Although Nina Simone’s album from the Legacy mixing table may have received some accolades, the label’s recent contribution in the name of Lady Day is disappointing and half-baked. Holiday’s jazzy croon set against this funky electronic landscape is scattered and disarranged. Obscure singles — nary her claim-to-fame standards like “Strange Fruit” and “Stars Fell on Alabama — are the order of the day here, often relinquishing her smoky vocal style to the backseat of a jazz-funk agenda.
Noticeably absent this time around is production team Coldcut, whose seamless, slick renderings might have lent a little structure to this otherwise aimless offering. Swingsett & Takuya’s remix of “I Hear Music” and Tony Humphries interpretation of “But Beautiful” downplay Holiday’s sultry styling with overbearing layers of looped trumpets and house beats. Even Organica’s “Summertime” fashions her powerful voice into a ghostly whisper fighting to be heard over waves of tinkling ivories, down-tempo beats, and the original studio recording.
It’s when you hear Madison Park’s “I’m Gonna Lock My Heart (And Throw Away the Key)” that you realize you’d rather just sing along with the original than try to keep up with these nonessential interpretations. In my mind, there’s nothing about Billie Holiday that needs to be reimagined. Messing with her voice and mixing up her style just makes everything more complicated.