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The Nina Simone Database

Jazz Masters 17
Quality compilations

Verve 314 518 198-2 (1994 US)

This compilation brings together 16 great tracks that Nina Simone recorded for the Philips label during the years 1964-1966.
Tracks sorted by number (sort by session or by title)
 1 [3:29] Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair   Traditional

 2 [2:36] I Put a Spell on You   Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Slotkin sax solo by Jerome Richardson

 3 [4:07] Love Me or Leave Me   Walter Donaldson, Gus Kahn

 4 [4:20] Little Girl Blue   Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers unedited version

 5 [3:04] My Baby Just Cares for Me   Walter Donaldson, Gus Kahn

 6 [2:33] I Loves You Porgy   George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, DuBose Heyward

 7 [3:08] Work Song   Nat Adderley, Oscar Brown jr

 8 [3:38] Ne Me Quitte Pas   Jacques Brel

 9 [6:59] Wild Is the Wind   Dimitri Tiomkin, Ned Washington

 10 [2:38] See-Line Woman   George Bass

 11 [3:31] Strange Fruit   Lewis Allan, Sonny White piano and vocal only

 12 [6:41] Pirate Jenny   Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill piano played by Atkinson

 13 [4:26] Four Women   Nina Simone

 14 [4:55] Mississippi Goddam   Nina Simone standard studio version

 15 [2:46] Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood   Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell, Sol Marcus

 16 [2:19] I Hold No Grudge   Angelo Badalamenti, John Clifford

Liner Notes by James Gavin, June 1993
Dramatic, defiant, and uncategorizable in all she does, Nina Simone has spent four decades preaching her caustic view of life to a fiercely devoted cult audience With a reedy, lashing voice and a piano style that blends classical, jazz, and blues, she draws upon the widest possible range of songs and composers to tell her story from "Black Is the Color" to "Pirate Jenny", from Screamin' Jay Hawkins to Jacques Brel to her own searing originals. All are represented in this new collection, gathered mostly from her years with the Philips label in the mid Sixties - a period in which she hit her creative peak.

Nina Simone was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon on February 21, 1933 in North Carolina The sixth of eight children, she revealed a prodigious musical talent early in life, and at age six became pianist in her local Methodist church Shortly after that she took up classical piano After years of private study - paid for by a town fund collected especially for her - she enrolled at Juilliard. At seventeen she tested for a scholarship at the prestigious Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, and was rejected, ostensibly for musical reasons But in her autobiography Ne Me Quitte Pas (US edition- I Put a Spell on You, Pantheon, 1992) she contends that the true cause was her color.

In order to support herself and pay for further lessons she became an accompanist for a Philadelphia singing teacher, then opened her own coaching studio Hearing that she could make more money in nightclubs, she took a job as a singer pianist in the dingy Midtown Bar in Atlantic City in 1954 To conceal her identity from her mother, a Methodist minister and part-time domestic, she adopted the name Nina Simone Quickly she developed a following, and offers started to come in from other cities. In 1958 Bethlehem Records signed her for her first LP, one of whose songs was "I Loves You Porgy", her breakthrough hit As her fame spread throughout America and Europe she recorded eight albums of eclectic material for the Colpix label between 1959 and 1963.

During those years the civil rights movement was unfolding, and Simone - who had seen her share of racial discrimination - became one of its staunchest musical advocates: She signed with Philips in 1964, and the seven discs that resulted reveal a spiraling anger at all the forces that had provoked the movement in first place. Three years later she moved to RCA, where she stayed until 1974. During that time many of the great black leaders were killed, and her personal life started to unravel as well. Her marriage to ex-detective Andy Stroud, who managed her, ended in divorce, and the IRS began to crack down on her for nonpayment of taxes. Simone's resentment of America grew so intense that she fled to Barbados and later sought refuge in England, France, Liberia, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Her subsequent appearances in the United States were increasingly hostile and undisciplined; often she failed to show up at all.

But by the early Nineties it looked as if a few of those demons had been put to rest. In July 1992 she gave a successful concert at Carnegie Hall and another the next year at New York's Beacon Theater. In August 1993 Simone released her first important new recording since the late Seventies, on the Elektra label. Now she divides her time between homes in Europe and Hollywood. Simone's live appearances are select, but her charisma is undimmed, as the four standing ovations she received at the Beacon proved.

Like many of her concerts, this album opens with "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair". She reduces her voice to a low, haunted wail, giving this wistful folk song an ominous subtext. The menace is unmistakable in Screamin' Jay Hawkins's "I Put a Spell on You", which gave Simone a trademark song and an English pop hit as well as the title for her memoirs. This 1965 recording finds her at her raunchiest, growling in a tough, guttural voice over a driving tenor sax solo.

"Love Me or Leave Me" and "Little Girl Blue" - two songs she sang at the Midtown Bar in 1954 - reflect her early attempts to elevate pop music by interweaving classical and traditional themes. Several swinging choruses of ersatz Bach are interpolated in the former, while her version of the Rodgers and Hart ballad uses the melody of "Good King Wenceslas" as a counterpoint. (The extended version heard here was released only on the mono edition of her 1965 album Let It All Out.)

Another early Simone gem, "My Baby Just Cares for Me", had appeared on her first album because the producer wanted an extra uptempo number. Nearly thirty years later that recording was used in a Chanel perfume commercial in Europe, bringing her a top-ten hit in England and other countries, The performance heard here comes from a live set taped at Hollywood's Vine Street Bar and Grill in 1987. Despite the huge success of "My Baby", "I Loves You Porgy" is still her signature tune, and she has included it on at least four albums.

Simone's concerts have always revolved around a handful of dramatic set-pieces. In the Sixties she became closely associated with Nat Adderley and Oscar Brown, Jr.'s "Work Song", an old chain gang theme update to mirror the plight of the modern-day black laborer. Simone, audacious as ever, makes herself the thieving protagonist who "left the grocery store man bleeding".


"Mississippi Goddamn" is her very first original song of protest, written in 1963 after the murders of Medgar Evers in Mississippi and four black schoolchildren in Alabama. Seldom has there been a more scathing indictment of American values: "This whole country is full of lies / You're all gonna die and die like flies!". Released as a single, the song, not surprisingly, ran into distribution problems in the South. Another single, "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", remains a Simone trademark, even though it failed to bring her a hit. A fiercely autobiographical song, it pleads for understanding in a time of violent action. In 1965 the Animals cut a lightweight pop version that reached the top twenty - a success Simone resented deeply.

The final piece, "I Hold No Grudge", is a bitterly ironic anthem that may be intended to speak for her entire race - or may simply describe the feelings of a woman who has claimed that after every trip to America she has to check into a hospital to recover. "I'm the kind of people you can step on for a little while," she snarls, "but when I call it quits, baby, that's it!" In Europe, Simone says, she has finally found peace, but these recording bear chilling testament to the pain, outrage, and stolen joys of the people she left behind.