Various Artists

Torch Songs [Time Life]

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Torch Songs may not do vocal-jazz fans too many favors, but it's an intriguing collection for those who want to hear a broad-based set of downbeat (and down-hearted) songs. Though jazz fans wouldn't dare compile songs by Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, k.d. lang, Patsy Cline, or Diana Ross -- especially when the latter is covering Billie Holiday; she also played Holiday onscreen in Lady Sings the Blues -- they're all represented with sympathetic material that sounds perfect in context. Most of the inclusions are the ones any torch-song compilation has to have to be termed definitive -- "Cry Me a River" by Julie London, "Stormy Weather" by Lena Horne, "Black Coffee" by Peggy Lee, "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes" by Dinah Washington, and "La Vie en Rose" by Edith Piaf. A pair of vocal giants, Ella Fitzgerald ("But Not for Me") and Billie Holiday ("Am I Blue?"), are treated by songs that are excellent if not defining. Similar to other Time-Life collections, Torch Songs is the type that the beginner will love but the committed fan might find unnecessary.

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