High Priestess Of Soul.
F. Gentile | Lake Worth, Florida, United States | 10/14/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't necessarily mean "soul", as in, category of music. I am referring to the relative handfull of singers who sing from their "soul", that indefinable, intangible place where art is born. I bought this recording as an album, in around 1973 or so, on the advice of none other than "The Happy Hooker", Xaviera Hollander. She had praised this recording as one of her most favorite, and, based on her good taste, I purchased it! I was not disappointed. At the time, I had barely heard of Nina Simone. But, also at that time, I was suffering from saccharine overdose due to the trend in music towards singers like Karen Carpenter and Helen Reddy. They were talented ladies, but, so....whitebread! I HATED their songs! I wanted something SEXY! and this recording reeked of it. Nina Simone's smooth, mysterious vocals evoked images of an other worldly Lorelei, whose dark, islandy phrasings could lead the powerless listener to sweet doom! She had such a true and natural instinct as far as phrasing and stylizing a song. She could take a simple song and weave a spell with her voice and talent. You either have it, or you don't. Ms. Simone did. I was especially hypnotized by the first track on this recording, the hauntingly beautiful "Suzanne." This song has remained one of my favorites through the years, listening to her sing it actually taught me alot about singing. Though I have heard other artists perform this song, it is Miss Simone's version that remains the definitive version. I enjoy all the songs on this album, they range from ballad to all-out hell bent protest, as in "Revolution." Miss Simone, though not exactly a household name, enjoyed a long, respected career, with a very loyal following. She was known as one of the first "Divas", and, according to the trumpet player I knew years ago who had performed with her, this label was putting it kindly, as he swore he'd never work with her again. I imagine it was more likely just the case of a very strong artist knowing exactly what she wanted and needed to put forth her magic. She was also very vocally active in the civil rights movement. I don't know exactly where Miss Simone was born, I believe it was the U.S., and I know her real name was something more common, and not very exotic. She was the one who christened herself "Nina Simone" originally, as the story goes, so her mother wouldn't find out about her desire to pursue a music career. But, her sound, style, and overall look brought forth an image more resembling a powerful VooDoo Goddess than someone from a humble American backround. With her recent passing, I re-listened to this recording, which was not only very nostalgic, but made me realize that the world of music had lost one of its most talented, original artists. Nina Simone was one of a kind, and her music deserves to live on. Do yourself a favor, and, if you are not familiar with her artistry, become so. Though there are possibly better collections of her work available, this recording was my first exposure to her beautiful talent."