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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1967 | Philips

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Perhaps a bit more conscious of contemporary soul trends than her previous Philips albums, this is still very characteristic of her mid-'60s work in its eclectic mix of jazz, pop, soul, and some blues and gospel. Hal Mooney directs some large band arrangements for the material on this LP without submerging Simone's essential strengths. The more serious and introspective material is more memorable than the good-natured pop selections here. The highlights are her energetic vocal rendition of the Oscar Brown/Nat Adderley composition "Work Song" and her spiritual composition "Come Ye," on which Simone's inspirational vocals are backed by nothing other than minimal percussion. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released August 27, 2013 | Bethlehem Records

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Little Girl Blue, released in 1957, was Nina Simone's first recording, originally issued on the Bethlehem label. Backed by bassist Jimmy Bond and Albert "Tootie" Heath, it showcases her ballad voice as one of mystery and sensuality and showcases her uptempo jazz style with authority and an enigmatic down-home feel that is nonetheless elegant. The album also introduced a fine jazz pianist. Simone was a solid improviser who never strayed far from the blues. Check the opener, her reading of Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo," which finger-pops and swings while keeping the phrasing deep-blue. It is contrasted immediately with one of the -- if not the -- definitive reads of Willard Robison's steamy leave-your-lover ballad "Don't Smoke in Bed." The title track, written by Rodgers & Hart, features "Good King Wenceslas" as a classical prelude to one of the most beautiful pop ballads ever written. It is followed immediately by the funky swing in "Love Me or Leave Me" with a smoking little piano solo in the bridge where Bach meets Horace Silver and Bobby Timmons. It's also interesting to note that while this was her first recording, the record's grooves evidence an artist who arrives fully formed; many of the traits Simone displayed throughout her career as not only a vocalist and pianist but as an arranger are put on first notice here. "My Baby Just Cares for Me" has a stride shuffle that is extrapolated on in the piano break. Her instrumental and improvising skills are put to good use on Tadd Dameron's "Good Bait," which is transformed into something classical from its original bebop intent. "You'll Never Walk Alone" feels more like some regal gospel song than the Rodgers & Hammerstein show tune it was. Of course, one of Simone's signature tunes was her version of "I Loves You, Porgy," which appears here for the first time and was released as a single. Her own "Central Park Blues" is one of the finest jazz tunes here, and it is followed with yet another side of Simone's diversity in her beautiful take on the folk-gospel tune "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," with quiet and determined dignity and drama. Another of her instrumentals compositions, "African Mailman," struts proud with deep Afro-Caribbean roots and rhythms. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 17, 2006 | RCA - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Nina Simone Sings the Blues, issued in 1967, was her RCA label debut, and was a brave departure from the material she had been recording for Phillips. Indeed, her final album for that label, High Priestess of Soul, featured the singer, pianist, and songwriter fronting a virtual orchestra. Here, Simone is backed by a pair of guitarists (Eric Gale and Rudy Stevenson), bassist (Bob Bushnell), drummer (Bernard "Pretty" Purdie), organist (Ernie Hayes), and harmonica player who doubled on saxophone (Buddy Lucas). Simone handled the piano chores. The song selection is key here. Because for all intents and purposes this is perhaps the rawest record Simone ever cut. It opens with the sultry, nocturnal, slow-burning original "Do I Move You," which doesn't beg the question but demands an answer: "Do I move you?/Are you willin'?/Do I groove you?/Is it thrillin'?/Do I soothe you?/Tell the truth now?/Do I move you?/Are you loose now?/The answer better be yeah...It pleases me...." As the guitarists slip and slide around her husky vocal, a harmonica wails in the space between, and Simone's piano is the authority, hard and purposely slow. The other tune in that vein, "In the Dark," is equally tense and unnerving; the band sounds as if it's literally sitting around as she plays and sings. There are a number of Simone signature tunes on this set, including "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl," "Backlash Blues," and her singular, hallmark, definitive reading of "My Man's Gone Now" from Porgy and Bess. Other notable tracks are the raucous, sexual roadhouse blues of "Buck," written by Simone's then husband Andy Stroud, and the woolly gospel blues of "Real Real," with the Hammond B-3 soaring around her vocal. The cover of Buddy Johnson's "Since I Fell for You" literally drips with ache and want. Simone also reprised her earlier performance of "House of the Rising Sun" (released on a 1962 Colpix live platter called At the Village Gate). It has more authority in this setting as a barrelhouse blues; it's fast, loud, proud, and wailing with harmonica and B-3 leading the charge. The original set closes with the slow yet sassy "Blues for Mama," ending with the same sexy strut the album began with, giving it the feel of a Möbius strip. Nina Simone Sings the Blues is a hallmark recording that endures; it deserves to be called a classic. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released September 4, 2009 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
One of Nina Simone's finest recordings, this Colpix LP features the unique singer/pianist performing classic versions of "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair," "The Other Woman," and "Wild Is the Wind." With supportive work from bassist Jimmy Bond and drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath, she also sounds fine on a few instrumentals. "Summertime" is performed twice, once as a vocal. From the start of her career, Nina Simone carved out her own unique niche, meshing together her classical piano technique with folk singing, civil rights protest lyrics and jazz. All of those elements are in evidence on this highly recommended set. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1965 | Philips

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One of her most pop-oriented albums, but also one of her best and most consistent. Most of the songs feature dramatic, swinging large-band orchestration, with the accent on the brass and strings. Simone didn't write any of the material, turning to popular European songsmiths Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel, and Anthony Newley, as well as her husband, Andy Stroud, and her guitarist, Rudy Stevenson, for bluesier fare. There are really fine tunes and interpretations, on which Simone gives an edge to the potentially fey pop songs, taking a sudden (but not uncharacteristic) break for a straight jazz instrumental with "Blues on Purpose." The title track, a jazzy string ballad version of the Screamin' Jay Hawkins classic, gave the Beatles the inspiration for the phrasing on the bridge of "Michelle." © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Jazz - Released October 9, 2020 | RCA - Legacy

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Vocal Jazz - Released January 5, 2013 | BDMUSIC

Booklet
An exception. A rebel. In short, a jazz singer light years away from the clichés of the jazz world. Nina Simone's art was, above all, an outcry; a glimmer of hope in an America plagued by segregation. Yumiko Hioki's superb comic strip perfectly captures the uniqueness of this great voice (and pianist). Unrivaled charisma is at the heart of the recordings that make up this exciting volume of the BD Music collection. The gems we're treated to here were recorded between 1957 and 1962, mainly for the Colpix label, a period during which Simone began to find a certain artistic freedom that matched her untameable personality. This freedom is most evident on her reinterpretations of blues, jazz and folk standards where she was already singing in a way different to everyone else; the Nina Simone way! © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Soul - Released June 25, 2021 | BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd

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Both jazz and classical music are often better on stage than in the studio, and Nina Simone bridged the gap between both of these art forms. One of Nina Simone's best albums, It Is Finished, is a live recording. And Montreux, here, a compilation of her previously-unpublished performances at the famous jazz festival, ranks alongside that earlier work in terms of quality. In it we hear segments from five concerts given on the shores of Lake Geneva, in 1968, 1976, 1981, 1987 and 1990, all of which enjoy excellent sound quality. 1968 saw the second outing of the festival and the beginning of a long relationship between Nina Simone and Montreux. This concert was previously only available on rare and expensive pressings, and this release allows us to hear Simone's great works from those days (from I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free to Backlash Blues or See-Line Woman plus her cover of Ne me quitte pas) performed in a workmanlike but relaxed style. It was later, and most notably in 1976, that her music reached extremes, moving between a fresh breeze and a cathartic rampage. High priestess of soul, Nina Simone became a shaman, an enchantress who did what she wanted with music and audiences. From intimate ballads to trancelike Afro-Jazz, Simone reigns supreme, totally in command of her material. The tracks from 1990 show an artist tested by life's trials, with quite a different voice. She had lost confidence and power, but this fragility made her even more affecting. © Stéphane Deschamps / Qobuz
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Jazz - Released June 13, 2000 | Verve Reissues

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Verve's Finest Hour collection of Nina Simone's work compiles 60 minutes of career highlights, including "Wild Is the Wind," "I Put a Spell on You," "Four Women," "I Loves You, Porgy," and "My Baby Just Cares for Me." Though it's by no means a definitive compilation of Simone's music, it does provide a welcome overview of her Verve years. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Jazz - Released June 19, 2015 | RCA - Legacy

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Soul - Released February 19, 2021 | Rhino

Like the 1963 LP Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall, Folksy Nina was also recorded there on May 12, 1963, but duplicates little of the material found on that prior album. It isn't just unworthy leftovers, but a strong set in its own right, concentrating on material that could be seen as traditional or folk in orientation. It's not exactly strictly folk music, in repertoire or arrangement (which includes piano, guitar, bass, and drums, though not every tune has all of the instruments); "Twelfth of Never" (which had also appeared on the Carnegie Hall LP) certainly isn't folk music. However, there was also an uptempo piano blues, Lead Belly's "Silver City Bound," covers of the Israeli "Erets Zavat Chalav" and "Vanetihu" (which served as further proof that Simone's eclecticism knew no bounds), and the stark, moody, spiritually shaded ballads at which she excelled ("When I Was a Young Girl," "Hush Little Baby"). "Lass of the Low Country" is as exquisitely sad and beautiful as it gets. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Soul - Released May 19, 2003 | RCA Camden

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Jazz - Released April 24, 2012 | RCA - Legacy

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1965 | Verve Reissues

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If this is blues, it's blues in the Billie Holiday sense, not the Muddy Waters one. This is one of Nina Simone's more subdued mid-'60s LPs, putting the emphasis on her piano rather than band arrangements. It's rather slanted toward torch-blues ballads like "Strange Fruit," "Trouble in Mind," Billie Holiday's own composition "Tell Me More and More and Then Some," and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out." Simone's then-husband, Andy Stroud, wrote "Be My Husband," an effective adaptation of a traditional blues chant. By far the most impressive track is her frantic ten-minute rendition of the traditional "Sinnerman," an explosive tour de force that dwarfs everything else on the album. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released July 18, 1995 | Epic - Associated - Legacy

After an uncharacteristic (for her) four-year hiatus from recording, Nina Simone returned to the fringes of the pop world with Baltimore, the only album she recorded for the CTI label. While it bears some of the musical stylings of the period -- light reggae inflections that hint of Steely Dan's "Haitian Divorce" -- the vocals are unmistakably Simone's. Like many of her albums, the content is wildly uneven; Simone simply covers too much ground and there's too little attention paid to how songs flow together. As a result, a robust torch piano ballad like "Music for Lovers" is followed immediately by one of Simone's more awkward moments, an attempt to keep up with a jaunty rhythm track on a cover of Hall & Oates' "Rich Girl." Still, one must give her credit for always being provocative in her cover song choices, as she clearly scores on the Randy Newman-penned title track and a dramatic reading of Judy Collins' "My Father." Her voice throughout is in fine form, even when she phones it in on the album-closing traditional gospel tunes, but arranger David Matthews is a mismatch for her: He blows the arrangements with excessive string overlays and needlessly blaring background vocals. Simone herself all but disavowed the album shortly after its release, testament to her eternally contrarian, iconic nature. Despite her misgivings, though, Baltimore is an occasionally spellbinding if erratic album, a challenging and worthwhile listen for people ready to dip into the lesser-known entries in Nina Simone's vast catalog. © Joseph McCombs /TiVo
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Jazz - Released July 11, 1994 | Verve Reissues

A fiery interpreter of the usually staid American songbook, Nina Simone took a song and made it her own -- whether it was Gershwin's "I Loves You, Porgy" or Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit." This 1994 collection on Universal features selections from her Philips years of the mid-'60s, generally acknowledged as the pinnacle of her recording career, the genesis of material including "My Baby Just Cares for Me," "Ne Me Quitte Pas (If You Go Away)," and her own "Mississippi Goddam." Feeling Good: The Very Best of Nina Simone doesn't have any surprises, but it's a good collection for beginners. © John Bush /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1964 | Philips

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For her arrival to Philips, the label that would represent her between 1964 and 1967, Nina Simone started with a live recording from Carnegie Hall. One year before, she had already recorded a performance on the very same legendary stage. However in the time that had elapsed, her status had changed and the singer had become a figurehead for the Civil Rights movement. Indeed, on the tracklist are Old Jim Crow, Pirate Jenny, Go Limp and especially Mississippi Goddam, a hugely important song which closes this album and refers to the murder of Medgar Evers (an activist killed by a Ku Klux Klan member on June 12th 1963) as well as the attack on the 16th Street Baptist Church (also carried out by KKK members and which claimed the lives of four young girls on September 15th 1963). Supported by an impeccable trio (Rudy Stevenson on the guitar, Lisle Atkinson on the double bass and Bobby Hamilton on drums), who create a refined and almost understated backing score, Nina Simone is out to shock the audience’s ears by being herself to the utmost: chanting, being outraged, imploring, confronting, reflecting, engaging, and ultimately trying to understand the madness of humankind. She allows her unique self to shine through on this album more than any others from the same era. This powerful vocal force cuts through to the soul every time and stands out differently to Billie, Ella and Sarah. With In Concert, suffering and freedom resound together in unison with a great power, something rarely seen elsewhere. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released April 1, 2013 | Wagram Music

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1966 | Verve Reissues

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This album was apparently a bit of a pastiche of leftovers from sessions for Nina Simone's four previous albums on Philips. But you'd never guess from listening; the material is certainly as strong and consistent as it is on her other mid-'60s LPs. As is the case with most of her albums of the time, the selections are almost unnervingly diverse, ranging from jazz ballads to traditional folk tunes ("Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair") to the near calypso of "Why Keep on Breaking My Heart" to the somber, almost chilling title track. Highlights are two outstanding pop-soul numbers written by the pre-disco Van McCoy ("Either Way I Lose," "Break Down and Let It All Out") and "Four Women," a string of searing vignettes about the hardships of four African-American women that ranks as one of Simone's finest compositions. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Jazz - Released November 3, 2014 | BnF Collection

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Nina Simone in the magazine
  • Nina Simone turning up the pressure...
    Nina Simone turning up the pressure... Recorded on stage at Carnegie Hall in 1964, this "In Concert" has been re-released in Hi-Res 24 Bit quality. In 2020 it resounds just as powerfully as it did back then.