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Billie Holiday – Lady in Satin (1958)

July 16, 2012

[Album 71/1001]

At (Paramount) Canada’s Wonderland, they used to have a carnival-style game where an employee had to guess your age within 2 years.  Side consideration for aspiring Toronto-based Commercial Sponsors – even though the name officially changed in 2005, for many the local baseball stadium will always be the Skydome.

If you played an audio track from Lady in Satin for the (formerly Paramount as of 2006) Wonderland employees and said, guess how old?  Chances are, you’d be walking home with a novelty oversized teddy bear as without knowing Billie Holiday’s story, few would guess she was only 43 years old at the time.

At this stage of her career, after years of hard living, she sounds decades older than that.

The orchestra work is gorgeously glossy.  Though her singing is frail, there is an emotional quality to it that can’t really be faked.

In the 1001 albums book, if an artist is featured only once, it’s typically the album that represents the career peak.  Lady in Satin is a strange recording in that it’s certainly not the singer at the top of her game.  Since much of her earlier recording was done before the LP record ‘album’ era, this particular album’s inclusion makes more sense.  As this would turn out to be her last record released prior to her death in 1959, the fragility is almost unbearable. 

However, when Frank Sinatra calls you his “greatest single musical influence,” it’s safe to say you’ve had an impact.

From → 1950s

  1. Jenn permalink

    I don’t think I’ve heard this particular album, but I think you’re dead on about the almost unbearable fragility of her late performances. I think her “Strange Fruit” may be one of the most heart wrenching things I’ve ever heard in my life, too.

  2. This album is pretty boring, like most of vocal based albums

    • Probably the most difficult one to listen to from the 1001 list as well – her voice is so frail

      • I don´t like any of that vocal jazz albums so far. I need the instruments to do more than just supporting or serving the singer.

        They need to go hand in hand!

        Next on the list for me will be Fitzgerald singing the Gershwin´s songbook. 3,25 of vocal jazz! A horrific thought.

      • But with Nelson Riddle arrangements, so all is not lost!

      • Your word in the ear of god!

      • I will tell you tomorrow what I think of it.

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