The first of five volumes on the obscure British label Acrobat, The Incomparable, Vol. 1 concentrates on the series of sides recorded by Billie Holiday at the dawn of her career, usually in front of a studio band and released on discount subsidiaries of Columbia such as Brunswick and Vocalion. Similar to Fats Waller and a handful of other musical greats occasionally forced to record subpar material, Holiday did surprisingly well considering the compositional sources, and certainly wasn't harmed by the addition of recording partners like Cozy Cole, Roy Eldridge, Artie Shaw, Ben Webster, Harry Carney, and Teddy Wilson. This disc has 20 tracks, including a few of Holiday's best performances ("What a Little Moonlight Can Do," "Billie's Blues," "Miss Brown to You") as well as a few standards ("Summertime," "The Way You Look Tonight," "A Fine Romance," "Pennies from Heaven"). Too much of this material, however, consists of dated pleasantries that even Holiday has trouble rejuvenating -- check out "Eeny Meeny Meiny Mo" or "One, Two, Button Your Shoe." Though everything she recorded will obviously be of interest to real fans, Columbia itself has collected these songs several times, with better notes and better sound.
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AllMusic Review by John Bush