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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2013 | 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
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Vocal Jazz - Released August 27, 2013 | Bethlehem Records

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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
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Jazz - Released April 24, 2012 | RCA - Legacy

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

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Jazz - Released June 19, 2015 | RCA - Legacy

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Jazz - Released February 9, 2018 | Bethlehem Records

Some artists spend years finding their way through the record-making process, learning how to make their music communicate on tape. But from the first moment Nina Simone sat down at the piano at New York City's Belltone Studios in December 1958, she clearly knew exactly what she wanted to do. And her instincts were flawless -- Simone followed many creative paths over the course of her career, but her first sessions for Bethlehem Records were the work of a gifted and supremely confident artist, one whose craft was superb and whose style was striking and individual. In a single day, Simone cut 14 songs that sealed her reputation as one of the top jazz artists of her day, playing a set that wove the melodic and technical precision of classical music with the emotional honesty of blues. While 11 of the tracks would appear on Simone's first album (alternately titled Nina Simone and Little Girl Blue) and would go on to pop up on countless compilations and budget-price reissues after the Bethlehem catalog was sold, all 14 songs were issued on singles, and those original discs are the basis of the 2018 collection Mood Indigo: The Complete Bethlehem Singles. Sequenced in the order the 45s were released and remastered to make the most of the warm, well-detailed audio, Mood Indigo is the best and most caring presentation of this material to date. While the sequence may have been determined by the order of the singles, the flow of the material is admirable, and the minimal production captures Simone in her element without needless clutter. Several tracks feature accompaniment from bassist Jimmy Bond and drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath, but even performing solo Simone's piano and vocals sound full-bodied and orchestral, an ideal marriage of imagination and technique, and her vocals sound natural and unforced but communicate with force and ardor. Her performances of "Porgy (I Loves You Porgy)" and "Don't Smoke in Bed" are outstanding examples of the art of interpretive singing, while "African Mailman" and "Central Park Blues" make it clear she already had a knack for melodic invention that was second to none. Mood Indigo documents the first steps in a long and remarkable career, but it delivers with the skill, assurance, and invention of a seasoned veteran, and 60 years after it was recorded, this music is as deeply rewarding and pleasurable as ever. ~ Mark Deming
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Jazz - Released June 15, 1965 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released March 1, 2017 | Bethlehem Jazz

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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
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Jazz - Released April 24, 2012 | RCA - Legacy

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Jazz - Released June 13, 2000 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1969 | RCA - Legacy

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Vocal Jazz - Released January 17, 2006 | RCA - Legacy

Forever Young, Gifted & Black: Songs of Freedom and Spirit is a textbook case for preparing a compilation by a single artist, thematically. These 11 tracks were recorded between 1967 and 1969, at the split seam in cultural and political history, where the African-American civil rights movement ceded its popularity -- among young people -- to the more visceral and visual Black Power movement. As an artist, Nina Simone was a presence and participant in both. Her influence continues to be an anchor and an inspiration to songwriters and singers from Alicia Keys (who wrote a short liner essay here) to Tracy Chapman, Robinella, Me'Shell NdegéOcello, and Lauryn Hill, to name a few. The compilation contains a smattering of her many songs that deal with struggle, equality, and perseverance. It opens with "To Be Young, Gifted and Black," issued as a single in 1969 (the CD is bookended by this version and a live one at the end). The song itself is timeless; it rings with assertiveness and conviction nearly four decades later. But this is merely the beginning. There are three unedited performances here, all of which were originally cut and reshaped by producers for various recordings. The first of these, "Why (The King of Love Is Dead)," was written by her bassist, Gene Taylor, after hearing that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The previously issued version was part of the "Martin Luther King Suite." Here, it contains full spoken and sung sections and is nearly 13 minutes long. To call it stunning and revelatory would be an understatement. Ditto the full version of "Mississippi Goddam," which was also part of the aforementioned suite. This is the first time either of these recordings have appeared on CD in full unedited versions. Likewise, "Revolution (Pts. 1-2)" is restored as one tune instead of two as it appeared on To Love Somebody in 1969. A couple of unreleased alternates are fine touches and offer different shadings, colors, and interpretive gestures to their album-issued counterparts: Simone's wonderful read of "Turn! Turn! Turn!," stripped to her voice, piano, and a pair of backing vocalists; and "Ain't Got No/I Got Life," cut for 'Nuff Said!, which contains a horn section. Other tracks here, such as Simone's reading of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free," are strident, forceful, soulful, and deeply moving. Fans will want this comp for the unreleased material and for its thematic slant. Those seeking out Simone for the first time may look to other sources, but this is a side of the artist that was present in everything she ever recorded, and deserves the focus it receives here. In these dark times in the early 21st century, these are songs of hope delivered by a true American original. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released June 1, 1965 | Verve Reissues

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
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Jazz - Released April 24, 2012 | RCA - Legacy

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Jazz - Released June 15, 1965 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1966 | Verve Reissues

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