Thursday, March 30, 2006

Nina Simone: Silk and Soul & The Soul of Nina Simone

Written by Ladron de Tebeos

Welcome back to my lair, my fellow carbon-based life forms, sorry I’ve been gone so long, I’ve been trying to raise funding for my new film, Brokeback Catholic Church. (Send all comments regarding my hell-bound soul to the owner of this website) Today we’ll be playing a little game called “Chasing the Dragon” and we’ll be spinning a CD or two from the High Priestess of Soul, Nina Simone. Let’s roll.

The album starts with a pounding drum and shrieking guitar that overwhelms your senses and…hmmm, I’m sorry, my CD changer started playing Led Zeppelin I by mistake…actually, this is pretty cool, I think I’ll review this instead…whoop, hang on a sec, the phone’s ringing…Okay, apparently the owner of this site, Mr. El Grande Bastardo, a.k.a. El Bicho, has told me that the Nina Simone review needs to be reviewed tonight, and if I do this review while high, he’s going to revoke my papers and send me back to El Salvador, stupid puto.

Silk and Soul is the follow up to Nina’s first album Nina Simone Sings the Blues. Here again, she has taken songs and molded them around her sensual silken voice to create an album that would best be experienced ‘making sweet sweet love’ as Chef would say. Nina wrote the song “Consummation”, a beautiful love song that reveals the tender side of her soul. “The Look of Love” is a Burt Bacharach written song (not a cover of that classic ABC song) from the motion picture Casino Royale. She also does a cover of that old Association song “Cherish” you remember that one; ‘Cherish is the word I used to describe, all the feelings that I have’, blah, blah, blah, it’s gay, but she makes it work. There’s a sense of longing on songs like “I wish I knew how it would feel to be free”, and “Why must your love well be so dry”. In truth, almost all of the songs on this album are well done, and fine examples of the way Nina can take a tune and make it her own, capturing the spiritual and melodic message of the writer.

Next up, The Soul of Nina Simone is a CD/DVD collection of greatest hits and live songs put together on one CD/DVD. (Does that make sense? oh well, who cares) The songs are more soulful and less pop-sounding than Silk and Soul, and this is a good thing as it gives her more of a chance to use her expressive vocals to capture all sorts of subtleties and nuances in this collection of songs. “Just Like Tom Thumb Blues” is a cover of an old Dylan song that tells of a man let down by everyone, society, government, and friends. “I think it’s going to rain today” is a heartbreaking song written by Randy Newman that looks achingly into a grey future. “To Love Somebody” is a cover of the old Bee Gees tune, turned from some bubble gum pop crap into an anger cry of betrayal. “Feeling Good” is just a great song that received some airplay on HBO promo’s for Six Feet Under, you know how it goes, ‘birds in the sky, you know how it feels, etc.’ I would say, if you could only get one of these two CD’s, definitely grab this one.

The DVD portion of this disc consists of several live performances from the ‘60s, including her performance on The Ed Sullivan Show and several songs from the Harlem Festival in ‘69. It’s all very good stuff, although I would have liked to have seen her in a more intimate setting, a small smoke-filled jazz club, maybe. But in spite of the settings, her voice shines through and connects with the audience to the point where the surroundings don’t matter, it’s just that voice and that presence and that’s all you need.