I Put a Spell On You
In her autobiography I Put a Spell on You, Nina Simone recalled her Greenwich Village days, when the micro scenes that had formed around folk, blues, and jazz all embraced the singer-pianist with equal fervor. The album of the same name, her third for Philips (an association that spanned seven albums from 1964 to 1967), illustrates why that was: Simone covers everyone from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins to Jacques Brel to contemporary Broadway songsmiths Newley and Bricusse, subsuming all these sources into her own inimitable artistic persona. Her voice is haunted, spellbinding, fragile yet commanding all at once, fluent in rock, soul, jazz, and everything in between; her piano underscoring is consummately tasteful and unpredictable. Hal Mooney’s arrangements and production strike a balance between orchestral sweep and grooving rhythm, laced with the effective guitar of Rudy Stevenson (who contributes his own “One September Day” and “Blues On Purpose”). The vocal cadenza at the end of “Feeling Good,” the album’s most famous number, puts Simone in a category beyond category.