The Centennial Collection
This year, 2015, marks the 100-year anniversary of Billie Holiday’s birth. And major labels being what they are, beyond a shadow of their former selves, there will always be an occasion for an attempt at the cash-grab. Sony Legacy is of course one of the worst here – or one of the best, if you simply value hearing the music, it being made accessible, placed right in front of you.
The Centennial Collection is a handy single-disc of Holiday highlights. That gorgeous, mournful voice of Lady Day. You should know it already, and you should own everything here, and more besides. But if this is your introduction to Holiday then so be it and fair enough. You could certainly do a lot worse.
And though the Verve years are missed, and it’s impossible to cover everything wonderful by Billie Holiday on just one disc you have to acknowledge that Sony Legacy hasn’t just cobbled together the tracks it owns and stores – here we have songs from a range of recording labels including OKeh, Commodore, Vocalion and Brunswick. It’s also been a decade or so since they’ve given any real spotlight to Billie Holiday. So, yes, the season is the reason – it’s about the birthday milestone and a hope it might translate to some dollars, but it’s still a handy album to fill a slot, something for the iPod, a CD for the car – if people still do that – and a fine enough introduction if you’ve heard the name but never heard the music. Plenty of wonderful cuts here, strong performances of signature songs such as God Bless The Child, These Foolish Things, Them There Eyes, You Go To My Head, Gloomy Sunday and of course – though it can never properly fit on any compilation – Strange Fruit.
What a wonderful singer she was – and how glorious that voice still sounds. I don’t need this compilation. I have plenty of Lady Day to get on with already, but I certainly enjoyed hearing this and can see some merit in it existing. Every home should have some Holiday.