Label – Philips
In the excellent Liz Garbus directed documentary of 2015, “What Happened, Miss Simone?”, the biggest revelation was that Nina was both a reluctant singer and jazz artist. A classically trained pianist, her dream was a full concert recital of Bach’s music at Carnegie Hall, which was ultimately never fulfilled. By 1966 she was a well established artist and this penultimate collection on the Philips label comprises of leftovers from the previous two years. A mixture of mainly studio recordings, a couple of live performances, and using a varying array of band members, it is, to say the least, a random snapshot of disparate themes, with a lack of cohesion that’s understandable. Much like her bi-polar personality, there’s a mixture of upbeat R&B pop, powerful politicization, and mournful, bluesy balladry. There are some highly original highlights, mixed with less revealing covers, obviously placed to fill the long playing format. What it does reveal however, is Simone’s unique vocal interpretations and her impeccable range. Her voice has a confident bounce on the soul/pop “Why Keep On Breaking My Heart” and “I Love Your Lovin’ Ways” is as joyful as any Ray Charles classic.
For all the heraldry, “Wild Is The Wind” which was famously re-recorded by David Bowie for his “Station To Station” album, is an overlong mournful ballad that the Thin White Duke actually managed to improve. Her take on “Lilac Wine” is slow, deliberate and whilst still impressive, was topped by Jeff Buckley’s version. The real stand out is the self penned “Four Women”, as an increasingly seething Nina conveys the trials and toils of four African American women, pre-civil rights, and the amazingly convincing vocal persona she takes on for each individual. From the same 1965 sessions came the grandiose “What More Can I Say?”, as her voice raises with a staggering emotional intensity to support the growing orchestral arrangement. Admittedly the quality begins to fizzle out towards the end but one has to bear in mind that these songs were regarded as cast-offs, out-takes and surplus material when they were recorded.
From grandiosity to stark minimalism, Simone rarely adhered to strict artistic temperance or discretion. “Wild Is The Wind” has many of the faults and qualities that handicapped a number of her studio recordings. Sometimes the self pity gets wearisome, whilst other songs show her incredible talent, but overall it’s a cobbled together collection than can be a rewarding experience.
1 – I Love Your Lovin’ Ways (8)
2 – Four Women (9)
3 – What More Can I Say? (8)
4 – Lilac Wine (8)
5 – That’s All I Ask (7)
6 – Break Down And Let It All Out (6)
7 – Why Keep On Breaking My Heart (7)
8 – Wild Is The Wind (6)
9 – Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair (6)
10 – If I Should Lose You (6)
11 – Either Way I Lose (7)