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Nina Simone And Piano!
Nina Simone And Piano!
Offered by booklore
Price: 11.64

4.0 out of 5 stars Pure Nina, 5 Feb 2009
This review is from: Nina Simone And Piano! (Audio CD)
Recorded in 1968 and released in 1969, a lesser known album, and not commercially successful, even at a time when Nina's career as an artist and a political activist was on the rise. But a release that it is rated by long standing fans -'as pure Nina'; Nina and keyboards with hardly any other contribution. At a time when Nina was adapting quite rousing tracks such as `I Ain't Got No/ I've got Life' from the musical `Hair' and anthems such as `Why the King of Love is Dead' about the murder of her friend, Martin Luther King junior, `Nina Simone and Piano' is quite introspective. It is surprising to note that the piano playing is quite understated, especially considering that Nina was a very accomplished musician who was originally intending to be a classical music pianist.

The CD versions includes four bonus track, original sleeve notes and a new review by veteran Soul journalist David Nathan.

Highlights include the opening tracks ,the blues based 'Seems I'm Never Tired Lovin' You`, and 'Nobody's Fault but Mine' , an intense standard about being condemned to Hell, particularly striking when taking account of Nina's childhood Gospel background. Jonathan King `s `Everyone `s gone to the Moon' is quirky but endearing. Nina's version of the `Desperate One' by Jacques Brel, is amazing. The first time that she would record Brel, and the start of European affinity which would become more important later in her life. There are four bonus tracks, including `Music for Lovers' on which Nina performs on a Wurlitzer organ, and is superb. In total there fourteen tracks, bringing the total playing to just under fifty minutes.

This release is very much for the `Ninaologists' and probably not the best place to start exploring her career. Some of the pieces are quite brooding at times, yet it is understandable why this album is so highly regarded by Nina fans. Some of the later Nina releases are given lavish accompaniments, and Nina nearly always appeared live with backing musicians, but here is Nina performing on her own . The core of her talent comes through well.


A Single Woman [Expanded] (International)
A Single Woman [Expanded] (International)
Price: 7.13

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nina at her most mellow followed by some more upbeat new material, 16 Dec 2008
The last Nina studio album from 1993 but re-issued with unreleased seven tracks, making seventeen tracks in total , playing time just under an hour.
Nina was hitting sixty, a new wave of interest in her work had been underway for a few years, and her autobiography had just been published. But she seemed to be lost. All the old defiance had gone. As the title track suggest- the opening number no less- this release is dedicated to the plight of `A Single Woman`: Thought her voice still sounds great and the string arrangements work well but on this release, Dr. Nina Simone sounded mellow and looking inwards. There are no duff tracks, but the melancholy gets too much at times, and there's not even any of the extraordinary piano playing that one appreciates from her.
Dedicating `The Folks Who Live on the Hill' to a former lover, Earl Barrow the Prime Minister of Barbados , who let Nina become his mistress for fourteen months in the mid 1970's, seems one great 'what might of been'.
`Loves been good to me' is bitter-sweet, Nina presenting her life as a procession of disappointments just about redeemed by love affairs which don't last. The tracks seems nostalgic, many could fit into movie soundtracks of previous decades. `Papa can you Hear Me' is almost too painful to listen to, a lonely woman reminiscing about her deceased father. Il N'y a Pas D'amour Heureux , which Nina sings beautifully , is the standard Gallic evocation of doomed love.
At last
'The More I See You' and 'Marry Me' right at the end are more upbeat.. The ten original tracks are rarely found on compilations so worth seeking out.

But the bonus tracks at least give a different view. Nina's versions of `No Woman No Cry' ( Bob Marley- one of the very few times she attempted a reggae standard), and `Long Winding Road' ( Beatles standard from `Let It Be') are fine. A real jaunty version of `I've got to Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter' , made famous by Barry Manilow , is great. There is just a snatch of Nina's version of Bob Dylan's `The Times They Are Changing' -enough to make on remember that they were contemporaries in some respects , playing to the same New York audience in the early 1960's.
But what really excels is her version of the Prince classic `Sign O The Times', marvellous work, Nina's old spark seemed to got ignited and her talents as an imaginative artist and skilled interpreter of contemporary work are much in evidence.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 7, 2011 10:30 PM GMT


Desire
Desire
Offered by Dirty Deals UK
Price: 8.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Dylan, 17 Oct 2008
This review is from: Desire (Audio CD)
I have to admit that I am not a great Dylan fan. I adore Jimi Hendrix version of 'All Along the Watchtower' and Nina Simone's version of 'I Shall Be Released'. Yet when I listen to 'Desire' I can suddenly suspend my previous preconceptions and understand some of Dylan's appeal. Starting off with 'Hurricane', a superb indictement of judicial Racism, with lyrics which really hit their target. The rest of the album concerns some far more personal material, such as the last track 'Sara'concerning his wife whom he was on the point of divorcing, a beautifully direct love song, with sublime lyrics. The rest of the tracks seem to dwell on unfufilled love 'One More Cup of Cofee' or 'Mozambique' or to tales about various rough diamonds who seem to be bordering on outlaw existence, such as 'Joey' or 'Isis'. For someone who doesn't normally get Dylan I have to admit that this is one of my favourite 'back from the pubs 'albums, to be played loud with headphones after a few drinks. Whether you normally dig or simply don't get Dylan's appeal, this album shows that Dylan ploughs his own unique course through Rock music. And it is hard not to respect him for it.


Stay with Me Till Morning
Stay with Me Till Morning
by John Braine
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bleak take on 1970's suburbia, 13 Oct 2008
Perhaps the best of John Braine's suburban bed hopping novels. A world where large properties, expenses accounts, tax dodges, children in public schools, women in trouser suits, chain smoking, drinking and driving, are the norm. The standard device John Braine used to introduce more artistic characters in a provincial Northern town, the local amateur players, is less in evidence here.

The novel concerns two lead characters: Clive a successful businessman about to celebrate his 47th birthday, seemingly has everything but deep down knows that his life is unfulfilled. His wife Robin , three years younger, can not get rid herself of an attraction towards an old flame, even though she has to maintain the pretence of being a happy Middle Class housewife with teenage children. A race begins who is going to be the first to have an affair simply in a bid to make their empty lives seem more fulfilled.

One drawback of the novel is that usually John Braine specialises in having a lead male character, essentially masculine but incredibly complex with unexpected depths. At time this novel's main `point of view' shifts between that of Clive and Robin which does not always work so well. And the reader cares less about the characters as a result. The only solution they have to their lack of purpose in their lives is hitting the bottle and illicit affairs. I mean this is 1970, why don't any of them put on a kaftan and take up TM or reading Gurdjieff? The only vaguely appealing character is the local bookshop manager, who seems to be less self obsessed and have wider reference points. Predictably everything goes wrong for Clive and Robin and their respective lovers. But I am not sure if the reader is meant to be bothered or not.

Overall a well written portrayal of suburban bleakness and unhappiness at the start of the 1970's. But its pessimism is enough to drive the reader to drink.


The Crying Game
The Crying Game
by John Braine
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best Braine novel apart from 'Room at the Top', 13 Oct 2008
This review is from: The Crying Game (Paperback)
The story of Frank, a young journalist who has entered Swinging London from a Northern Working Class Roman Catholic background, who discovers his cousin Adam, a would be mentor, already in London for five years and sufficiently corrupted. He moves into Adam's trendy bachelor pad in Hampstead. His commissioning editor is driving him to break a sex scandal concerning a cabinet minister.

Frank Bascombe is probably John Braine's strongest male lead character since Room At the Top's legendary Joe Lampton. Both operate well outside of the Hero/Anti-Hero stereotypes, Combining strong masculine drive with thoughtfulness and sensitivity, who seem to evolve as their life changes. . Essentially conservative figures let loose in a changing world.

John Braine presents a whole range of quite cynical figures moving in media and political circles of the party circuit in 1970. He manages to be critical of the new permissive society without being too judgemental or turning his novel into some sort of morality tale. The world he evokes is one of pleasure but emptiness, where loneliness and betrayal are common place.

Sufficient to say Frank ends up rejecting his new found lifestyle. Overall a superb social realist novel where John Braine managed to capture contemporary life so well.


Room At The Top
Room At The Top
by John Braine
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crucial 1950's novel, 13 Oct 2008
This review is from: Room At The Top (Paperback)
This 1957 bestseller captures the very significant shift from Post War austerity to late 1950's economic growth perfectly, neatly depicting the economic and social opportunities that were now open to an ex-Service man such as Joe Lampton from a Northern Working Class background . The novel is an important piece of social realism. Unashamedly provincial settings. Extra-marital infidelity is openly described; Joe Lampton as a hero gets his fair share of sexual intercourse, boozing and a fist fight or two.

Joe Lampton is a great lead character. Robust, blunt speaking, masculine, ambitious living his life on his own terms until eventually conforming, he is also sensitive and compassionate.

The women Joe must choose between, Susan whose presented as being the innocent Daddy's Little Girl, and Alice, the worldly older married woman, at first seem like some sort of virgin and whore caricature. In fact the female lead characters are developed well as the novel progresses, and begin to become more complex and interesting than one first assumes.

The climax of the novel is superb. Joe Lampton has achieved what he wanted, but pays a tragic price
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 28, 2013 12:09 PM BST


The Murder of John Lennon
The Murder of John Lennon
by Fenton Bresler
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A case eloquently made but not quite proven, 27 Aug 2008
NOTE: This book also seems to have been published under the title ' Who Killed John Lennon', the year of publication 1989 and the ISBN number are the same.

The writer eloquently presents the arguments for the theory that John Lennon was the victim of a politically motivated assassination ; Firstly the American authorities had John and Yoko under a massive amount of surveillance and the writer shows the shortcomings of the Freedom of Information Act in trying to see what really happened in this respect. Secondly just as the liberal experiment of Jimmy Carter's rule was coming to an end and the Regan era was about to begin, certain elements in power did not welcome John and Yoko's return to public life in 1980 with the `Double Fantasy` album. Thirdly , the official line that Mark Chapman was some sort of `crazed fan' is blown out of the water by this book : Fenton Bresler reminds the world that as Mark Chapman pled guilty to murder, there was little investigation into the case on the part of the Authorities.

Also one has to remember that this book came out a year after Albert Goldman's ferocious biography of 1988, which maintained that John Lennon was not a contented house husband in the late 1970's but had turned into a degenerate wreck being manipulated by Yoko. Fenton Bresler does his best to demolish this argument and suggests that a more re-invigorated John Lennon had emerged by 1980, ready to start political activity.

Yet somehow doubts still linger . The author has done a vast amount of thorough research and conducted his own interviews over eight years, but the weakness is in trying to explain why the authorities were really that bothered by John and Yoko re-emerging. The writer claims that they were going to get politically active again, and had already booked air tickets to march in sympathy with some strikers in California. But the `Double Fantasy ` album was decidedly non political, a much more cosy affair compared with 1972's `Some Time in New York City' where John and Yoko seemed to be taking up every radical chic cause under the sun. ( And even this album was not a great success in commercial terms in USA ).

Moreover, although the writer has highlighted the flaws in the notion that Mark Chapman was a `crazed fan' and the gaps that emerge when one tries to piece together his life, this does not necessarily prove that he was a pre-programmed assassin working for some clandestine body such as the CIA.

This work should certainly be read by anyone interested in the work of John Lennon.


Tell It Like It Is
Tell It Like It Is
Price: 10.65

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nina at her most diverse and interesting, 27 Aug 2008
This review is from: Tell It Like It Is (Audio CD)
Some 66 minutes of music, 25 tracks of mainly lesser known material- though only two are completely unreleased.

Double CD of Nina's work from arguably her most creative years with RCA. Nina had always been incredibly diverse as an artist and her audience reflected this; being acclaimed by the likes of Frank Sinatra and the Beatniks of Greenwich Village. Any `Ninaologist' who is determined to get beyond the countless compilation CD s and the classic re-issues will grab this as a matter of course. But for anyone who is hesitating?

The answer will be a definite yes! Buy It! This release shows Nina Simone at her most interesting, diving into the chaos of the USA in an era defined by rising Black Consciousness, Anti-War protests, the counter-culture. The release opens with `Cosi Ti Amo', an Italian language version of the Bee Gees `To Love Somebody', sounding like a Eurovision Song Contest entry, but surprisingly endearing, whilst disc two opens with a cover of `Save Me', Aretha Franklin's hit. There are two imaginative covers of Leonard Cohen's `Suzanne' a late night mellow version and a more upbeat, and the Beatnik numbers carry on with versions of the Byrds' `Turn Turn Turn', `Ain't Got No-I Got Life', from the hippie musical `Hair', a hit for Nina in Europe, but a flop in the USA. And a peculiar version of Melanie's 'What Have They Done To My Song Ma'-delivered like a show tune.

The spiritual numbers on offer are magnificent: 'Come Ye' , 'Take My Hand Precious Lord', and the closing track is 'Thandewye 'Spiritual', previously unreleased and absolutely sublime. When Nina peaked she could transform a song into something quite ethereal. But this collection also shows Nina at her most sensual, `Do I Move You,?' is rather erotic, whilst `Jelly Roll' is positively bawdy. Some of the curiosities include a live recording where Nina tried to sing Judy Collins' `My Father' a short time after her own father had died, and breaks down. Also `22nd Century' , previously unreleased by Tony McKay, a sort of folkish post apocalyptic rap . Finally there are also lesser know versions of two of Nina's overtly political numbers -'Young Gifted and Black' and `Why? The King of Love is Dead'. Highly Recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 19, 2012 6:13 PM BST


I Put a Spell on You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone
I Put a Spell on You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone
by Nina Simone
Edition: Paperback

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique insight into a turbulent life, 27 Aug 2008
Perhaps one of the most angry books one will ever read: The incredible account of how one Eunice Kathleen Waymon, born to a Black family in South Caroline, a piano playing child prodigy tried to become a professional classical pianist. As a student she began to play in night-clubs to fund her studies and changed her name to Nina Simone so that her mother wouldn`t find out. One night the manager told her to start singing as well or get fired. Nina started using her voice, got an increasing following, cut her own version of `I loves You Porgy' and began to gain an audience with the New York Beatniks, along with Bill Cosby, John Coltrane, and Bob Dylan. She married got divorced, re-married, her career was on the rise.

But Nina was not going to go to be assimilated easily. Her sense of duty towards Black Americans gave her an edge in an era where the Civil Rights Movement was beginning to have an impact, and the fact that she began to meet some of America's top Back Intellectuals such as Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Stokey Carmichael meant Nina couldn't remain neutral. In 1963 some white supremacists burned a church, killing four young Black girls. When the news broke Nina's husband and manager Andy found her in the garage looking for materials to assemble a zip gun. She was persuaded out of going to the Southern states to seek revenge, but to write `Mississippi Goddam', a show tune with an absolutely furious message.

Though friends with Martin Luther King junior, as the 1960's wore on, Nina didn't accept non-violence and was more accepting of Black Power. By 1968 Nina portrays the USA as being on the verge of civil war, and she remembers the activists who lost their lives in the struggle and begins to castigate the leadership of the movement for what she sees as its failures to carry on the fight.

Then the book seems becomes a procession of resentments. Nina leaves the United States in 1974 disgust at the political situation and abandons her marriage. Spells in Barbados, Liberia ( with unsuccessful love affairs), Switzerland , Paris follow, but by 1978 her career is in disarray. Her ex husband and manager had not being sorting out taxes, her personal affairs and business concerns were in a sheer mess. A supposed promoter takes Nina to London to get her career going. It turns out he is a swindler, and leaves her beaten unconscious in a hotel room with unpaid bills. Nina takes an overdose. Not surprisingly the Music Industry is savagely indicted throughout the biography.

After this point `I Put A Spell On You' seems to rush forward. Nina relocates to France, starts recording and touring. There are enough fans to re-kindle interest in her work . And by 1985 , `My Baby Just Cares For Me' an obscure LP track that Nina had first recorded in 1957 , used for commercial brings Nina back into the public eye. She has survived, though is never reconciled to the USA.

Now and then one longs for some more humour, such as the account of Nina, after a few gins, making a pass at Louis Farrakhan.

The book is short, 176 pages, and came out in 1991- Nina was to live for another twelve years -so is incomplete. The lack of dates in the text makes it hard to follow at times. But overall this autobiography gives an unique insight to one of the most versatile and interesting figures in modern popular music.


Baltimore
Baltimore

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nina swamped with strings, 4 May 2008
This review is from: Baltimore (Audio CD)
Nina Simone was displaced by the mid-1970's,both as an artist and a poltical activist: Rejecting the USA, and living in Liberia, then Europe, spending years without management or agent, sometimes without a record deal, 1977 -1978 saw Nina at her lowest ebb. Then Jazz label CTI agreed a one off deal: Prime studio musicians, backing singers were drafted in. The result was this 1978 album 'Baltimore'. Even the CD sleeve notes concede that Nina didn't like the final result and later she claimed to have had no choice of the songs that were selected. Some fans however rate this release highly. Sadly the over-production -particularly the orchestral overdubs added later to the original work- nearly stifles the whole release.
Randy Newman's `Baltimore' opens the set, a fine version, with a slight reggae beat ; Nina's voice is great, draws out Newman's sharp lyrics, but string arrangements begin to dangerously encroach. `Everything Must Change' follows, Nina sounds on tip top form, and the orchestra has been kept at bay so one can hear Nina's intricate piano arrangement and poignant interpretation of this track. But sadly the lush string arrangements return with a vengeance to suffocate her version of Judy Collins' `My Father' and the old standard `Music for Lovers', and 'That's All I Want From You'. There a couple of quirky upbeat cuts ` The Family' and `Rich Girl' ( the Hall/Oates hit) which are a little odd. `Forget' is a Soul ballad with a subtle reggae tinge, then two uplifting Gospel numbers `Balm in Gilead' and `If You Pray Right' which really are charming. `Baltimore' has its moments but hardly ranks along side classic Nina. Its tracks haven't found their way on to the countless Nina Simone compilations, so worth checking out if you are after some lesser known material.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 16, 2009 6:10 PM BST


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