The Best of Nina Simone
Plucking standout material from Nina Simone’s Philips albums of 1964-67, this 1969 LP paints a portrait of one of America’s most searingly original and unclassifiable talents. Simone had an effortless fluency in jazz and blues, show tunes, and modern pop/rock, a classically inflected yet indelibly soulful piano style, and an emotionally wrenching and dynamically varied voice that Hal Mooney’s arrangements and production captured especially well. Oddly, there’s nothing here from High Priestess of Soul, but Simone’s six other Philips releases are well represented. The theatrical sing-speak of “Pirate Jenny,” the radical protest of “Mississippi Goddam,” the extended jam breakdown of “Sinnerman,” the chilling narrative crescendo of “Four Women”: There’s a singularly expressive quality in these immortal performances.