Nina Simone is the high priestess of Soul. Her sultry alto tones weave through those tiny little ear bones until you are mesmerized. Sony’s Legacy Recordings has culled its massive vaults and compiled a fourteen track disc of Nina Simone’s Love Songs. All of the songs on this CD come from the period in Nina’s career spanning from 1967-1974, A time frame in which she put out nine records.
The CD starts with a live recording of I loves you Porgy from the opera Porgy and Bess. This is a soft and slow introduction, the long legato tones drawing you in. Once you are there, Nina Simone takes you through everything you’d expect in a love song, from the warm and happy to the unrequited and alone.
The record includes covers of songs by Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Burt Bacharach, and George Gershwin, including a second song from Porgy and Bess, and the beautiful lament My Man’s Gone Now.
Suzanne, track three, is the Leonard Cohen number. Nina’s arrangement is fun and lilting, bouncing around lightly and reminding us that love can be fun, it need not always be the long and muted tones found elsewhere on the CD. In general, this is a heavy CD, even when its fun, its not puppy love.
My favorite track on the CD is track four, Who knows where the time goes the second live offering on the disc. Nina croons over a strummed guitar. She sounds otherworldly in this track, distant but not diminished. By the time the piano comes in about three minutes in, I’d forgotten where I was, lost in a longing for something that would make me sing like that. “But I am not alone, as long as my love is near me. And I know it will be so until it is time to go,” She sings. I had to smile at the obligatory cough present in every live recording. It added a spatial dimension to an already layered performance.
Three of the tracks on the CD are from Nina Simone and Piano!, the most of any of the records from that time period. Even with just a piano and vocals, Nina Simone’s work never seems bare. In fact, her depth seems to shine out more so on these tracks. Track nine, In love in vain showcases Nina’s piano playing talent. Her fingers grace the keys running up and down them in the intro to the song.
This CD is made for opening a bottle of wine and making a romantic dinner is ever there was one. All in all, this is a quality CD worth more than just one listen. Its taste, touch and smell even if listening is just an auditory experience.