Local Wire

Billie Holiday

I can hear the ghost of Billie Holiday now: "What the hell is that, a programmed drum beat? Why is it burying my vocals? How could they turn all my winsome wails into sound bites and samples? This is NOT the blues!"

Perhaps the blues legend would be honored that Sony Legacy put out this CD of her songs, Remixed & Reimagined by knob-twisters like DJ Logic, Jazzem, and Charles Feelgood, had she lived to see the cultural context of her legacy today (tragic prostitute turned heroin-addicted blues singer who died prematurely from cirrhosis of the liver but has become the most lauded female blues singer of all time). The thing is, Holiday died in 1959, two decades before synthesizers and electronic programming started to take a dominant role in musical compositions. So, when "More Than You Know (Jazzem's Throwback Remix)" opens with Holiday's straight-up studio vocals (recorded in 1938) and then slides into an avalanche of horn samples and hip-hop beats that totally bury Holiday's voice, it sounds utterly wrong, especially when Jazzem starts slicing and dicing Holiday's vocal track near the end of the song.

The overarching cut 'n' paste effect of merging two distinctly different musical styles, recorded almost 40 years apart, leaves the listener with the impression that everybody in the studio just let the Holiday tracks roll as some peripheral noise while they got overly excited at the mixing boards in endless "Look at me!" moments. From "Billie's Blues" to "All of Me," it's a standards slaughter all the way around. Thank God they left "Strange Fruit" alone.

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea