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The Nina Simone Database

Saga of the Good Life and Hard Times
Additional discography

RCA 07863-66997-2 (1997 US)

A good sampling of the various styles favored by this singer and pianist, despite the absence of her great song "My Baby Cares For Me." Compiled from RCA's vaults, these 16 tracks--jazz, pop, gospel--include seven that are previously unreleased, and several remixes. Simone is a woman of deep emotion, whether rendering Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy" or her own angry "Mississippi Goddamn," and any set of hers is worth more than a casual spin.
-E! Online, 1997
Tracks sorted by number (sort by session or by title)
 1 [3:03] Nobody's Fault But Mine   Blind Willie Johnson remixed version

 2 [4:53] I Get Along Without You Wery Well (Except Sometimes)   Hoagy Carmichael remixed

 3 [3:46] Come Ye   Nina Simone first release

 4 [2:41] In the Morning   Barry Gibb first releaseoriginal unedited version

 5 [2:19] Ain't Got No / I Got Life   Gal MacDermot, James Rado, Gerome Ragni first releaseoriginal undubbed studio version

 6 [2:17] Do I Move You?   Nina Simone first releaseanother take

 7 [6:04] Sunday in Savannah   Hugh Mac Kay with the hot-dog comment by little Lisa at the end of the songextended version

 8 [6:40] Why? (The King of Love Is Dead)   Gene Taylor extended version

 9 [5:30] Mississippi Goddam   Nina Simone first release

 10 [2:26] In Love in Vain   Jerome Kern, Leo Robin first release

 11 [3:39] The Man With the Horn   Edgar DeLange, Truman Elliot Jenney, Bonnie Lake first release

 12 [3:27] I Loves You Porgy   George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, DuBose Heyward remixed

 13 [5:09] I'll Look Around   George Cory, Douglas Cross first release

 14 [4:22] Music for Lovers   Bart Howard first releaseNina plays organ

 15 [3:10] Ain't Got No / I Got Life   Gal MacDermot, James Rado, Gerome Ragni first releasealternate track

 16 [1:44] Take My Hand Precious Lord   Thomas A. Dorsey remixed

Liner Notes by David Nathan
One of the most eclectic artists of our time, Nina Simone is guaranteed to run the gamut of musical diversity; whether it's a time-honored spiritual, a blues groove, a folk song, a jazz standard, a pop hit or a show tune, she always acids her own distinctive musical touch to the material at hand. That unique skill has left critics and industry pundits perplexed since Nina began her recording career in 1959.
In an age where placing an artist in a neat pigeonhole makes for easy reference, Nina Simone is an anomaly. Exactly where does she fit in? Is she a jazz singer? A folk and blues gospel diva? A supper club chanteuse? The answer is, yes, she's all of those... and, no, she's none of 'em.
As this remarkable album demonstrates, she belongs to that rarest of the musical species: an uncompromising artist whose choice of material is dictated by her own emotional sensibilities. Indeed, this particular album could have as its subtext the phrase, "If I don't 'feel,' I don't do it!"
The fact that you could never predict what you might find on a Nina Simone album didn't change during her work in the '60s for Colpix Records or her three years with Philips Records (1964-1966). In fact, an examination of her voluminous recordings for RCA – cut between 1966 and 1973 – reveals that Nina's range of choice had merely widened.
On her albums for RCA, you can find compositions by George Harrison, Burt Bacharach and Bob Dylan alongside Hoagy Carmichael, Jacques Brel, Jim Webb, Aretha Franklin and even Ike Turner! Sprinkled liberally throughout her RCA catalog are numerous original Simone tunes including "To Be Young, Gifted And Black," "(You'll) Go To Hell" and "Revolution." The one common factor linking all the material is Nina's distinctive – and sometimes unpredictable – musical approach and the underlying emotional "pull" that led Nina to choose the songs she picked to perform and record.

This excellent compilation of music carefully selected from RCA's vaults reflects the incredible well of material from which Nina :Simone draws. Traditional tunes include "Nobody's Fault But Mine," "Come Ye," and "Take My Hand, Precious Lord." Some of the featured standards are "I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes)," "I'll Look Around," "In Love In Vain" and "I Loves You Porgy," the song that first brought Nina to national attention in '59. Highlighting the original compositions are the biting "Mississippi Goddam," the raunchy "Do I Move You" and "Why (The King Of Love Is Dead)," (bass player) Eugene Taylor's emotional tribute to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., written the day after he was assassinated.
Almost all of the material featured here was recorded in 1968, a pivotal year for Nina both personally and professionally. By the time she arrived at RCA in '67, Nina had justifiably earned the tag "High Priestess Of Soul," which also became the title of her swansong album for Philips. The exception is a previously unreleased version of "Do I Move You" recorded in early 1967 as part of her RCA debut, NINA SIMONE SINGS THE BLUES, and performed with typical Simone abandon.
Long gone were the days when she was thought of as a jazz/folk artist: her emergence as a pioneer in the vanguard of creative artists committed to civil rights had given Nina Simone a new stature among African-Americans. While some of her recordings for Philips gained notoriety among R&B fans – most notably her original version of the now-classic "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and a cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You" – it was her "in-your-face" stand on racism and prejudice that became her most important calling card among those struggling for equality, justice and freedom.

Her very first LP for Philips, Nina Simone In Concert, set the stage with tunes like "Old Jim Crow," "Go Limp," a personalized version of Kurt Weill's "Pirate Jenny" and her own "Mississippi Goddam," a scathing commentary on the old South that earned Nina's records the distinction of essentially being banned from the airwaves in states below the Mason-Dixon line. For whatever reason, that 1964 album turned out to be a one-of-a-kind tour de force. Subsequent recordings for Philips only occasionally delved into such controversial territory via tunes like Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" and "I Hold No Grudge."
Nina's first RCA album contained 'Backlash Blues," a musical collaboration between Nina and renowned African-American author, Langston Hughes, while SILK AND SOUL, her sophomore project for the label, included Billy Taylor's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" and Nina's own "(You'll) Go To Hell."
But by the time she sat down at the piano with her regular musicians, guitarist Rudy Stevenson, bassist Eugene Taylor, drummer Bucky Clark and her brother Sam Waymon on organ, at Westbury Music Fair in Long Island, New York on April 7, 1968, Nina Simone was ready – in the words of one of her Philips' album titles – to let it all out.
While a lesser performer might have cancelled the shows scheduled for that night in wake of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 6, Nina felt duty-bound to appear. Of the 17 songs performed, 10 were used for the 1968 LP, 'NUFF SAID. This new compilation contains two songs never issued before: a version of the old spiritual "Come Ye" and a reprise of "Mississippi Goddam" (by '68, a standard in the Simone rep that emotional night at Westbury, including "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" and the ever-popular "I Loves You Porgy."
Versions of "Sunday In Savannah" and "Why (The King Of Love Is Dead)" included here are telling testimony to Nina's own state of mind and the myriad feelings that understandably engulfed the audience that evening. As you listen to Nina, she literally breaks downs in her spoken intro to the intense"Why (The King Of Love Is Dead)."
Two of the songs recorded live at the show, the Bee Gees' "In The Morning" and "Ain't Got No / I Got Life" (from the groundbreaking musical "Hair"), were re-cut the following month at RCA's New York studios. Nina's version of the tune from the popular Broadway show had a totally unexpected and unpredictable impact on her career.
Ever since she first set foot in the U.K. in 1965, Nina had established a devoted following among discerning British music lovers. Indeed, as the president of her first U.K. Appreciation Society (a term that seemed more appropriate than "fan club" for someone of Nina's musical stature!), I watched as her popularity grew with each successive visit to Britain. But even I was unprepared for the response that greeted the release of 'Ain't Got No" as a single in the U.K. By 1968, Nina had enjoyed a No. 2 pop hit with the song and had transcended any categorization as an artist with a "cult" following. It was amazing to see her on "Top Of The Pops," the famed weekly British TV show, and to watch as audiences packed venues like the London Palladium to see her in concert.
A second previously unreleased take on the song with an additional verse is also included in this collection.

Just a couple of months before her triumph on the British charts, Nina cut what some consider her finest album for RCA. The back cover of NINA SIMONE AND PIANO! (released in February 1969) declared that the 10-track LP was "pure Nina" and indeed with the lady accompanying herself at the keyboard (with some overdubbing of organ, handclaps and her own background vocals), it was an artistic triumph. In all, 14 songs were recorded for the project on two separate recording dates, September 16 and October 1, and the four tracks that never made it to the final cut are featured here along with new mixes of the traditional spiritual "Nobody's Fault But Mine" (a longtime personal favorite) and Hoagy Carmichael's wistful "1 Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes)."
While Nina's mesmerizing and totally unique vocal style had been her calling card ever since the fateful day in 1954 when an Atlantic City nightclub owner had told her to sing or be fired, her virtuosity as a keyboardist was often overlooked – at least on record. But seeing Nina in concert was another story; audiences worldwide would always be dazzled by her mastery as a pianist, the result of years of study at prestigious faculties like the Juilliard School of Music in New York and the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.
Nina's natural gift as a musician had become evident to family and friends from her years growing up in Tryon, North Carolina. In fact, size was intent on pursuing a career as a classical pianist until she started playing in bars and clubs on the eastern seaboard as a way to earn money for her continuing musical education. As a result, by the time she began recording in 1959, her talent as an outstanding keyboardist had taken a back seat to her voice. And even though she always accompanied herself on disc, it was clear where the emphasis on her talents lay.

Thus, NINA SIMONE AND PIANO! was very much a first. While listeners zeroed in on her vocal interpretation of tunes like (British media personality) Jonathan King's "Everyone's Gone To The Moon" and Randy Newman's "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today," Nina's skills as a brilliant musician are fully evident. Just like the cuts that were featured on the original LP, the four tracks featured here that remained "in the can" until now provide a fine showcase of Nina's dexterity and highly personal style as a pianist.
For the occasion, Nina re-recorded two tunes that she had cut for Colpix, the pensive "I'll Look Around," which had first appeared on the 1961 LP, Forbidden Fruit, and the quirky "The Man With A Horn," one of the tracks that labored in relative obscurity on the very rare Nina Simone With Strings, a final compilation put together by Colpix in 1966.
She revisited the splendid "Music For Lovers" on her much-acclaimed 1978 one-off album for CTI Records, while Nina's recording of the Jerome Kern chestnut, "In Love In Vain," was never reprised on any subsequent projects and remained in RCA vaults until its "rediscovery" for this project.
As much as any other Nina Simone collection, SAGA OF THE GOOD LIFE AND HARD TIMES is a kaleidoscopic tour of the musical world of this extraordinary artist. Whether singing with unabashed passion or offering a scintillating rum on the keys, Nina performs without restraint on every cut on the album. And, perhaps more than earlier recordings, the selections included here demonstrate Nina's commitment to full musical self-expression. She uses her powerful vocal approach to get to the very heart of each lyric, embellishing and enhancing her vocal performances by effectively fusing blues and classical styles in her highly personalized "feel" as a pianist. Listen to her stomp-down "earth mama" take on her own "Do I Move You" or her eerie vocalizing on "In Love In Vain." The spoken comments on tacks recorded at Westbury give just a brief insight into her personality, revealing a sensitive, passionate woman driven by a desire for love, justice and freedom.
Indeed, one might say that freedom is the key to Nina Simone's consummate artistry. And, as expressed by this peerless musical pioneer, that very human quest for freedom – on all levels – is as relevant in 1996 as it was in 1968 when this music was first recorded. Enjoy!

Producer's Note by Paul Williams, compilation producer
SAGA OF THE GOOD LIFE AND HARD TIMES is almost like having a new Nina Simone album even though the material included was recorded almost 30 years ago. Seven of the selections are previously unreleased, five are either extended or appear in different form than the original release and four have been remixed. In all cases, the original first-generation multi-tracks were used.
Dubbed the High Priestess of Soul, Ms. Simone seas at her creative and commercial peak during her seven years with RCA. With the exception of "Do I Move You (Version II)," from a 1967 session and previously unreleased, all songs on this release were recorded in 1968. I was fortunate enough to locate four of the unreleased tracks from the September 1968 NINA SIMONE AND PIANO sessions: "In Love In Vain," "The Man With A Horn," "I'll Look Around" and "Music For Lovers," on which Ms. Simone plays organ.
Earlier in 1968, Ms. Simone had performed her now legendary concert at Westbury Music Fair on April 7, die evening after Dr. Martha Luther King, Jr.'s assassination. Highlights from that show were released on the NUFF SAID album, but much of the emotion and intensity of the performance were edited out of the release, and several songs omitted.
Three selections, "Sunday In Savannah," "Why (The King of Love Is Dead)" and "Mississippi Goddam" (the latter previously unreleased) are included as extended versions and have been edited together to form a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Suite, running almost 18 minutes. In addition to stellar vocal performances by Ms. Simone, the narrative preceding the songs has been left pretty much intact, preserving the artist's emotional and provocative thoughts on the previous day's tragedy.
"Ain't Got No / I Got Life" and "In the Morning" were originally claimed as live performances and released as such on the NUFF SAID album. During research for this album, I became aware that the "sweetening" session noted in RCA's recording pages masked a complete re-record, with the studio performances being passed off as live with the addition of looped applause from the concert. These songs have been reconstructed and are now represented as the original undubbed studio versions, along with a bonus take of "Ain't Got No / I Got Life," which features an additional verse not on the hit single.
Extensive audio restoration has been undertaken on all tracks, but it was not possible to edit out some of the extraneous audience sounds on the live selections. I hope that the occasional cough does not in any way mar your enjoyment of what is a unique historical recording.
The title SAGA OF THE GOOD LIFE AND HARD TIMES is unashamedly borrowed from a Big Maybelle album. During a career spanning four decades, Ms. Simone has tirelessly and selflessly worked for the rights of all African-Americans. Often ostracized for her political beliefs, she has been forced to spend extensive periods away from the United States. SAGA serves as testimony to the commercial and creative highs in a short period of a remarkable career, as well as the pain and heartache she experienced during those same years.