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Nina Simone: Nina Simone Sings the Blues

Jim Santella By

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She was known as the High Priestess of Soul for good reason. Nina Simone knew how to move you. Every time she sang the blues, you could feel it in your bones.

Recorded in 1966, this album consists of a reissued LP with two bonus tracks. There's an alternate take from the same session, and then there's "What Ever I Am (You Made Me), which was originally issued as a single in 1969. That one was done with a big studio band.

The blues from the original LP features Simone with organ, guitar, harmonica, bass, and drums. Her blues band is sufficiently small to allow her plenty of freedom. She covers the whole spectrum, from Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey to Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Koko Taylor.

Buddy Lucas picks up the tenor sax for "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl, where Simone takes it nice and slow. Together, she and the band assemble a tightly knitted message that convinces. Standards such as "Since I Fell for You and "My Man's Gone Now turn out equally valid. She's put a quality into the blues that makes it her own. Both tunes, while vastly different in scope, represent unique qualities that can only be identified with this singer.

This arrangement of "House of the Rising Sun drives fast and light with a snare drum shuffle that evokes our melting-pot cultural ties to old New Orleans. Simone is on fire. Most of the original LP features down-home blues with earthy textures. The band helped to deliver this sound authentically, but it's the singer who made it work so well. True blues requires that one feel it and then communicate it to an audience. Few could do that as well. Nina Simone brought us blues from the bottom of her heart.

Track Listing: Do I Move You?; Day and Night; In the Dark; Real Real; My Man

Personnel: Nina Simone: vocals, piano; Eric Gale, Everett Barksdale, Rudy Stevenson: guitar; Ernie Hayes, Weldon Irvine, Richard Tee: organ; Buddy Lucas: tenor saxophone, harmonica; Bob Bushnell, Jerry Jemmott: bass; Bernard Purdie: drums, tympani; Gordon Powell: vibraphone, percussion; Montego Joe, George Devens: percussion; Joe Shepley, Jimmy Nottingham, Harold Johnson, Wilbur Bascomb: trumpet; Jimmy Cleveland, Richard Harris: trombone; Seldon Powell, George Coleman, Norris Turney, Haywood Henry: saxophone; Ralph H. Fields, Eileen Gilbert, Jerome Graff, Milt Grayson, Hilda Harris, Noah Hopkins, Maeretha Stewart, Barbara Webb: background vocals.

Title: Nina Simone Sings the Blues | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: RCA Victor

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