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The Nina Simone Database

The Essential
Quality compilations

RCA 07863-66307-2 (1993 US)

Nina Simone's husky, dramatic and compelling voice, plus her compositional and arranging skills and intimate piano technique and delivery stamped her as a singular performer. She's penned unforgettable protest material, covered jazz, folk, rock, and pop with equal flair, and created a body of work that's kept her popularity high no matter how many stories, incidents, and rumors surface. While this title is hardly accurate since it only covers RCA material from 1967-1972, there's plenty of anthemic fare among the CD's 16 selections. These include "Mr. Bojangles," "To Be Young, Gifted, And Black," "Seems I'm Never Tired Lovin' You," and "Since I Fell For You." While the absence of "Baltimore," "I Wish I Knew How It Feels To Be Free," and "Here Comes The Sun" (to name only three) is sizable, and the weighting of this compilation toward well-known rock types (Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, Jimmy Webb, George Harrison, two Bee Gees cuts) debatable, there's still no way it can be dismissed.
-Roy Winn, All Music Guide
Tracks sorted by number (sort by session or by title)
 1 [2:34] I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl   Tim Brymn, Dally Small, Clarence Williams

 2 [3:02] Seems I'm Never Tired of Lovin' You   Carolyn Franklin

 3 [3:41] Do What You Gotta Do   Jim Webb

 4 [4:50] Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues   Bob Dylan

 5 [2:50] Since I Fell for You   Buddy Johnson

 6 [5:01] Mr. Bojangles   Jerry Jeff Walker

 7 [2:12] Ain't Got No / I Got Life   Gal MacDermot, James Rado, Gerome Ragni edited version with applause added

 8 [2:56] Romance in the Dark   Lil Green listed "In the Dark"

 9 [2:30] Turn Me On   John D. Loudermilk

 10 [2:42] To Love Somebody   Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb

 11 [4:19] I Shall Be Released   Bob Dylan

 12 [2:50] To Be Young, Gifted and Black   Weldon Irvine jr, Nina Simone standard studio version

 13 [3:08] I Can't See Nobody   Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb

 14 [6:26] Isn't It a Pity   George Harrison shortened version

 15 [3:19] Sunday in Savannah   Hugh Mac Kay with the hot-dog comment by little Lisa at the end of the songstandard version

 16 [3:29] I Think It's Going to Rain Today   Randy Newman

Liner Notes by Dawn Eden
The voice on this collection is the voice that moved Rolling Stone to hail Nina Simone with Aretha Franklin as one of the two "truly great black female singers of the sixties." The magazine credited Simone's "amazing ability to get further inside you that you never knew existed."

The "High Priestess of Soul" was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, the sixth of eight children, in Tryon, South Carolina on February 21, 1933. By the time she was four years old, she was playing the piano by ear. As she later recalled, "I reme mber the day the piano came into the house. It was like a toy that I had wanted without knowing it. I found I could do everything I wanted to with it--improvise, transpose; there were no secrets." Even before the piano arrived, she was already fascinated by music. "I used to look at (sheet) music, turn the pages, look at the notes or something, and I got terribly excited."

Young Eunice's first performing experience came when her mother, a devout Methodist, had her play piano at church services. Since her mother didn't care for "worldly" music, Eunice nursed her love of jazz in secret, playing boogie-woogie for h er appreciative father.

The youngster's talent soon caught the eye of a local music teacher, who offered her piano lessons and eventually raised the money to send her to Julliard. However, after Eunice had spent less than two years at Julliard, her money ran out and she had to return to living with her family, who had relocated to Philadelphia.

While searching for work as a pianist in the summer of 1954, Eunice received an offer from an Atlantic City nightclub. The owner promised her $90 a week, more money than she had ever heard of in her life for a week's work. The only catch, as Eunice disc overed upon her arrival in Atlantic City, was that she was also expected to sing-- something she had never done professionally. Knowing that her mother would not want others to know that her Eunice was working in a bar, Eunice gave herself a new name-- N ina, from a nickname that a boyfriend gave her, and Simone for its dignified sound, a la Simone Signoret.

Around the time of Simone's performing debut, she heard Billie Holliday for the first time, and was greatly impressed. It was from a Holliday record that she learned "I Loves You Porgy," the Gershwin tune which put Simone on the map when she r ecorded it for the Bethlehem label in 1959.

Through the early sixties, Nina Simone racked up hits on three different labels-- Bethlehem, Colpix, and Phillips. Although she did not manage another Top 40 pop hit, her R&B hits provided many pop groups with fodder for hits of their own, such as th e Alan Price Set's UK smash version of "I Put A Spell On You" and the Animals' take on "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"

Nina Simone's switch to the RCA label coincided with her mid-sixties transition from a straight-haired supper club singer to a cornrowed (and, later, Afro-ed) spokeswoman for Black Pride.

On RCA, Simone had more artistic freedom than ever, enabling her to utilize her entire range of talents; singing, playing piano, writing, arranging, and producing. The high quality of the recordings on this collection is a tribute to her perfectionism. In the studio, she was a stern taskmaster, gently but firmly admonishing troublesome musicians with words like, "You're pushing it. Just relax. It'll go up by itself. Don't put nothin' in it unless you feel it."

Although Simone hit the pop charts with songs like the Jimmy Webb tune "Do What You Gotta Do," "Ain't Got No/I Got Life" (from the musical Hair), and her classic self-penned anthem, "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" (later covered by Aretha Franklin), much of her best work was on lesser-known album cuts. Rolling Stone co-founder Ralph J. Gleason, one of Simone's biggest champions, was bowled over by her 1969 To Love Somebody album, writing, "I can think of no other which combines so well all the best qualities of jazz, folk, contemporary, and soul music." He particularly lauded Simone's interpretations of Bob Dylan's songs, calling "I Shall Be Released" "possibly more effective than in the original." On "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," he raved, "Nina Simone sings it with a clarity and blinding intensity that no one has brought to it since Dylan himself and the result is amazing." Despite such praise, To Love Somebody died a commercial death, and its best songs have up to now been hard to find.

In the early seventies, Nina Simone left RCA and, for a time, the recording field as well, choosing to concentrate on political activism. Today, she is back on the scene and has even written a biography,
titled, appropriately, I Put A Spell On You. Although she has recorded 51 albums at last count, her RCA material captures her at her peak. In a 1969 interview, she commented on the emotions behind her music: "In all performances there's one underlying message. I try to establish a rapport with the audience where there's one mind and they know that my feelings are theirs and their feelings are mine. The joys that they have are the joys that I have. The pains that they have are the pains I have. I am simply bringing out the emotion s that most people have inside and can't express."