs easily fits the Blues mold, yet still it has the sultry Jazz / New Orleans Jazz sound.

    Most of the songs on this second disc has a comparison to another female singer, who would share the same ups and downs of life as Billie Holiday: Judy Garland. Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra's 1957 "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" could easily been recorded by Garland. Likewise, "Stars Fell On Alabama" easily fits Billie's voice, Sure, Judy could have sung this song too, but I think it fits Billie much better. But "One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)" is Billie Holiday -- Blues, Jazz, you name it, it's all Billie Holiday. The same is said for the bluesy "Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You." [Note: These four songs mentioned were all by Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra, 1957.]

    Another fine live performance, from The Seven Ages Of Jazz - Concert, 1958 -- "Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be)" Billie joins Ray Ellis & His Orchestra on the next 2 tracks, "All The Way" and "Don't Worry 'Bout Me" (1959).

    It's a coincidence of the last track title -- "Don't Worry 'Bout Me." This entire 2-disc set is just absolutely fabulous. Hard times would be a huge part in Billie Holiday's life, from 1947 to her death in 1959. She was arrested for drugs in 1947. She was released a year later, but was arrested again in early 1949. The 1950s would be overshadowed by her drug abuse, drinking, and relationships with abusive men, affecting her health. During this time, her hardships affected her voice, growing coarse, and no longer had its superiority it was had. Her late recordings on Verve Records was a third of her legacy, and was as popular as her earlier work for Columbia, Commodore and Decca labels. (In listening to the songs on this 2-disc set during these years, I really didn't see any weaknesses; yet I really didn't know of any recordings of her's, prior to 1947.)

    Lady In Autumn: The Best Of The Verve Years is a complete dose (pardon the drug pun) of Billie Holiday's music. The pictures in the CD booklet are priceless. What little information that is contained in the booklet, doesn't compare to the 35 outstanding tracks there are on this compilation. Also to mention, were the musicians in the band who performed with her: Oscar Peterson, Barney Kessel, Ray Brown, Charlie Shavers, Joe Newman, Paul Quinichette, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Tony Scott, Benny Carter, Jimmy Bowles, Ben Webster...

    Where most one-disc sets of 10-15 songs just isn't enough, this compilation is a great mood setter, a great listen to a lady who could easily sing jazz and the blues. It's obvious that she had a great persona, a great voice, even the orchestrations made the moments, along with her. But in the last months of her life, she was taken to Metropolitan Hospital in New York suffering from liver and heart disease. She was arrested for drug possession (again) as she lay dying in her hospital room. Under police supervision she remained, until she died from cirrhosis of the liver on July 17, 1959. Her earnings left her with nothing, as she had seventy cents to her name in her bank account, and a $750 tabloid fee.

    With all her demons in her last years, Miles Davis observed by saying the following, shortly before Billie Holiday's death: "I'd rather hear her now. She's become much more mature. Sometimes you can sing words every night for five years, and all of a sudden it dawns on you what the song means. I played 'My Funny Valentine' for a long time -- and didn't like it -- and all of a sudden it meant something. So with Billie, you know she's not thinking now what she was in 1937, and she's probably learned more about different things. And she has control, probably more control now than then. No, I don't think she's in a decline."

    The demons affected Billie Holiday's life. They affected Judy Garland's life. Elvis Presley's. Even Stevie Ray Vaughan's, and too many others music stars names to mention, who succumed to the abuse of drugs and/or alchohol. We can only imagine, if each and every one of these stars who died from drugs and alcohol would have cleaned up. At least Stevie Ray Vaughan did, but we all know what happened from that fateful helicopter flight.

    Like many who left us behind, Billie Holiday's legacy of music remains with us, and has influenced many music fans and future musicians who would follow after her. This 2-disc set is a must, for those who are already influenced, and for those who are just beginning to discover her.

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    Previous Review: #1205
    Various Artists--A Tribute To Stevie Ray Vaughan
    Next Review: #1207
    Johnnie Ray--16 Most Requested Songs