PopMatters Editor & Publisher
Yes, these are the original divas, not of the recent Mariah Carey/Celine Dion variety. Ultimate Divas collects three 1997 releases of each artist. For each of these discs a celebrity artist has selected the tracks and provided the liner notes.
Legendary big-band singer Joe Williams, well known for his swinging work with Count Basie, takes the helm on the Ella Fitzgerald collection. For the “First Lady of Song,” Williams has chosen a good selection of songs that provides an excellent single disc overview of Fitzgerald’s work during the Verve years.
Shirley Horn’s choices of Billie Holiday, a singer whose phrasing greatly influenced Frank Sinatra, include the essentials “God Bless The Child,” “Lady Sings The Blues,” and “Body And Soul.”
Steering clear of the standards, Dianne Reeves selects lesser-known material from the gifted singer and pianist Nina Simone.
Better collections for each of these artists is available elsewhere—though that would involve investing in much larger box sets and you would not necessarily enjoy the work of these three divas together.