Sings the Blues
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2006, Volume 13, #1
Written by John Metzger
Nina Simone made some extraordinary music in her career, but she tended to release albums at such a phenomenal rate that it isn’t surprising to discover that most of them were uneven affairs. Still, tucked within her canon are a few choice nuggets, not the least of which is Sings the Blues, her debut for RCA. Released just weeks after Phillips Records issued High Priestess of Soul, the two outings couldn’t have been approached more differently. Where the latter offered an eclectic mix of material, Sings the Blues was a straightforward conceptual piece that framed Simone’s impassioned vocals with solid but understated accompaniments that were provided by a crack team of session musicians. Indeed, without the sometimes distracting ornamentation that too often adorned her work, she was free simply to be herself. As always, Simone exuded strength and courage throughout the set, but she succeeded in balancing this by laying bare her more vulnerable side, particularly on the anguished crawl through Buddy Johnson’s Since I Fell for You, the striking Blues for Mama, and her haunting interpretation of George Gershwin’s My Man’s Gone Now. Elsewhere, she explored her carnal nature on both the sultry Do I Move You and the innuendo-laden I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl, and she teamed with author Langston Hughes to sculpt a scathing protest of the treatment of poverty-stricken African-Americans on Backlash Blues. Though the entirety of its contents are planted firmly within a single genre, Sings the Blues covers a broad range of emotions and topics. Guided by Simone’s gift for nuance, the set — which has been augmented by an alternate version of Do I Move You and a groovy cover of Willie Dixon’s Whatever I Am (You Made Me) — ranks among her very best endeavors.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box