There are many jazz lovers, even dedicated ones, who cannot afford to part with the 150 dollars or so that the ten-disc Complete Billie Holiday on Verve commands, so this two-disc distillation will do very nicely as a detailed summary of her troubled, soulful Verve period. Set out in chronological order with a mighty overreaching sweep, this mini-box covers virtually the entire period, with a generous helping of the JATP events of the 1940s, jumping a few years into the jazz all-star backings of the '50s and the 1956 Carnegie Hall concert, and closing with her heartbreakingly ravaged final sessions with Ray Ellis' string orchestra. Along the way, several Holiday landmark tunes like "Don't Explain," "God Bless the Child," "Lover Man," "Fine and Mellow," and "He's Funny That Way" are revisited and reinterpreted from a bitter, life-worn perspective. But not all is stark tragedy, for life-affirming tracks like the 1957 "Stars Fell on Alabama" and "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You" add some balance to the picture. For very sensitive listeners, 128 minutes of Lady Day in her twilight years may well be all they'll need.
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AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2