First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2005, Volume 12, #2
Written by John Metzger
Throughout her career, Nina Simone produced an extraordinarily diverse body of work that effectively blurred the lines that typically separate the genres of soul, gospel, jazz, folk, blues, Broadway, and pop. In addition to writing her own superlative material, she wasnít afraid to reinterpret tunes penned by the likes of Hoagy Carmichael, Bob Dylan, Kurt Weill, George Harrison, and Paul Anka. Nevertheless, her attempts to find a mainstream audience sometimes took a heavy toll upon the consistency of her albums. Love Songs culls 14 tracks from her efforts in late í60s and early í70s, a time when Simone was stretching her wings and broadening her horizons beyond her jazz and blues roots. Without question, she sounds more comfortable delving into Lil Greenís In the Dark or the pair of George Gershwinís compositions from Porgy and Bess (I Loves You Porgy and My Manís Gone Now) than she does tackling the breezy pop of The Associationís Cherish, but over the years, her portrayals of contemporary fare havenít received quite the attention that they have deserved. Like Richie Havens, Simone knew how to capture the essence of a song and masterfully twist it into something that was uniquely her own. Prime examples include her sparse and haunted reading of Sandy Dennyís Who Knows Where the Time Goes as well as her absolutely lovely rendition of Leonard Cohenís Suzanne. Even the manner in which she sings Burt Bacharachís The Look of Love is powerful, though the arrangement in which her vocals were placed is so intransigent that it undermines her performance. Indeed, while Love Songs doesnít compile the finest moments from Simoneís illustrious career, it is still a worthwhile endeavor for the manner in which it ruminates upon a handful of her uneven, but no less moving outings. Ĺ
Love Songs is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box