Double LP compilation of Lady's golden years at "Columbia records" - roughly 1933-42, this is where her legend was cemented - released simultaneously with than new movie "Lady Sings the Blues". It might have been just a marketing ploy but in truth it served to remind listeners who real Lady was and how she sounded, as opposite to cinematic version of her life. Her records never really went out of print, however this time they sounded very clean and introduced completely new generation to her music.
"Columbia records" and John Hammond is where everything started (and ended, if you ask me). During this time girl was just one of the gang, her seductive, lazy vocals fitting perfectly with Jazz cats who played along, Teddy Wilson and Lester Young, it was all one-take, improvisation heaven. What you hear here, generously spread over two LP vinyl records is pure magic - "All of Me", "Georgia On My Mind", "I Cover the Waterfront", "Solitude", its all here. Remember, this was all before "Strange Fruit", drug scandals, prisons and everything that movie biopic focused on, this is why Billie was so important for, this is how she should be remembered. Sure, there is another, darker chapter for those who love darkness and tragedy, but I always go back to these first recordings because they glow and thrill even now.
I believe this was one of my early introductions to Lady. Naturally, a good decade later, from a public library. It beats muddy-sounded compilation I had and I also loved the arty cover that kind just suggested her face, more like a forgotten dream than reality, which fitted nicely with my romantic idea of singer who actually passed away decades ago. How was I to know this would be a lifelong love-affair, that I would go on collecting and listening her recordings for the rest of my life, always finding new favorites, always founding new details? I loved these early "Columbia" records so much that not only I collected all of them eventually (on CD in nine volumes) but never really bought into later period. For those who are curious, I can also recommend slightly earlier singer from previous generation, Mildred Bailey who in her way was predecessor to this floating, dreamy sound.