Like Duke Ellington, Nina Simone—who was equally at home with jazz, soul, and classical music—was an impossible musician to categorize. But while Ellington’s best works have never really gone out of print, the same can’t be said for Simone’s. The series of albums she made after her 1967 move to RCA Records have been especially difficult and/or expensive to find.
Now all nine of those albums are available as part of an elegant (and inexpensive) box set. The first, 1967’s Nina Simone Sings the Blues, finds the singer sticking more or less closely to the jazz sound she favored at the Colpix and Philips labels. By 1974, and the It Is Finished LP, Simone was recording tunes made famous by Steppenwolf (an amazing cover of “The Pusher”) and Ike and Tina Turner. The albums in between feature great interpretations of songs by George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Burt Bacharach, Randy Newman, Hoagy Carmichael, Leonard Cohen, and the Bee Gees. The 1969 live album Black Gold is especially good, and 1972’s Emergency Ward (recorded partly at Fort Dix) is one of the great live documents of the 1970s.
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