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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2013 | Philips

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
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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 June 15, 1965 | Philips

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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 June 19, 2015 | RCA - Legacy

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Jazz - Released June 13, 2000 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1964 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released April 24, 2012 | RCA - Legacy

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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 January 1, 1982 | Verve

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Vocal Jazz - Released July 28, 1998 | RCA Records Label

Nina Simone recorded for RCA Records between 1967 and 1972. While she was in fine form during those years, she didn't make her best records there, and sounded particularly ill at ease whenever she did pop-rock covers, which was more often than she should. However, these songs are selling points for a certain audience, namely the audience RCA is targeting with their generous 40-track collection, The Very Best of Nina Simone. True, her recordings during these five years were a little inconsistent, as she covered the classics, performed new songs, and tackled contemporary material, so perhaps it's fitting that this compilation is also a little schizophrenic. Nevertheless, that doesn't make the compilation much more than an interesting summation of a conflicted, occasionally rewarding, era of Simone's career that will be useful for already-dedicated fans that want to explore a little deeper than just her classic recordings. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Jazz - Released October 1, 1965 | Verve Reissues

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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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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Jazz - Released January 1, 1966 | Verve Reissues

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Vocal Jazz - Released January 13, 2006 | RCA - Legacy

After moving from the blues to soul for her second RCA album, Nina Simone's extroverted, confident delivery proved a natural match with the ranks of soul shouters working the crowds during the late '60s. A plane ticket to Memphis or Muscle Shoals could've resulted in one of Simone's best works; unfortunately, this set was recorded in New York, and it shows. Simone does well taking on Dusty Springfield for "The Look of Love," though the sedate supper-club backing doesn't quite jive with her smooth, studied performance. Better are the less familiar tunes, like the highlight "It Be's That Way Sometimes" (written by Simone's brother Sam Waymon), "Go to Hell," and "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free," a trio of songs Nina Simone has no trouble making her own. © John Bush /TiVo
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Jazz - Released July 23, 2007 | Stepsis Records

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Jazz - Released January 15, 1988 | Mercury Records

Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood is a compilation assembling songs from a fruitful period in Simone's career (the mid-'60s, when she recorded for Mercury and Phillips). The exceptional track selection helps Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood stand out from the many repackages of material from this era and amply demonstrates the range of Simone's artistry. The title track and "I Put a Spell on You" were pop hits; "The Last Rose of Summer" is a traditional Irish ballad adapted by Simone; "Ne Me Quitte Pas" finds her tackling French pop; and on "Strange Fruit" and "Don't Explain," Simone reaches back to the Billie Holiday songbook, offering distinctive and moving interpretations of these well-worn standards. "I Loves You Porgy" and "Mississippi Goddam" are heard in spirited live versions from 1964's Nina Simone in Concert, and lesser-heard cuts like the stunning "Come Ye" (sounding remarkably contemporary, with instrumentation consisting only of hand percussion) and "Little Girl Blue" add further depth. A fine single-disc introduction to the work of one of pop's true visionaries. © Mark Richardson /TiVo
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Jazz - Released October 1, 1965 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released May 20, 2003 | Verve Reissues

Nina Simone recorded seven albums for the Philips label between 1964 and 1966. It was the period in her career in which her reputation was cemented as a world-class artist, and one in which she gained fame for her contributions to the civil rights movement as well. Despite the fact that she recorded great albums both before and after her years with Philips (most notably with RCA), her Philips period is easily her most enigmatic. Among her Philips recordings are her live label debut and six studio recordings featuring wildly varying instrumentation, arrangements, and contents. The box contains all seven LPs on four CDs, and includes one bonus track. But Simone's Philips period is a monolithic accomplishment when measured against many of her peers, both male and female. First there is the audacious Nina Simone in Concert recording, done on two separate dates in New York in March and April of 1964 and issued later that summer. Simone's political stance with "Old Jim Crow," "Mississippi Goddam," and Weill and Brecht's "Pirate Jenny" makes them feel like they are of a piece with Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy" and Willard Robison's "Don't Smoke in Bed," where blues, jazz, folk songs, and Broadway tunes all come together in that theatrical, sultry, and smoldering voice. The reality of that initial performance was further reinforced on the Broadway-Blues-Ballads disc, which opens with the definitive rendition of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and George Bass' wondrous "See Line Woman." Going from the small combo concert album -- where Simone accompanied herself on piano, to the lush orchestrations of the Broadway-Blues-Ballads album, with Hal Mooney conducting and writing the charts, is a jarring yet complementary experience. But it is on I Put a Spell on You, with its large and lush orchestral backing, and the chamber jazz setting of Pastel Blues that Simone's truly diva-like quality asserts itself. Working again with Mooney and complemented by Horace Ott on the former album, Simone found the orchestral formula and used it as a single musical instrument. True, it was one she could manipulate in terms of color and dynamic, but nonetheless, she used it as one would use a guitar, a saxophone, or a piano. Her voice found challenge and support in the various chromatic figures presenting themselves in songs like the title track, Charles Aznavour's "Tomorrow Is My Turn," "Take Care of Business," "Our September Song," "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," "Tell Me More and Then Some," "Strange Fruit," "Chilly Winds Don't Blow," and others, offering a vocalist in control not only of the melody, but the flow of emotion in the song, imparting its message to the instrumentalists and listeners even as it occurs to her in the act of singing. On Let It All Out, Simone went back to work with Ott. Here she covered everyone from Bob Dylan ("The Ballad of Hollis Brown") to Duke Ellington ("Mood Indigo") to Rodgers & Hart on her signature tune ("Little Girl Blue"), and she co-wrote the inimitable, compelling "Images." But it is on Four Women (subtitled Wild Is the Wind) where Simone revealed how fully in control she was of virtually any repertoire she chose to sing. This is the gentlest of Simone's albums and arguably her best. Working with Ott -- who wrote a pair of songs for the album -- she showed a tenderness that was never as naked before or after as it was on tracks such as the title (authored by Simone) and "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair." On her last album for the label, Simone turned the tables once again. Recording with an orchestra arranged and conducted by Mooney this time out, as well as playing piano, Simone took on Chuck Berry ("Brown-Eyed Handsome Man"), Nat Adderley and Oscar Brown, Jr. ("Work Song"), Angelo Badalamenti ("I Hold No Grudge"), and Ellington ("The Gal from Joe's"), as well as herself and Rudy Stevenson, her longstanding guitarist, in her quest to thwart pop music's then radio-friendly dictum that substance was not to be rewarded with record sales. And she succeeded. Simone's career at this time, and forevermore, really would be inextricably entwined with the triumphs and tribulations of the civil rights movement, and she would not argue or complain. But it's far from dogmatic protest music that's featured here, but the true triumph of the era, in that a woman of Simone's uncompromising stature and artistry would be as highly visible and successful as she was. Four Women documents all the knots, turns, twists, peaks, and valleys of that journey and makes for an essential listening experience. This is history, this is art, this is the joy of pop at its finest. © Thom Jurek /TiVo

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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.