BILLIE HOLIDAY: VELVET MOOD (1956)
1) Prelude To A Kiss; 2) When Your Lover Has Gone; 3) Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone; 4) Nice Work If You Can Get It; 5) I Got A Right To Sing The Blues; 6) What's New?; 7) I Hadn't Anyone Till You; 8) Everything I Have Is Yours.
Not a lot to say here, since, apparently, all of the songs date from the same session as Music For Torching — same players, same type of repertoire, same level of inspiration. So much the same that, apparently, the album has not been re-released since its original market venture, even if, all things considered, it could have constituted a tremendously strong double-LP package on one CD. But, in any case, all of the tracks are out there on Complete Verve.
Re-recordings here include 'Nice Work If You Can Get It' — another of the lady's old Columbia upbeat rocking horses, and, consequently, another odd choice on an album dominated by smoky melancholy blues; 'Everything I Have Is Yours', which she'd already cut for Verve two years ago, but essays here once again in a slightly higher register; and the Commodore years classic 'I Got A Right To Sing The Blues', taken here at a slower pace, ornated with a pompous trumpet backing and featuring a long guitar solo from Barney Kessel — in other words, treated as «blues-de-luxe» rather than a brief aggressive outburst. Not very convincing, but passable.
Although, as usual, the record is very even, and its predictability is only disrupted in the subtlest of ways (e. g. Jimmy Rowles playing celeste on 'I Hadn't Anyone Till You'), my own tastes choose the 1931 standart 'When Your Lover Has Gone' as the outstanding highlight (a choice in which, surprisingly, I happen to coincide with the late James Dean, who declared it his favorite song). There is just something utterly mysterious about her phrasing on the title line — Billie may not be the master of complex technique, but she is the master of tone and pitch. The 4:32-4:58 segment of the song is, like, the ultimate benchmark in high quality choice of wavelength, if you know what I mean. More thumbs coming up.