The "official" amazon.com review above says that these recordings wrre made "mostly" in 1939, which is misleading; four of the tunes, among them "Strange Fruit," were recorded then, but the other twelve are from 1944. The reviewer also says that the recordings contain no traces of her later "deterioration," but I hear considerably more raggedness here than on the earlier Columbia recordings. This isn't a criticism; these sides, I think, strike just the proper blanace between the chipper just-one-of-the guys vibe of the Columbias and the sometimes oppressively tragic atmosphere of the later Verve albums.
These are small-group recordings, but the accompaniments are more low-key than on the Columbias and the instrumentalists get much less solo space. So there is nothing here akin to Holiday's relationship with Lester Young on those earlier recordings. On the other hand, the material on the Commodores is superior; she recorded only the finest standards and blues, as opposed to the hokum she was regularly forced to deal with for Columbia. As for highlights, "Strange Fruit" is a remarkable historical document, more effective as moving propaganda than as a popular song. "I Cover the Waterfront" is one of the best versions of a classic tune, and her version of "How Am I To Know?" is especially striking, as she begins her vocal with a dramatically isolated "Oh!" before beginning her mournful reading of the lyric.