Aside from her voice and her piano playing, the thing that stands out most about Nina Simone among her fellow soul singers of this era is her variety and versatility: listen to most other 1967 soul albums and you will hear one thing, soul. Yes, there will be slow soul songs and their will be more up-tempo numbers. And maybe there will be a concession to a more poppier sound (or a rougher sound, depending upon the label) here and there but, most of the time, it’s 10-14 soul songs, not mistakable for anything else.
Not so with Miss Simone who doesn’t seem to recognize boundaries between high art and low popular music, like many of the great innovators of her era.Sure, Simone is far less broad in her reach than the pop rock acts that were breaking down barriers at the same time, particularly in 1966-68 but she’s working in a far more conservative space, where deviation from formula was rarely encouraged. Just think about this: we have Ray Charles-style country soul, a Chuck Berry cover, a Duke Ellington cover, a soul jazz song, songs written by a future David Lynch film composer, gospel and pop. I know of nothing else from the R&B side of the spectrum with this kind of diversity. (You should know I don’t know her catalogue at all, yet.)
I will say, I do find some of the tracks over-arranged, as is typical of a lot of this type of music for the era – I’d be much happier to listen to her and her piano by itself. But still, this is as diverse as this stuff gets for the era.
- “Don’t You Pay Them No Mind” by Richard Ahlert, Bobby Scott; 3:05
- “I’m Gonna Leave You” by Rudy Stevenson; 2:15
- “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” by Chuck Berry; 2:02
- “Keeper of the Flame” by Charles Derringer; 3:21
- “The Gal from Joe’s” by Duke Ellington, Irving Mills; 2:43
- “Take Me to the Water” by Nina Simone 2:49
- “I’m Going Back Home” by Stevenson; 2:47
- “I Hold No Grudge” by Angelo Badalamenti, John Clifford; 2:17
- “Come Ye” by Simone; 3:34
- “He Ain’t Comin’ Home No More” by Badalamenti, Cliffor;d 3:06
- “Work Song” by Nat Adderley, Oscar Brown; 3:03
- “I Love My Baby” by Andy Stroud 4:00