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Ultimate Collection Dolby, Import, Box set


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Amazon's Billie Holiday Store

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Product details

  • Audio CD (11 April 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Dolby, Import, Box set
  • Label: Hip-O-Select
  • ASIN: B0007X9U2Y
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 346,058 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jana L. Perskie on 8 Jun. 2005
Format: Audio CD
My highest praise goes to this extraordinary compilation of songs which cover Lady Day's entire 25 year career - the first American collection to do so. The release commemorates what would have been Billie Holiday's ninetieth year and her spirit shines through on every track. What really makes this "Best of Billie Holiday" set so special, is that along with the two CDs, which contain forty-two of her greatest hits, is a DVD with rare footage of Ms. Holiday performing in eight films, and on television, with beloved friend and fellow musician, "Prez," a name she gave to Lester Young. He, in turn, nicknamed her "Lady Day." Also appearing with her are greats Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Gerry Mulligan and Roy Eldridge. Highlights of the performances by Ms. Holiday are a 1935 video short with Duke Ellington, three songs from a rarely seen 1956 TV special, and her renowned 1957 TV appearance with an all-star combo. Audio reminiscences by friends and fellow artists like Billy Eckstein, Sylvia Syms and Jimmy Rowles are also included as well as an interview with Mike Wallace. The DVD also has a clip of Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong, musicians who influenced Billie tremendously. "I always wanted Bessie's big sound and Pop's feeling."
To my mind Billie Holiday is the greatest jazz vocalist of all times. She lived such a difficult, often turbulent life, and died an untimely, tragic death at age 44. She had/has, however, the unique ability to communicate a lifetime's worth of intense personal emotion in her songs. French actress Jeanne Moreau once said of the legendary singer, "She could express more emotion in one chorus than most actresses can in three acts.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 19 reviews
117 of 117 people found the following review helpful
The ultimate starting point (collectors take notice, too)! 13 April 2005
By J. Lund - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
It seems as if every year or two we're looking at a new and improved Billie Holiday anthology, and THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION is the latest and probably best Lady Day introduction to date. As others have mentioned, this set covers her entire career via 42 tracks on two CDs. The set is skimpy on Billie's first decade (albeit we do get such gems as "God Bless The Child"). However, you can easily balance that out by one additional purchase: the highly-recommended 2-CD set LADY DAY: THE BEST OF BILLIE HOLIDAY on Sony, which has 38 key tracks from the early years (only three of which are repeated here). Several key tracks from her 1939-1944 Commodore sessions (including "Strange Fruit") and the 1942 cut "Trav'lin' Light" (with Paul Whiteman) offer further proof of this set's wide reach in covering her career.

Being that the set is produced in collaboration with the Decca and Verve labels, the last fifteen years of Billie's career get excellent coverage. There's a certain point in the 1950s where some Lady Day fans mourn the perceived wear-and-tear in her voice, while others such as myself celebrate the deeper emotive power and increasingly inventive melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic chances she takes with classic pop tunes. Even so, by the final track "I'm A Fool To Want You" (from the much-debated 1958 LADY IN SATIN album) it's difficult for most listeners to not feel 1) pushed away by her fading voice and 2) pulled back in by the communicative power of her heart-on-sleeve phrasing (one error in the set's booklet: this cut is not from her last session).

The DVD has an effective mix of seen and unseen footage. The 1934 and 1946 movie appearances have been issued in their entirety: here we get some highlights. The key bit of material that will attract Billie Holiday collectors is some newly-uncovered 1956 footage from the STARS OF JAZZ television show (three songs), and there is a 1958 appearance, too. The most famous Lady Day clip (1957's all-star jam on "Fine And Mellow") is seen in its entirety. The DVD also has a clip of Billie's key influences Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong, plus lots of other extras that are interesting but mostly not essential. Although some excellent Billie footage didn't make the cut, there's still enough of value on the DVD to recommend it. Add the timeless, extraordinary music on the CDs, and you've got a great introduction to arguably the greatest jazz vocalist of all-time.
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
KUDOS!!! 8 April 2005
By Blues Bro - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
So many great things about this collection its hard to know where to start. This is the first collection to include tracks from ALL the record companies that Billie recorder, not even the Ken Burns compilation touched so much ground. There are tracks that are unavailable in CD until now, like 'Detour Ahead', a classic song. The remastering, specially for the Blue Note and Verve catalog is breathtaking, the best these sides have sounded ever. Package is beatiful, this is one of those Sound + Vision collections, like the Hendrix at Isle of Wight. It includes a COMPLETE sessionography, every session, dates, musicians, places of every song released commercially. It includes a timeline, which is a biography, year by year of the life of lady day, with dozens and dozens of pictures and scans of documents and letters. Wow!! I was really impressed. The DVD also includes a bunch of audio feautures, like interview with Billie, and people who knew Billie. There is a great segment of Billie rehearsing with Jimi Rowles that is pure gold. Live tracks with Basie. The video clips are not remastered, some of them look and sound preety rough. There are more videos of Billie out there, I wish they had included more. The CD's are too heavy on the Verve material, some more Columbia sides with Lester Young could have been better, and where is 'Autumm in New York'? Still, this is a five star collection, recommended both for newbies and long time fans.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Finally, THE definitive overview .... ESSENTIAL 6 April 2005
By dvdtrkr - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
For years, there have been hundreds if not thousands of imports of Lady Day's music on subpar compilations that don't do her justice, various box sets put out by different record companies in the US (Columbia, Commodore, and Verve all have exhaustive box sets), but no true retrospective that covers the bases in one place.

Until now. This is one of the best collections of songs ever assembled in one place. Previous retrospectives were great, but because they were usually limited to the respective record label, they fell short.

In a way, if it wasn't for downloading as well as record companies finally being more willing to compromise, this probably wouldn't have been possible.

From one of her earliest recording sessions where she sings "Miss Brown To You" to her final recordings where she does "I'm A Fool To Want You", all 42 tracks are classics.

As if that wasn't enough, you're also getting a DVD of rare TV and film appearances, a lot of which have only been seen in documentaries (except the clips from the "New Orleans" movie Holiday and Louis Armstrong starred in and available on Amazon and contains the "Symphony in Black" short) It also has a few rare audio tracks as well as an interactive timeline. The only criticism (other than it having a slightly higher price tag than it should) is that I would've wanted the clip of "Strange Fruit" to have been included on here (unless I've overlooked it or it's an Easter Egg). But considering there's so little footage of Billie Holliday otherwise, the DVD alone is worth getting the collection for people who have bought previous collections.

I highly recommend this to anyone who is a music lover of any age. If you own Jeff Buckley, Norah Jones, Frank Sinatra (who was a huge fan of hers) or Nina Simone (or liked Queen Latifah's foray into jazz) this should ABSOLUTELY be part of your music library. If you want to hear what a torch song is and one of the most significant figures of jazz music let alone music, you'll find it here. If you want to hear what is considered one of the most important songs of the 20th Century, it's here.

This is one of the best collections of music ever assembled, and warrants why more artists from the past should be putting out CD/DVD combos... This package is by far THE standard all compilations should go by, versus the 1 CD packaging done for the millionth time just to keep an artist's name alive.

I can't say enough good things about it.

Frank Sinatra is another artist that should have a comprehensive overview out like this one versus different record companies putting out the different eras. It strengthens a legacy as well as putting something comprehensive for future fans to enjoy.

(Side note: A couple of compilations that I found are called "Billy Remembers Billie" and "The Milt Gabler Story", which comedian Billy Crystal put together (and amazon.com has it as well). Crystal's uncle Milt Gabler produced Holiday's "Strange Fruit" and others like Louis Jordan and Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock". Crystal has talked about Holiday taking him to his first movie. There's something about personalized compilations that I like though...)

If there's one CD worth buying this year, this is the one.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A 90th Birthday Present From Lady Day To Her Fans! Superb!! 8 Jun. 2005
By Jana L. Perskie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
My highest praise goes to this extraordinary compilation of songs which cover Lady Day's entire 25 year career - the first American collection to do so. The release commemorates what would have been Billie Holiday's ninetieth year and her spirit shines through on every track. What really makes this "Best of Billie Holiday" set so special, is that along with the two CDs, which contain forty-two of her greatest hits, is a DVD with rare footage of Ms. Holiday performing in eight films, and on television, with beloved friend and fellow musician, "Prez," a name she gave to Lester Young. He, in turn, nicknamed her "Lady Day." Also appearing with her are greats Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Gerry Mulligan and Roy Eldridge. Highlights of the performances by Ms. Holiday are a 1935 video short with Duke Ellington, three songs from a rarely seen 1956 TV special, and her renowned 1957 TV appearance with an all-star combo. Audio reminiscences by friends and fellow artists like Billy Eckstein, Sylvia Syms and Jimmy Rowles are also included as well as an interview with Mike Wallace. The DVD also has a clip of Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong, musicians who influenced Billie tremendously. "I always wanted Bessie's big sound and Pop's feeling."

To my mind Billie Holiday is the greatest jazz vocalist of all times. She lived such a difficult, often turbulent life, and died an untimely, tragic death at age 44. She had/has, however, the unique ability to communicate a lifetime's worth of intense personal emotion in her songs. French actress Jeanne Moreau once said of the legendary singer, "She could express more emotion in one chorus than most actresses can in three acts." Songs such as "God Bless the Child," "Good Morning Heartache," and "Gloomy Sunday" reveal not only her extraordinary talent, but her incredible pain as well. "Strange Fruit," a deeply powerful song about lynching, and an emotional condemnation of racism, is unforgettable. She once said, "You can't copy anybody and end with anything. If you copy, it means you're working without any real feeling. No two people on earth are alike, and it's got to be that way in music or it isn't music." Many have tried to copy Lady Day's unique sound, but she was, is and always will be the original.

The album also features accompaniment by Louis Armstrong (vocals); Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel, Mundell Lowe (guitar); Tony Scott , Benny Goodman, Buster Bailey (clarinet); Johnny Hodges, Willie Smith, Benny Carter (alto saxophone); Al Cohn, Lester Young, Paul Quinichette, Ben Webster (tenor saxophone); Frankie Newton, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Roy Eldridge, Billy Butterfield, Bobby Hackett, Buck Clayton, Charlie Shavers (trumpet); Jimmy Rowles (piano, celesta); Eddie Heywood, Oscar Peterson, Teddy Wilson, Wynton Kelly, Bobby Tucker (piano); John Kirby, Ray Brown (double bass); Chico Hamilton, Cozy Cole, Alvin Stoller, Sid Catlett (drums); Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra.
JANA
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Great Overview of Her Recording Career 19 Nov. 2005
By James Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I agree with many of the others here that this is a great overview of Billie Holiday's recording career. There is not much to add to the comments about this marvelous collection, but I would like to add some observations and other information that Lady Day aficionados may find interesting.

Just to correct one of the other reviewers, the four Aladdin sides (Detour Ahead, Blue Turning Grey Over You, Be Fair With Me Baby and Rocky Mountain Blues) are all available on a Blue Note CD release titled Billie's Blues, which also includes the Paul Whiteman studio track Trav'lin' Light.

This collection does not include quite every label that Billie made studio recordings for: I wish they'd thought to include Billie's only recording with Artie Shaw, Any Old Time. It's much harder to track down than any of her other studio sides. Any Old Time is quite a jump for her stylistically, as it is done in a "big band" style that more evokes Glenn Miller, the Dorsey Brothers or, well Artie Shaw. It's available on more than one Artie Shaw CD release, but they are hard to find. I have it on a CD put out by the Jazz Heritage label under the album title "Frenesi".

One of the interesting inclusions on the Ultimate Collection DVD is a discography that lists virtually every Billie Holiday studio recording and all of her "authorized" live recordings. The only omissions I am aware of are some rare vinyl pressings (more about these later). Of course, there are many, many bootleg live recordings (most of these either very poorly recorded or they are examples of Lady Day at her worst, or both). I'd like to list a few interesting exceptions. In the 70's, TCB records put out a vinyl titled "The One and Only Billie Holiday - Lady Sings the Blues - Collectors Edition". It's mostly poor quality bootlegs, including the songs from the "soundtrack" for the film "New Orleans", but one track I've never found anywhere else is a radio transcript (?) of a live recording of Don't Explain that is absolutely breathtaking. Billie is in amazing voice, and her reading of the song was never more effective. She starts the track by exclaiming "I'd like to sing a song that I wrote; it's titled 'Don't Explain' ..." and then launches right into it, with a full orchestra. The audio quality is exceptional, but the track is marred by a slight "skip" on the first line that seems to have originated with the source material. Vocally, Billie never sounded better; I'd guess it was recorded around 1942. I've been hoping for years that this would pop up on a CD somewhere, but it seems to be the most elusive and rare track I own of her.

Other rare performances never released on CD include the infamous live set at the Storyville club in Boston, issued on the RIC label and later by Monmouth-Evergreen. This album is not very interesting, as it presents Billie in a poorly recorded setting and, vocally, she was having an off night, but it is of interest to aficionados and those who want to have a complete set of Lady's recordings. I am not aware that it's ever been released on CD.

Then there are the three albums of "radio and TV broadcasts" issued by ESP Disc on vinyl in the 70's. These were available briefly on CD in a three disc set, but I didn't bother acquiring it; the performances are not very worthwhile, except for a few that are available elsewhere.

In 1986, Blackhawk Records released a vinyl album of a "recently discovered" complete recital recorded October 5, 1958 at the Monterey Jazz festival. Guest musicians supporting Billie include Gerry Mulligan and Benny Carter (you know they're really there because they are introduced when they join the band halfway through the set). Billie's performance is not half bad, especially considering how late in her life it was recorded. Unfortunately, the best track on the album vocally, Good Morning Heartache, is ruined by the sudden appearance of a prop plane (it was an outdoor festival) coming in for a landing at Monterey airport. The engines drone on for several moments, at one point completely drowning out Billie and the band. Nevertheless, I have tried to find it on CD, and I am hoping that it will be eventually released, as it's especially interesting for it's superb audio quality. Also several of Billie's standards are refreshed by new arrangments, which seem to buoy her performance and make the 11 tracks all the more interesting.

Finally, in 1958 Columbia records gave a "party" for some of their recording artists at the Edwardian Room at the Plaza Hotel, NYC. Although not intended to be released commercially (the recording quality is marginal), in 1973 Columbia released two vinyl LP's called "Jazz at the Plaza" Volumes I and II. Volume I was the second part of the program, headed by Miles Davis, and Columbia recently released it on CD. Volume II, which has not yet appeared on CD (but I'm hopeful) presented the Duke Ellington Orchestra with special guests. The guest vocalists were Jimmy Rushing and Billie Holiday. Billie does two songs, When Your Lover Has Gone and Don't Explain, accompanied only by Duke Ellington on piano and Buck Clayton on trumpet. What's wonderful about it, aside from the fact that it's the only performance Billie recorded with Duke Ellington since she sang "Saddest Tale" in the 1935 short film Symphony in Black, is that Duke Ellington wrote a "new" piano arrangement for Don't Explain that is absolutely thrilling in it's simplicity and beauty. It's so good, that Billie used it for the rest of her life (there is a TV performance clip of her singing Don't Explain in 1958 with Mal Waldron that essentially uses the same arrangement - see the DVD release The Genius of Lady Day). Although only two tracks, it remains one of my favorite live late recordings of Billie Holiday.

Until the wonderful day when every single recording and video performance of the great Lady Day is available, the Billie Holiday Ultimate Collection is certainly a good start, and well worth the investment.
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