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Remixed & Reimagined

Billie Holiday

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Album Review

The second in Columbia/Legacy's Remixed & Reimagined series, this time it's blues legend Billie Holiday who is reinvented for modern audiences. But how well does Lady Day translate to modern times and climes? Unlike Nina Simone, who opened the series, not so well.

Holiday oozed emotion, while the music had a rawness around the edges, far removed from the smoother, more "sophisticated" style that most white audiences of the day preferred. No wonder she sounds so "Glad to Be Unhappy" when she's virtually smothered in DJ Logic's overly lush remix. If that's an uncomfortable environment for Holiday, Daniel Y.'s and Sunday People's smooth and slick remixes are even more alien, while Charles Feelgood's intensive use of looped vocals is just disrespectful given Holiday's unsurpassed legacy. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and Holiday's '30s recordings, which comprise the bulk of this set, need no improvement. But too many of the remixers here chose to ignore the wonderful music that supported her, preferring to snip out Holiday's vocals and plunk them down into their own milieu. Another case in point: Tony Humphries "But Beautiful THP Remix"; it's a dancefloor killer, flowing from New Romantic style into disco, then on into more modern dance flavors. But what he does to Holiday's vocals should be criminal, as he transforms the legend into a hyped up disco queen. Jazzeem has a better idea, cutting and pasting old and new sounds and styles together, and making great use of smoky trumpet solos. Scott Schlachter also recognizes the importance of brass, and goes on to actually enhance the melancholy beauty of "Summertime" with haunting piano and organ. GXR's remix of "Long Gone Blues" is perhaps a tad too slick, but the duo still largely pull it off, wrapping Holiday in swirly synths and sumptuous Hammond organ. In contrast, Nickodemus and Zeb's stay true to the Lady herself, deftly giving further kick to a great swing number. Poppyseed captures her spirit on "He Ain't Got Rhythm," and transports it to the Caribbean, where Holiday feels right at home, these are two of the three most inspired remixes on the set.

Roland Richards, whose superb keyboard skills also ignited "Summertime," delivers up the other. He showcases Lady Day in all her glory, bringing in rapper Ladybug Mecca to pay tribute to her greatness on a real old-school hip-hop extravaganza. So quite a mixed bag this, evenly divided between the great and good, and the flotsam and jetsam. Lady Day had a rough ride through this life, and she suffers the same fate here; she deserves better. [Sony BMG issued a bonus track edition in 2007 as well.]

Biography

Born: April 07, 1915 in Baltimore, MD

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s

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. More than a half-century after her death, it's difficult to believe that prior to her emergence, jazz and pop singers were tied to the Tin Pan Alley tradition and rarely personalized their songs; only blues singers like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey actually gave the impression they had lived through what they were singing. Billie Holiday's...
Full bio