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Nina Simone: From Cathouse Blues to Mississippi Goddam

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Four fine albums, covering the mid 1960s through 1980, which hopefully will introduce a new generation to the high priestess of soul, Nina Simone, and the great dark beauty of her music. Simone's existing devotees won't need any prompting.



Nina Simone
The Soul Of Nina Simone
RCA/Legacy
2005



The Soul Of Nina Simone is drawn mostly from the mid to late 1960s, when Simone's emotionally charged performances were often a direct expression of her civil rights activism. Here her sandpaper contralto, with its depth-charge blues style, Simone-izes songs from sources as disparate as The Bee Gees, Bob Dylan, Burt Bacharach and Hoagy Carmichael. Hear too the unblinking directness with which Simone stirs and heats the sexual atmosphere on her 1967 performance of "In The Dark."

The film clips on the flip side of this CD add an evocative 1960s time capsule. Beginning with Simone's first hit and signature song, Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy," on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1960, through "House Of The Rising Sun at the legendary Bitter End in 1969, to four more songs from the Harlem Festival the same year, the clips bring the evolution of a turbulent era back to vivid life.

Nina Simone
A Very Rare Evening
PM
2005



A Very Rare Evening is a 1969 live performance, unreleased for almost a decade and then only briefly available. Pete Seeger's "Turn! Turn! Turn! receives a stately, hymn-like delivery. By contrast, "Ain't Got No Life," from the musical Hair, is a pull-the-stops out, raucous celebration. "Revolution," a Simone co-composition with keyboard player Weldon Irvine, Jr., is quintessentially her own. Singing about "the daily struggle to stay alive," she galvanizes her audience with a performance that is at once political, jubilant and musically jumping.

Nina Simone
Sings The Blues
RCA-Legacy
2005



A more playful side of Simone is heard here, as she sings about "when you like a fella on "Day And Night." Even "The House Of The Rising Sun," another signature tune which she usually delivered in mordantly hypnotic style, gets a rocking delivery. Simone's own "I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl is a cathouse blues in the classic Bessie Smith tradition: "I want some steam on my clothes / what's the matter daddy, come on save my soul / I ain't foolin'. Four decades on, sexual heat comes rolling off Simone's singing like it does from nobody else's.

Nina Simone
Let It Be Me
Just a Memory
2005

The most recent of these recordings, Let It Be Me, is from a 1980 Montreal concert. A mix of some of Simone's standard material and rarer songs, the set closes with her civil rights classic "Mississippi Goddam." It's a raging diatribe that insists "things done gradually will bring tragedy," and salutes great black leaders from Malcolm X to Sidney Bechet. But Simone's outcries are never just polemical. A musician who brilliantly blended jazz, folk and blues, her work—raw, harsh and luminous—reverberates with the depth of her humanity. Her recorded legacy remains as vibrant as ever today.


Tracks and Personnel

The Soul Of Nina Simone

Tracks: Feeling Good; In The Dark; Since I Fell For You; Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood; To Love Somebody; My Man's Gone Now; I Think It's Going To Rain Today; My Baby Just Cares For Me; I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl; Save Me; The Look of Love; I Get Along Without You Very Well; Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues; Nobody's Fault But Mine; Porgy and Bess Medley. DVD: The Ed Sullivan Show 1960 - Love Me Or Leave Me, I Loves You Porgy; Live From the Bitter End 1969 - House Of The Rising Sun, You'll Go To Hell; Harlem Festival 1969 - Revolution, Four Women, Ain't Got No - I Got Life, To Be Young Gifted and Black.

Personnel: Nina Simone: vocals & piano. Other musicians not identified.

A Very Rare Evening

Tracks: In The Morning; Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season); To Love Somebody; Ain't Got No Life; The Other Woman; I Think It's Gonna Rain Today; Save Me; Revolution.

Personnel: Nina Simone: vocals & piano. Other musicians not identified.

Sings The Blues

Tracks: Do I Move You?; Day and Night; In The Dark; Real Real; My Man's Gone Now; Backlash Blues; I Want A Little Sugar in My Bowl; Buck; Since I Fell For You; The House of the Rising Sun; Blues For Mama; Do I Move You? (second version); Whatever I Am (You Amaze Me).

Personnel: Nina Simone: vocals & piano. Other musicians not identified.

Let It Be Me

Tracks: Stars; That's All I Want From You; Ain't Got No, I Got Life; Be My Husband; See Line Woman; Let It Be Me; Mississippi Goddamn.

Personnel: Nina Simone: vocals & piano. Other musicians not identified.

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