Album no. 16/1001
This is Billie Holiday’s final album – and it is a wonderfully devastating listen.
After a run-in with the law, a stint in prison and a pretty debilitating addiction to heroin, poor mate Billie’s vocal chords were left a little worse for wear when compared to her earlier work in the 1930s. But even with her husky rasp, this album contains some of her best songs – and she even proclaimed it her favourite recording before she died only a year later.
Have you listened to this album before?
CL: I’ve been really looking forward to listening to this album – Billie Holiday was someone I’d always heard a lot about, and aside from the two tracks in Fallout (which I bloody loved), I hadn’t really ventured further.
NK: No. The only Billie Holiday song I remember is ‘Strange fruit’, which is a brutal song about lynchings. When I was in year 12 our drama class did a production of To Kill A Mockingbird, and at the interval we played ‘Strange Fruit’ and there was a slideshow of historic photos from of lynchings. Black and white, real photos, very full-on. I think we were up to the second-last dress rehearsal, everybody is very nervous and serious and getting ready to go. Anyway, we make it through the first half of the play ok, and get offstage for the interval. They press play, and the slideshow starts up exactly as planned, except that my friend Kel had swapped out ‘Strange Fruit’ for the Benny Hill theme. Incredible. If I was making a list of inappropriate things I have laughed the hardest at, that might not be number one, but it’s up there.
CL: ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ could easily be an old-school Bond song, like ‘Goldfinger’. Also important to recognise – Billie’s cover of ‘Glad to Be Unhappy’ is wonderful. It’s even better than Frankie’s original. Her version is even sadder than Frank’s – you can just hear the desperation in her voice. However, in terms of my favourite, it’s an incredibly tough call but I think ‘I’ll Be Around’ – it killed me.
NK: Her ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well’ is better than Frank’s as well! She’s good. My favourite was ‘Glad To Be Unhappy’, her singing over the strings is TERRIFIC.
When would be the best time to listen to this?
CL: Oh god, when you’re so incredibly sad. I was happy before I started listening to this, and by the end I felt a bit broken inside. But in a good way.
NK: When you’re walking home by yourself after a date that went ok but not as well as you’d hoped.
Why has this album been included on the list?
CL: I think this has to be one of the first real portrayals of raw despair captured on record. Particularly from a lady-singer. Our good friends at 1001 Albums pose the important question:
“Is Lady in Satin merely a voyeuristic portrait of an artist in decline or actually a seminal slice of soul baring from one of jazz’s most gifted interpreters of song?”
I think it’s both.
NK: Her vocals are pretty great. Like with In The Wee Small Hours the songs all have a heartbroken theme. This would be pretty devastating if you’re coming out of a break-up I reckon.
Will you be listening again?
CL: I really liked this album – it cut me deep, mate – so yeah, I’ll definitely be listening again.
NK: I sort of hope not. My break-up days are behind me, touch wood.
Out of context youtube comment