Top Artists – Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday – Songs for Distingue Lovers – Classic Records Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B?

Probably a fairly good Classic Records jazz album.

Back in the day we noted that: “This is one of the best Billie Holiday records around” and we provisionally stand by that statement.

By the way, we have never had a Hot Stamper pressing of the album on the site because we simply cannot find enough clean copies with which to do a shootout!

For thirty bucks the price of this Heavy Vinyl pressing has to be seen as a bargain. (more…)

Billie Holiday – The First Verve Sessions

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  • Excellent sound throughout with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • All four sides here are clear and full-bodied with wonderfully breathy vocals and the kind of vintage analog sound you won’t hear from any modern reissue or CD, that’s for sure
  • This double LP set captures some of Billie’s best music from the years 1952 to 1954 and features Oscar Peterson, Barney Kessel, Ray Brown, Flip Phillips, Freddie Green, Charlie Shavers and more

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Billie Holiday – Stormy Blues

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  • Outstanding throughout with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the other three sides
  • All four sides here have intimate, relaxed, breathy vocals – the only way to hear Lady Day in her prime sounding the way she should
  • This double LP set captures Billie from 1954-1955 and features Benny Carter, Jimmy Rowles, Tony Scott, Harry Edison, Chico Hamilton and other jazz greats
  • “The first popular jazz singer to move audiences with the intense, personal feeling of classic blues, Billie Holiday changed the art of American pop vocals forever.”

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Billie Holiday – Lady In Satin – Balancing the Vocal, Strings and Rhythm

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

The better copies reproduce clearly what to our minds are the three most important elements in the recording — strings, rhythm, and vocal — and, more importantly, the are reproduced properly balanced with one another. 

The monos, as you might expect, balance the three elements well enough, but the problem with mono is that the vocals and instruments are jammed together in the center of the soundfield, layered atop one another.

Real clarity, the kind that live music has in abundance, is difficult if not impossible under the circumstances. Only the stereo pressings provide the space that each of the elements need in order to be heard.

Naturally the vocals have to be the main focus on a Billie Holiday record. They should be rich and tubey, yet clear, breathy and transparent. To qualify as a Hot Stamper, the pressings we offer must be highly resolving. You will hear everything, surrounded by the natural space of the legendary Columbia 30th Street Studio in which the recording was made. 
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Billie Holiday – Music For Torching

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

You’d be hard pressed to find a female vocal album from the 1950s with sound comparable to this one. We just finished up a big shootout for the sublimely titled Music For Torching, and this was clearly one of the better pressings we played. If you love smoky jazz vocals the way only Lady Day can sing them, we think you’ll be absolutely blown away to hear her sound this warm, rich and present. 

The formula is simple: Take one of the best female vocalists in the game, back her with a stellar crew of jazzmen and set them loose to knock out incredible versions of classic torch songs — It Had To Be You, A Fine Romance, Come Rain Or Come Shine and so forth. The good news is that the performances turned out to be some of the best ever recorded by this extraordinary singer, and fortunately for us audiophiles, the mono sound turned out to be dramatically better than we would have expected from Norman Granz’s Verve label in 1955. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Billie Holiday

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Wow. Such crystalline clarity. Such range. It filled my room with champagne. Heretofore, only on 78s did [Billie Holiday’s] voice sound so authentic and dramatically expressive. Brilliant copy. Thank you

Phil R. (more…)

Billie Holiday – Music For Torching

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  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides, this is a killer copy of one of Billie’s best
  • Not only that, but this pressing plays as quietly as any we can find – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • A superb recording of jazz standards with a great lineup and Billie in top form, as well as Tubey Magical sound, with especially breathy vocals
  • Great versions (and lovely sound) for It Had to Be You, Come Rain or Come Shine, A Fine Romance, and too many more to list
  • “The overall feeling on this 1955 recording… is strictly after-hours: the party is long over but a few close friends remain for nightcaps and, is that the sun peeking through the windows?” — Allmusic

You’d be hard-pressed to find a female vocal album from the 1950s with sound comparable to this one. We just finished up a big shootout for the sublimely titled Music For Torching, and this lovely copy was clearly one of the better pressings we played. If you love smoky jazz standards the way only Lady Day can sing them, we think you’ll be blown away to hear her sound this warm, rich and present. (more…)

Billie Holiday’s Lady In Satin – Superb Columbia 30th Street Studio Sound

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  • Amazingly clear and Tubey magical Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Dramatically richer, fuller and more Tubey Magical than most other copies, with breathy vocals and rosiny, fairly smooth strings
  • I’m a Fool to Want You on this very copy may just send chills racing up and down your spine
  • 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic: “Lady Day herself said that this session was her personal favorite.”

On the better copies both the sound and music are absolutely breathtaking. 

What to Listen For (WTLF)

The better copies reproduce clearly what to our minds are the three most important elements in the recording — strings, rhythm, and vocal — and, more importantly, the are reproduced properly balanced with one another. (more…)

Billie Holiday – All Or Nothing At All

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I expected our amazing sounding original to win the shootout, but it didn’t!

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The reprocessed fake stereo copy here is to be avoided at all costs. It sounds as bad as any fake stereo record I can remember playing. What were they thinking?

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish, on quiet vinyl to boot 
  • This is one of the best sounding Billie Holiday records we have ever heard – it’s even a clear step up from the originals we had on hand
  • This 2 LP set features most of the tracks from the original release plus another handful of recordings from the same period (1955-1956)
  • “… features some of Billie Holiday’s top Verve performances from the mid-’50s… she runs the emotional gamut from summery optimism to pathos-rich musings. Befitting her perennial after-hours mood, the majority of songs here feature Holiday in a low-down mood of the highest order.” – All Music

Naturally, the highest quality vocal reproduction has to be the main focus on a Hot Stamper pressing for any Billie Holiday record we would offer. Her voice should be rich and tubey, yet clear, breathy and present.

In addition to being tonally correct and natural, the pressings we offer must also be highly resolving. With the right room and the right equipment, properly set-up and adjusted of course, you will hear everything that these vintage recordings have to offer, including the three-dimensional space of the studios in which the various sessions were recorded, under the auspices of Norman Granz.

The Sound of the Original

The original Trumpet Player Verve mono we had on hand to play suffered from an EQ problem we run into frequently in our shootouts for vintage vocal albums. Actually, to be clear, there were two main problems in the case of All or Nothing At All: a boosted midrange and occasional sibilance issues. (more…)