Had Nina Simone not gotten so fed up with the music industry and been so disgusted by racism in America that she left for Barbados, Liberia, the Netherlands and France, we may never have had the incredible songs that pulse and hark and lament through two landmark albums, Fodder on My Wings and Baltimore. However, destiny had its way and over two decades later these same impassioned tracks, remixed and remastered, are newly available and better than ever.
Fodder on My Wings
Recorded in Paris in 1982, Fodder on My Wings has been remixed for digital audio by Claude Ermelin and released for the first time in the US. With Sydney Thiam (congas, bells and woodblock), Paco Sery (percussion and tympani) and Sylvain Marc (electric bass), the new version contains three tracks not included on the original: the jaunty "Liberian Calypso, an account of Simone's time in the African country founded by former American slaves; "La Peuple En Suisse, a reverent homage to Switzerland; and "I Sing Just To Know That I'm Alive, a testament to Simone's beautiful vivacity as she bids adieu to 1981 with a wild, growling voice.
Extraordinary ranges of emotion are presented on this album as Simone alternately plunges and soars through the textures of life. The title track howls with a sad yearning for contentment and a melancholic awareness of reality, while "Heaven Belongs To You translates that into a global love song inspired by African spirituals, mixing French and English lyrics.
Communicating beyond words, Simone's repetitious lyrics on "Vous Etes Seuls, Mais Je Desire Etre Avec Vous grind into the brain, into the veins, mingling with the heartbeat and the breath. The festive, African spirit, combined with the aggressive relentlessness of the vocals, creates a twisted sarcasm.
With plain speech and plaintive delivery, Simone's song about her father, "Alone Again Naturally, is shattering in a sweet, childlike way. Simone accompanies herself on the piano, playing sparse chords between the sharply rhyming phrases and splattering an Asian theme throughout before the bridge, harrowing with its contrasting passion.
Four years earlier, at the height of disco fever, Simone released Baltimore. Recently reissued as part of the label's Master Series, the album conjures images of steamy city nights, rebellious, independent kids, and Paris.
Tempering deep nostalgia with flirty, low-key funk, Simone's band maintains a bell-bottom beat with Eric Gale and Jerry Friedman's wah-wah guitar effects on "The Family and "Rich Girl, while an eighteen-piece string section creates a gushingly sentimental foundation for Simone's poignant vocals on "My Father. Every word Simone sings sounds autobiographical, though many of the tracks were written by hit-makers of the day like Randy Newman, Judy Collins, and Daryl Hall. Her voice sounds exceptionally seasoned, throbbing with wisdom, resounding with smooth luster, as if she really had been through it all.
Tracks and Personnel
Fodder on my Wings
Tracks: I Sing Just to Know That I'm Alive; Fodder in Her Wings; Vous ÃŠtes Seuls, Mais Je Désire ÃŠtre Avec Vous; Il y a un Baume a Gilhead; Liberian Calypso; Alone Again Naturally; I Was Just a Stupid Dog to Them; Color Is a Beautiful Thing; Le Peuple en Suisse; Heaven Belongs to You; Thandewye; Stop Simone; They Took My Hand.
Personnel: Sylvain Marc: electric bass, vocals; Paco Sery: percussion, tympani; Nina Simone: piano, tambourine, vocals; Sydney Thiam: conga, bells, wood block.
Tracks: Baltimore; Everything Must Change; The Family; My Father; Music for Lovers; Rich Girl; That's All I Want (From You); Forget; Balm in Gilead; If You Pray Right (Heaven Belongs to You).
Personnel: Jonathan Abramowitz: cello; Lamar Alsop: viola; Joshie Armstead: vocals; John Beal: bass; Alfred Brown: viola; Max Ellen: violin; Barry Finclair: violin; Babi Floyd: vocals; Frank Floyd: vocals; Jerry Friedman: guitar; Harry Glickman: violin; Milt Grayson: vocals; Chuck Israels: bass; Gary King: bass; Will Lee: bass; Charles Libove: violin; Harry Lookofsky: violin; James Madison: drums; Nicky Marrero: percussion; David Matthews: piano; Charles McCracken: cello; Deborah McDuffie: vocals; Homer Mensch: bass; Marvin Morgenstern: violin; David Nadien: violin; Andy Newmark: drums; Albertine Robinson: vocals; Al Schackman: piano, tambourine; Alan Shulman: cello; Nina Simone: keyboards, vocals; Ray Simpson: vocals; Herbert Sorkin: violin; Richard Sortomme: violin; Maretha Stewart: vocals; Emanuel Vardi: viola.