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Monday, February 20, 2012

Billie Holiday: All Or Nothing At All


1) Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me; 2) Cheek To Cheek; 3) Ill Wind; 4) Speak Low; 5) We'll Be Together Again; 6) All Or Nothing At All; 7) Sophisticated Lady; 8) April In Paris; 9) I Wished On The Moon; 10) But Not For Me; 11) Say It Isn't So; 12) Our Love Is Here To Stay.

Last of the three albums from the January 1957 sessions, and, consequently, Billie's last album for Verve. Once again, a mixed bag here, combining songs that were almost tailor-made for the lady; songs which she is able to permanently mark with her seal of approval; and a few annoying missteps that should have never been tried at all — yes, I am talking about ʽCheek To Cheekʼ, a song that was genuinely corny from the beginning even for Irving Berlin's standards, and one that could not ever be successfully «holidayed» even with a change in tonality. For that matter, ʽI Wished On The Moonʼ, reprised here from its original 1935 incarnation, also sounds like a bit of sorry nostalgia — at this point in her career, conveying pure, naïve joy was an impossibility.

Conversely, the highlights would probably include Duke Ellington's ʽDo Nothing Till You Hear From Meʼ — slow, lazy, subversive, and with just a tiny pinch of sarcasm in the "...and you never will" resolution of each chorus; Harold Arlen's ʽIll Windʼ, with a mini-epic bluesy arrangement and excellent guitar-vocal dueting between Billie and Barney Kessel; and the cute rumba-jazz of ʽSpeak Lowʼ, which, if I am not mistaken, must be the only time Billie ever took on Kurt Weill in her entire career. I wish I could say the same about the title track (e. g. about how Billie destroys Sinatra's version or something like that), but it sounds fairly hookless to me.

With Ellington, Weill, and the «early blue-eyed soul» representative Frankie Laine (ʽWe'll Be Together Againʼ) sharing the same album with the obligatory G.A.S. representatives, All Or No­thing At All is, technically, one of Billie's most «diverse» LPs; but, of course, all of the songs are processed more or less in the same way, reducing surprise effects and novelty factors. Still, bar­ring ʽCheek To Cheekʼ which, for me, is one of the few true moments of displeasure in Billie's late career period, it proves that the 1957 sessions, as always, were consistent throughout, and I would give all three albums one collective thumbs up — put all the songs together, fish out the «too happy» ones, and Billie's going out of Verve with plenty of verve.

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