Wild Is The Wind
Nina Simone was busy between 1964 and 1967. She released 10 albums—a mix of live and studio—during those years, Wild Is the Wind among them. It's exceptional, not least because it was built from songs left over from previous sessions; its odds-and-ends quality turns out to be a strength. Horace Ott and Simone herself split the arrangements. Ott’s charts are more traditional, spanning the tough, charging R&B of “I Love Your Lovin’ Ways,” the jazzy, sophisticated pop of “Break Down And Let It All Out,” and the heavily orchestrated ballad “What More Can I Say?” The tunes give Simone very different settings for her voice, and she makes the most of every opportunity, her phrasing moving from sassy to heartsick to forceful. Simone’s arrangements are more experimental. “Four Women,” a deeply stirring character study looking at race and prejudice from many angles simultaneously, is a towering jazz achievement that's enhanced by the song’s subtle build, from its quiet piano opening to its spine-tingling climax. “Lilac Wine,” an aching, slowly unfolding exploration of lost love and emotional torment, is one of Simone’s greatest vocal performances and would prove influential on singers for decades to come. And the album’s title track, an eerie and haunting slow glide through an abandoned ballroom, finds Simone making the most of her formidable lower range. Wild Is the Wind has a bit of everything that made her a defining pop artist of the 20th century—showtunes, heart-wrenching ballads, traditional folk, a politically charged original that became a classic—and is as beautiful an introduction as anything to Simone's mid-'60s style.