The Soul of Nina Simone

Jim Santella By

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Nina Simone
The Soul of Nina Simone (DualDisc)
Legacy Recordings

Nina Simone touched a lot of people during her career. She left us a positive message about courage and about aiming high. This DualDisc honors the legacy that she left behind.

The 30-minute video portion features rare footage that highlights the earlier parts of her career. Simone was a vibrant singer who communicated with her audience easily. She performed with powerful emotion and drove her message home. Seeing her in action gives these songs special meaning, and her expression could make a believer out of the most distant individual. Watching her with an audience, you begin to feel what was inside her soul.

The 60-minute audio portion features Simone in some of her best performances. She works with an orchestra, alone, or with a hand-picked ensemble. It's a vocal compilation, and the blues is her focus. On "Since I Fell for You," she shares the mood with Buddy Lucas on blues harp and a stellar band that includes Eric Gale on guitar. On "My Man's Gone Now," they again surround her with deeply felt waves of emotion. For "I Want a Little Sugar in my Bowl," they assist her in sharing the joy that has been handed down from more than a century of blues generations.

Alone at the piano, she interprets three selections, including Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today," which has always given us special meaning. The spirit of her performance cannot help but affect us all.

Aretha Franklin's "Save Me" lets Simone rock with the familiar passion that introduced her to millions of popular music fans. Gale's electric guitar opens the door for wider understanding. Her smooth and mellow interpretation of "The Look of Love," from 1967, sits well with the general listener, while Bob Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," from a 1969 recording, aims toward a specific audience.

The album closes with a lovely "Porgy and Bess Medley," which bares the soul of Nina Simone's performance spirit completely. She gives these selections her all, and we're the benefactors. The combination of "best of" audio and rare video makes The Soul of Nina Simone a comfortable fit for all musical tastes.

Tracks: Audio Side: 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 With You Very Well (Except Sometimes); Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues; Nobody's Fault But Mine; Porgy and Bess Medley.
Video Side: Ed Sullivan Show, 1960: Love Me or Leave Me; I Loves You Porgy; Live from the Bitter End, 1968: House of the Rising Sun; (You'll) Go to Hell; Revolution; Harlem Festival, 1969: Four Women; Ain't Got No, I Got Life; To Be Young, Gifted and Black.

Personnel: Nina Simone: piano, vocal; Eric Gale, Rudy Stevenson, Everett Barksdale, Al Shackman, Stuart Scharf, Phil Orlando, Tommy Smith: guitar; Arthur Adams: guitar, bass; Buddy Lucas: harmonica; Richard Tee: keyboards; Weldon Irvine: keyboards, organ; Ernie Hayes: piano, harpsichord, organ; Samuel Waymon: organ; Bob Bushnell, Clint Houston, Eugene Taylor, Gerald Jemmott, Lisle Atkinson, Chuck Rainey, Gene Perla: bass; Don Alias, Bernard Purdie, Montego Joe, Cornell McFadden: drums; Jumma Santos: congas; Doris Willingham, Virdia Crawford: background vocals; orchestra conducted by Hal Mooney; others.

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