Billie Holiday

The Incomparable, Vol. 5

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The fifth of five volumes on the obscure British label Acrobat, The Incomparable, Vol. 5 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 Roy Eldridge, Don Redman, Walter Page, Freddie Green, and Teddy Wilson. This disc has 20 tracks, including two of Holiday's best performances ("God Bless the Child," "I Cover the Waterfront") as well as a few standards ("Love Me or Leave Me," "St. Louis Blues," "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)"). Too much of this material, however, consists of dated pleasantries that even Holiday has trouble rejuvenating -- check out "Mandy Is Two" or "I'm in a Low-Down Groove." 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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