Nina Simone—Sings the Blues

By Bebo Moroni, collaboration spéciale

I’m sorry because maybe in this review, I’m going to be a little boring (if I’m not boring in general!), but I need to get back to emotions, rather than descriptions.

Until then, I thought that nothing could ever – musically and live – move me as much as the attack of Thick As a Brick during the 1974 tour of Jethro Tull. In fact, there was a little competition between this album and a surprise from John Barleycorn, with Traffic, in the middle of Glad during a 1975 concert.

Then, a few years later, I lined up in front of the Olympia in Paris to attend Nina Simone’s concert.

Well, anyway, you’re gonna listen to Nina Simone at the Olympia, for… Results: living up to expectations. Nothing to philosophize or fantasize about. Well, when the curtain opened, and this wonderful little woman walked over to the piano, put her hands on the keyboard and started to play Real Real, I felt a jolt that almost knocked me off my chair (the worn metaphor has been used twice before, but those were both humorous occasions. The first time was Ciao Pussycat. The second was for a hilarious duet at the Incredible String Band concert with the unforgettable – quod non fecerunt barbariTeatro Goldoni in Rome).

Nina, great Nina, unforgettable Nina! (It’s not a sigh, it’s an observation!)

Nina Simone Sings The Blues is the whole (but not the unicum) of the work by this extraordinary Artist with a very big and highlighted A. Eleven blues tracks, including five composed by Nina herself. Eleven standards, because even those that were not yet, in this case Nina’s own compositions, became so immediately.

Today (although this happens, strangely, always after the departure of those who could also have enjoyed such a great success), let’s say that like in a commercial, we add a little sugar in our cereal (I Want a Little Sugar in my Bowl). This commercial would show us, first thing in the morning, families who … (incredibly beautiful and rested, made up and combed) wake up in the morning and munch on cereal that makes them even happier and more perfect (of course, they live in a world where there are no bills, no sicknesses, no infamous co-workers, no overbearing bosses, no inept leaders and what have you!) I always imagine that in their homes, as neat, perfumed and incorruptible as they are, there is not even a toilet in the bathroom. But Simone’s life was the complete opposite of that of cereal-eating families, and I Want a Little Sugar in my Bowl is the very manifestation of that hard life, and there’s no point in trying to fool us by passing it off as a simple, thought-provoking ditty.

I would like to transcribe, here, a cover note written by her producer, Sid McCoy: Producer Note ‘My Man’s Gone Now’ was the last song recorded during this session. Ms. Simone was physically and psychologically exhausted from the previous recordings, but she nevertheless sat down at the piano and began to sing and play that famous tune from ‘Porgy and Bess’. The double bass followed. In a hidden corner, Nina drew the necessary energy to offer us a rare, perfect, inspired performance, with even more intensity than what she had expressed until then. It was a good first; there was nothing to improve.

These words by McCoy, certainly sincere, who really loved Nina, perhaps one of the few men not to have exploited, pressed and thrown her into a corner, tell the story of the great Nina Simone, this extraordinary Artist (with a great A, doubly underlined), better than any other story told verbally or otherwise (besides her music).

The record was and remains beautiful. The recording, made by RCA according to the famous Dynagroove method, was already of a quite remarkable level (the recording was entirely made in the legendary Studio B in New York), but unfortunately disadvantaged in the pressings following the first edition, because of imperfect matrices, and almost neglected in the European pressings.

The reissue, here too, in the form of a perfect replica, by Speaker Corner, finally renders full justice to an album that deserves it so much, and to an artist who struggled to obtain it (with the exception, and belatedly, of a title that, by her own admission, she hated a little, My Babe Don’t Care ’Bout Me. A full voice, perfectly at the centre of the stage, a piano of great luminosity and credible dimensions, a sharp and full-bodied double bass, clear and very effective percussions, resulting in a perfect authenticity. In short, a splendid work, on a silent vinyl support.

The same considerations as for Kind of Blue apply here as well. It’s expensive [a little less than Miles’ album], it’s worth everything it costs, or even more. Listen to it and you won’t be able to stop.

A good vinyl is a powerful drug. It is true that it creates an addiction, but an addiction that is good for your health.

RCA Victor, LSP-3789
Replica Speaker Corners
Vinile Vergine 180g.