Billie Holiday: Lady Sings The Blues

Reissue package adds a bonus track to a reordered vinyl version and adds a a CD edition, also with bonus tracks

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First released in 1956, Lady Sings The Blues was Billie Holiday’s last album for Clef Records before moving to Verve, and only three years before her tragic and untimely death. Made up of recordings from two sessions, one several months prior, and the other in September 1954, the album’s release accompanied Holiday’s autobiography of the same name, co-written with newspaper writer and editor William Dufty. Holiday recorded four new songs for the album, including the title track, with the others being re-recordings of songs she had previously released.

The programme on this vinyl reissue has been rearranged slightly compared to the original. The first side is made up of tracks from the June 1956 session, which included musicians such as Charlie Shavers on trumpet, Wynton Kelly on piano and Kenny Burrell on guitar.

Rather than starting with the title track as per the original, the album opens with slow and wistful Trav’lin’ Light. Then it moves into the slightly more upbeat I Must Have That Man!, with Tony Scott’s clarinet and Kenny Burrell’s guitar accompaniments standing out, followed by the melancholy Some Other Spring, and then the haunting Strange Fruit. The audio quality is very good, with Holiday’s voice clear and present alongside the ensemble.

The second side opens with two more tracks from the New York session with the following five from the Los Angeles session two years earlier. It’s a completely different line up and the arrangements are more upbeat, with the punchy horn section opening Love Me Or Leave Me and Too Marvelous For Words. Willow Weep For Me is a slow and dreamy piece and the penultimate track, I Thought About You, is a duet with pianist Bobby Tucker, with the simple vocal and piano arrangement letting the full quality of Holiday’s voice stand out.

For this reissue, Groove Replica have added a bonus track, P.S I Love You, which was recorded in the same 1954 session as the others, and naturally fits well into the track list, although the reason for its inclusion isn’t clear.

Altogether an essential jazz album, here in strong audio quality. This release also comes with a CD of the album that includes nine bonus tracks taken from a session in 1955, with some of the same musicians from the 1956 session.

Discography
Trav’lin’ Light; I Must Have That Man!; Some Other Spring; Lady Sings The Blues; Strange Fruit; God Bless The Child; Good Morning, Heartache; No Good Man; Love Me Or Leave Me; Too Marvelous For Words; Willow Weep For Me; I Thought About You; P.S I Love You (41.48)
Holiday (v) with, collectively: Charlie Shavers, Harry “Sweets” Edison (t); Tony Scott (cl, arr); Paul Quinichette (ts); Willie Smith (as); Wynton Kelly, Bobby Tucker (p); Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel (g); Aaron Bell, Red Callender (b); Lennie McBrowne, Chico Hamilton (d). New York, 6-7 June 1956 and Los Angeles, 3 September 1954.
Groove Replica 77033