Billie Holiday

Classic Live Recordings

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Classic Live Recordings is among the collections that JCI assembled for its early-'90s Legends of Jazz series, which also included titles by Charlie Parker, Ahmad Jamal, Ramsey Lewis, and John Coltrane. Unfortunately, the series tended to be careless and sloppy. JCI (which has since gone out of business) didn't bother to give recordings the proper digital remastering they deserved, which is why the series was known for lousy sound quality. And JCI also frustrated collectors by offering inadequate liner notes and, in many cases, failing to provide recording dates. Classic Live Recordings is a mess; the 1940s and 1950s recordings on this CD would have sounded much better with the right digital remastering, and the total absence of recording dates is inexcusable. Also, the title is misleading -- much of the material was, in fact, recorded live, but JCI doesn't bother to tell you that some of the recordings were made in the studio (including Lady Day's famous 1940s versions of "Lover Man" and "Don't Explain.") The quality of the live performances varies considerably, depending on when they were recorded. Holiday sounds great on most of the 1940s recordings, although she didn't have much of a voice left during the last years of her life. Completists, of course, want to hear everything that Holiday ever did -- regardless of the fact that she sounded a lot better in the '30s and '40s than she did in the late '50s. And those are the people who would have found this CD meaningful had it not been so carelessly assembled. An artist of Holiday's stature deserves much, much better.

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