Album Reviews

Billie Holiday

The Centennial Collection

Artist:     Billie Holiday

Album:     The Centennial Collection

Label:     Columbia Records

Release Date:     03/31/2015


How could a collection of Billie Holiday’s most memorable performances be anything short of incredible? In honor of what would have been her 100th birthday, Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings released The Centennial Collection, a compilation of Holiday’s classics, and each track is greater than the last.

The album features some of Holiday’s signature songs, including “Summertime,” “God Bless the Child” and “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” which is the first song on the album. Nostalgia sweeps in as it opens; the faint whirring of a vinyl spinning in a record player is the first audible sound. Then, Holiday’s voice alone transports listeners back to a decade of soulful blues and spirited jazz.

In timeless Holiday fashion, each verse is packed with emotion and, in several of the tracks, she sings just a few moments behind tempo. She’s always left her listeners hanging on her every word, and it’s still effective, even in recording. Vibrant brass, delicate strings and bouncing piano accompaniment match her tone on every track.

Holiday pours her heart out in “Strange Fruit” (which is arguably Holiday’s best) and with ominous instrumental throughout, it’s a highlight in this collection. But whether she’s pleading for her audience to take all of her or explaining what happens when a woman loves a man, there isn’t one bad note within Holiday’s entire Centennial Collection.

-Rachel Weiss

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