Two albums to listen to: a pair of unforgettable female vocalists

Chris Duncan

Lady in Satin – Billie Holiday

  • Although Billie Holiday lacked the vocal range and musical education to ease her way into jazz, she managed to kick off her career solely with her impeccable vocal delivery and improv jazz talents.

Right before her untimely death in 1959, Holiday released what is easily her best album — her 1958 hit, Lady in Satin. If there was ever an album for feeling lonely or incomplete, this is it. Even the album’s liner notes warn this record isn’t an easy listen, but it’s certainly worth the effort.

Nearing the end of her life, Holiday’s vocals are strained, juxtaposed with the orchestral scores behind her. Through each song, her emotions become tangible, and although some moments may seem corny, Billie Holiday broke ground by becoming a voice for disparaged women.

Tracks to listen to: “I’m a Fool to Want You,” “For Heaven’s Sake,” “For All We Know”

Pearl – Janis Joplin

Known for her raspy and bluesy voice, former Austin native Janis Joplin has her own unique place amongst vocalists as someone who went against the grain, focusing solely on her music rather than image and success.

Giving her all in almost every song, Joplin strains her voice to bring her vocals to the forefront of every track. After one listen, it’s easy to ignore the album’s instrumentation altogether and solely listen to Joplin’s voice — it’s that intoxicating.

Pearl is easily Joplin’s most consistent release, but it’s also her most on-edge. “Buried Alive in the Blues” doesn’t feature any vocals — she was scheduled to contribute them at the end of the album’s recording sessions but died from an overdose a day earlier at the age of 27. To this day, fans are still left wondering what else Joplin could have accomplished. With her immense talent, anything could have been possible.

Tracks to listen to: “Cry Baby,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Mercedes Benz”