Forever Young, Gifted and Black:
Songs of Freedom and Spirit
The Music Box's #1 reissue of 2006
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2006, Volume 13, #1
Written by John Metzger
Throughout her career, Nina Simone proved to be a superlative interpreter of other artistsí material, and given that she tackled songs that were written by everyone from George Gershwin to Screaminí Jay Hawkins and from Bob Dylan to Daryl Hall, itís safe to say that her recorded output was suitably diverse. What distinguished her from other soul singers, however, was the fire and passion that she brought to her work, particularly when she delved into socio-political themes that explored Americaís class and cultural divides. This is entirely the raison díetre of Forever Young, Gifted and Black: Songs of Freedom and Spirit, a magnificently designed, newly commissioned compilation that fuses together six selections that were culled straight from Simoneís back catalogue with three unedited versions of previously available tunes and a pair of alternate takes. Appropriately enough, the set begins and ends with two drastically different incarnations of To Be Young, Gifted and Black ó the first, an R&B-tinged studio rendition; the second, a majestic, gospel-infused concert performance. The song, which originally was composed in 1969, shares its title with a posthumously produced theatrical production that was adapted from the notes left behind by playwright Lorraine Hansberry, author of Raisin in the Sun, and with its message of strength and solidarity, it became the "Black National Anthem." Elsewhere, Simone feverishly delivers a scathing indictment of the South on Mississippi Goddam; dramatically meditates upon Bob Dylanís The Times They Are A-Changiní; exudes pride on a spirited romp through Ainít Got No ó I Got Life; conjures an hypnotic spirit of healing on the percussive Westwind; and pays homage to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a hauntingly mournful, yet ultimately uplifting rendition of Why? (The King of Love Is Dead) that was recorded just three days after he had been assassinated. Without question, the injustices that Simone witnessed in her youth clung to her throughout her life, and although they eventually weighed so heavily upon her that she entered a self-imposed exile, at the time the music contained on Forever Young, Gifted and Black: Songs of Freedom and Spirit was crafted, they still were serving as her muse.
Forever Young, Gifted and Black: Songs of Freedom and Spirit
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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