Vinyl Vlog 072

Vinyl Vlog 072

Friday, 17 April 2015
Vinyl Vlog

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into Cassandra Wilson/Billy Holiday’s Record Store Day-issued split single “You Go To My Head” b/w “The Mood That I’m In.”

I love the concept of “versus” releases. You know the ones, reader: the releases which pit two artists against each other under fairly limited conditions – be it to reinterpret the opposing artist’s songbook, or simply to compete and see who can make a better, more lasting impression on listeners in a limited amount of time – just to see who comes out on top from a performance standpoint. Usually (at least at the Ground Control compound), the most common types of “versus” outings tend to be those of the punk rock persuasion, which makes this Record Store Day release a rare treat; this time we get the classic, timeless singer of singers. Billie Holiday (who is about to celebrate what would have ben her hundredth birthday this year) against the comparative upstart Cassandra Wilson – a more “jazz-influenced” singer by training.

Now, of course Holiday stands tall in this endeavor (it’s pretty much impossible to topple Lady Day) but, to her credit, Wilson makes a great showing on her side of this ten-inch. Her arrangement of “You Go To My Head” is very modern and metropolitan as tidy strings add flavor to the track and the smoothly brushed drums give the song some romance. Those parts alone will make some listeners sigh warmly and comfortably, but Wilson’s rich sigh of a voice can easily hold listeners of the right mind entranced; it is recorded so delicately and closely here that it almost seems possible to hear the singer’s tongue gently lick past her teeth as she sings, and it’s hard not to want to have been in the room when it was recorded. There is magic in this recording and one can only assume that it was more potent in the moment the tape rolled.

While a greater number of strings and a longer performance by them threateans to diminish the spell cast by “You Go To My Head,” Wilson’s breathtaking vocal performance redeems “The Mood That I’m In” handily. Here, the singer’s breathless performance style shines brightly as she weaves around the song’s string section, and listeners will learn that, while Wilson could easily overpower the strings in the song, a greater test of ability and talent is to work with them, play off them and otherwise endeavor to better enrich the song – rather than trying to outshine Lady Day.

That said, in the end, this split single takes a different approach to the medium from most others: rather than gunning to come out on top and attempt to overshadow Billie Holiday (which would lead to heartbreak), Cassandra Wilson seeks to simply support and enrich Lady Day’s performances (which appear on the record’s flipside) and make a more interesting experience for listeners. That kind of maturity is rare, and it makes this record something to watch for. If you see a copy on Record Store Day reader, you’d be well-advised to check it out.


The Cassandra Wilson/Billie Holiday “You Go To My Head” b/w “The Mood That I’m In” 10” split single will be released on Record Store Day, April 18, 2015. Click here for a list of participating stores.

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