Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lay Lay Lady Day

Thinking about Amy Winehouse has made me listen to a recent release, a tribute to Billie Holiday, which was produced by Swedish actor Peter Stormare. He says he was inspired by Holiday's autobiography, and parts of that book are narrated by the actress Angela Bassett in between cover versions of her songs. The line up of singers are diverse, so I thought it would give interesting takes on them. And, it's nice to hear Ms. Bassett's readings of the text, for she brings just a bit of drama to the proceedings. However, the mostly modern R & B arrangements of most of these songs give an almost campy juxtaposition to her recitations. Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds sings an almost jubilant version of "Strange Fruit," and I shake my head, asking if he understood the lyrics of the song at all. Renee Olstead sings "Good Morning Heartache" as if she was singing about eating bad sushi the night before. Deborah Cox has the soul fine  "Fine and Mellow," yet iot still sounds bland. Rickie Lee Jones infuses a bit of bohemia on "They Can't Take That Away From Me," but it seems out of context after a text from Ms Holiday's addictions.  Shelby Lynne's "You've Changed" is good, and I have finally heard Esperanza Spalding and she is fantastically breathy on "I'll Look Around," but these are small tinkles in a sea of duds. One is better served paying tribute to Billie Holiday by listening to "Lady In Satin," which in my opinion is the definitive Billie Holiday album.

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