There seems to be a rise in the number of artists that want to cover some of the best songs that were recorded originally by artists who are a major part of music history.
This time it is the turn of Rebecca Ferguson who for her latest album has recorded a collection of songs associated with Billie Holiday.
Starting with the classic ‘Get Happy’, Ferguson is able to put her own unique touch on to this classic song but still keeping the elegance and sophistication of the song intact, introducing the music to a new audience.
The way in which Ferguson is able to adapt her vocals to each song shows how greatly she understands the music and Holiday herself. Constantly there is a great depth of emotion and warmth that Holiday would be proud of, particularly on songs such as ‘Embraceable You’ and ‘Blue Moon’ where the wistful quality of her voice really comes through.
But Ferguson is able to show a more feisty and diva side on songs such as ‘Fine and Mellow’ and ‘Lady Sings the Blues’, on which she doesn’t hold anything back and shows a strength and confidence in her performance that really makes the listener sit up and pay attention.
For me what really makes the album stand out is the level of emotion and understanding for the music that comes through from all of the performances on the album, not only Ferguson herself but from the musicians giving her subtle support in the background.
This stripped back style is sophisticated and stylish, suiting Ferguson perfectly in the same way that (perhaps more surprisingly) it did for Lady Gaga on her collaboration with Tony Bennett.
Everything on this album works in perfect harmony with one another and is a lovely tribute to a singer whose personal life overtook her talents. But that is not to say that Ferguson doesn’t add something new and different to Holiday’s music, for by adapting it slightly in style it means that generations today will be able to appreciate it too.
Perhaps it would be going a bit too far to say that Billie Holiday would have approved of this album, but I can’t help but feeling that she would have been flattered by Ferguson’s obvious appreciation for her music and wanting to bring it to a new audience.
This is an album that proves that jazz is still very much alive and deserves to be appreciated by new and different audiences who wouldn’t normally give jazz a chance. It is a record that deserves to be a classic in its own right – no matter how many are sold.