I was born 21st February 1959, and lived in Adelaide until I was 18 months. I like to imagine my father listening to this. I have no memories of this time. I imagine that Adelaide in the late 50’s was a small city, everything in sepia or grey, every politician a different shade of John Howard.
Ok, cheating a bit here. This first album was recorded and released before I was born, but I’d like to think that this was around while I was being made. It is very cool to have been alive at the same time as Billy Holiday. This was recorded exactly one year before I was born (Recorded in New York – Feb 19th to 21st 1958). Billie was drinking vodka neat during the recordings. She was 43 years old.
She died from the effects of excess on June the 17, 1959, with police guarding her hospital room. She was under arrest for drug possession. She had 70 cents in the bank – I was four months old.
In 1878, German chemist Constantin Fahlberg was working on derivatives of coal tar, and produced a chemical that did not become widely used until the sugar shortages of WWI. Saccharin became increasingly popular during the dieting fads of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Saccharin also describes the music behind this album. The arrangements drown the voice of this dying woman. It sounds like the orchestra was arranged by William Shatner, lots of strings, underlining every phrase.
Once you get past the arrangements there are the remains of Billie Holidays voice. On the first track her voice breaks on almost every line. The standout tracks are that first track -the heartbreaking ‘I’m a fool to want you’ and ‘For all we know’, which is almost happy.
This isn’t a great album to start the reviews, but a great artist. With the death of Billie Holiday the era of jazz was beginning to end.