TO LOVE SOMEBODY
Many austere critics not prone to dishing out praise in anything but small dribble have lavishly compared Nina Simone to the legend of the siren of Lorelei – a woman who enchanted sailors with the magic of her voice. Nina Simone certainly does have a magical quality in her voice. She inspires one to dream, to yearn, perhaps to suffer, if the song is one of sorrow. The commanding authority of her voice compels her listeners to explore new worlds and new ideas and new ideals.
In the mansion of the mind, where a song feeds only on the nebulous winds of imagination and emotion, Nina Simone walks in musical grandeur where few others dare stray. She can be warm and tender, or she might turn into a storm of anger, boiling in the fury of the song. Yet she is so great she communicates human understanding and affection for her fellow beings even while she attacks the towers of Wrong or Prejudice lyrically.
A queen among women, she is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished musicians of our time. Her music is without frills, but highly experimental in nature. She is not afraid of breaking the artificial boundaries set by other musicians; she explores all avenues and there is a constant barrage of new musical concepts and expressions in her piano playing. The instrument comes alive. It flowers.
Her songs stand out as diamonds of perfection within a world of barren stones. For example, there’s the consuming fascination of “To Love Somebody.” It’s a song that grows on you; the more you hear it, the more you’ll want to hear it. The offbeat melodic things going on in the background cause a tingle to go up your spine. While the lyrics tell of love, Nina Simone adds the undercurrent of passion, impressing you with her vibrant dynamism and her convincing onslaught on the emotion.
A lot of her songs sparkle with jazz flavors, spiced with her delicate touches. But she doesn’t stop there. A perfect example of this is her musical methodology in the small contemporary epic “Revolution” that has all of the message of a folk song, all of the soulful emotion of an R&B hit record, yet ventures from standard musical patterns, using jazz as a stepping-stone, into a mind-exploding progressive rock ending. In this album Nina Simone uncovers an entirely new facet of the works of Bob Dylan, exploring all of the musical possibilities in “Just Like Tom Thumb Blues,” “I Shall Be Released,” and “The Times They Are A-Changing.” Under the influence of Nina Simone, “I Shall Be Released” is gospel pure and unadulterated. It thunders in the mind and the combination of piano and organ stirs the soul.
“Just Like Tom Thumb Blues” becomes a clear story, perhaps for the first time to be understood in full-depth. Nina Simone is a born storyteller in the same fashion as were the wandering minstrels who conveyed the news in King Arthur’s days. With another Dylan tune, “The Times They Are A-Changing,” she graphically dramatizes the history of our times. The song emerges as a plea for all mankind, bound to shock, bound to innervate, bound to capture not only your interest but your fire, especially when the funeralistic organ thunders down the hallway of your mind. Who but Nina Simone would have dreamed of expressing this particular song in this particular fashion – giving it new life, new meaning and new impact. With this album Nina Simone proves herself to be one of the most important performers of this age. She entertains, but, even more important, she has something to communicate.
- Nina Simone: vocals, piano, arrangements
- Charles D. Alias: drums
- Weldon J. Irvine: organ
- Al Schackman: guitar
- Gene A. Perla: bass
- Doris Willingham: vocals
- Virdia Crawford: vocals
- Jimmy Wisner: arrangements, conductor
- Mike Moran: engineer
- Ray Hall: engineer
- Claude Hall: liner notes
- Label: RCA, 1969
- Recording session: New York City – RCA Studios – 1967-1969
- Catalog number: LSP-4152