Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Diana Ross: Lady Sings the Blues [Motown, 1972]
Billie Holiday is uncoverable, possibly the greatest singer of the century, yet the fact is that Ross's versions--which occupy only two sides of this soundtrack album--are intensely listenable. That's the word I want, because it doesn't fit Holiday, who either seizes your full attention or disturbs you in the background. While copying Holiday's phrasing and intonation, Ross smoothes them out, making the content easier to take without destroying it altogether. This may be a desecration and a deception, but it speaks to the condition of a ghetto child who's always had a talent for not suffering, for willing herself up and through. Not every singer turns into a junkie, after all. B+