Nina Simone: The Amazing Nina Simone

Vinyl reissue of the breakthrough jazz-flavoured album by the frustrated classical pianist adds popular extras such as My Baby Just Cares For Me

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I like this album a lot. But it is also a reminder that for most of her life, Simone did what others wanted her to do and what she believed others expected of her. It was her second studio album but her first for Colpix Records. Despite having some control over the choice of material, her trademark piano playing was heavily subdued by the orchestral arrangements. Nonetheless, the album was a commercial breakthrough for Simone. Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, the album was a collection of ballads, jazz, blues and gospel. None of the material was original, but that doesn’t detract from the emotional impact Simone achieves when singing good material.

At the time of the recording, Simone was still playing small clubs in order to raise funds for her classical piano training. She remained indifferent to playing popular music at the time and probably throughout her career. Her failure to get accepted as a classical pianist at the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, was a burden she carried throughout her entire life. Even when starring at Carnegie Hall at the peak of her fame, she lamented that she was not appearing as the first black classical pianist. When she did have the ability to exercise some personal freedom it was misinterpreted as moodiness or just acting the diva.

If only some of the anecdotal evidence is correct, Simone clearly wasn’t the easiest person to be around in her later career – but nor had she had the easiest of careers. The fact that she suffered from acute depression or complex mental health issues is no longer in doubt, and the way she was forced to perform by Andrew Stroud (her husband and manager) would be deemed unacceptable today. 

This is a high-quality pressing from Waxtime and I generally like what they do. But adding superfluous bonus tracks to extend the length or widen the album’s appeal is unnecessary. The original album has an integrity and relevance of its own. It doesn’t need the constant recycling of stale tracks such as I Loves You Porgy and My Baby Just Cares For Me. Otherwise, this album is a worthwhile addition to any vinyl collection.

Discography
(1) Blue Prelude; Children Go Where I Send You; Tomorrow (We Will Meet Once More); Stompin’ At The Savoy; It Might As Well Be Spring; You’ve Been Gone Too Long; I Loves You Porgy; Falling In Love Again (I Can’t Help It); That’s Him Over There, Chilly Winds Don’t Blow; Theme From “The Middle Of The Night”; Can’t Get Out Of This Mood; Willow Weep For Me; Solitaire; That’s All; The Man With A Horn; (2) My Baby Just Cares For Me (49.26)
Simone (v, p) with: (1) Bob Mersey (arr, cond). New York, 1959. (2) Jimmy Bond (b); Albert “Tootie” Heath (d). New York, December 1957.
Waxtime In Color 950720