Monday, March 8, 2010

Nina Simone 'Baltimore' 1978

The original post can be found here.

The High Priestess of Soul meets CTI on this beautiful album from 1978. The sessions took place in Brussels and New York City, the unusually modern sound was arranged by David Matthews. Although Baltimore didn't bring no juke-box hits, it surely belongs among Nina Simone's best 1970's albums.
Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra each had a moment late in their careers when, facing middle age, they turned a single song into a transcendent statement of what their lives had meant. Holiday elevated a torch song, "I'm a Fool to Want You," into a tragic prayer. Sinatra's "It Was a Very Good Year" summarized a mode of erotic nostalgia.
Nina Simone's first album in four years contains such a moment in Bernard Ighner's "Everything Must Change," a song previously recorded by George Benson and Judy Collins, but which Simone makes her own in a semioperatic version that risks everything to succeed. Phrasing in spontaneous outbursts that vary in style from blunt speech-song to jazz-gospelRead More
melisma, the singer runs the emotional gamut from fear, sorrow and tenderness to a final exhilarating hiss of challenge. Set against a wash of strings and a tentative piano figure that retards the momentum, Simone's oracular baritone transforms "Everything Must Change" from a wistful philosophic morsel into a tough, anguished proclamation of survival and artistic independence. It is a moment to remember.
Except for an indifferent version of Hall and Oates' "Rich Girl," the new LP resounds with further tremors of self-renewal. The blinding anger that infused Simone's more recent records has attenuated into an eloquent moodiness. Indeed, the bulk of Baltimore's material stresses love, reconciliation and the passage of time, and includes the definitive version of Judy Collins' haunting "My Father." While Creed Taylor's lush pop-R&B production provides adequate, if somewhat soupy background, the force of Nina Simone's personality has always been sufficient to render most producers irrelevant. Baltimore is a stunning comeback by one of the very greatest.

1. Baltimore
2. Everything Must Change
3. The Family
4. My Father
5. Music For Lovers
6. Rich Girl
7. That's All I Want From You
8. Forget
9. Balm In Gilead
10. If You Pray Right


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