Nina Simone – 1967 – Silk & Soul
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Intro Review by Eddie Landsberg Main Review by bron31
Rip, Research, Posting and additional info’s by Nikos
1967 seems to have been a good year for Nina Simone. She began the year with her Nina Simone Sings the Blues album and released this album during the Summer Of Love. It featured the same basic musicians as the previous album with Eric Gale and Bernard Purdie. However her musical priorities were somewhat different here. She was not putting quite the same emphasis on her own self written material here. Not only that but she wasn’t laying her heart and soul bare with a sense of instrumental grit and passion. Realizing that old adage of those who won’t hear an angry shout straining to here a whisper she put another side of herself on display with this time. One she was very adept at,but very much in contrast to what had come before.
More over this is an album defined more by highlights than an overall concept. “It Be That Way Sometime” starts off the album with a strangely melodically steady brassy soul number,full of orchestration and horns. “Go To Hell” and “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” again find her questioning in fine piano based gospel/soul spirit her own desires and necessity,from injustice to redemption. On interpretations on “Cherish” and “The Look Of Love“,she dives headlong into her unique range for for two versions of these songs that are very vocally individual in terms of how he projects them. “Some Say” finds her returning to the deep horn soul that began the album. “Turning Point” is actually a favorite of mine-an almost Broadway type orchestration telling the story of how children are taught racial hatred.
Her one original here “Consumation” is an all out show stopper,a theatrically orchestrated and sung number,with Nina holding some very loud notes for quite a bit of time,that goes into the nature of human consciousness itself. Weighty a way that is to end the album,the two bonus tracks “Why Must Your Love Well Be So Dry” and “Save Me” are both more honest and direct funky soul numbers with a great sense of rhythm. More orchestrated,musically diverse and to some degree positioned for crossover attention than her previous release of the year,this album showcase how Nina’s talents had the potential to be very outreaching,yet at the same time often too individual to crossover to everybody. One would tend to either be reached intimately by her music or not. Since her music tends to have the latter effect on most people,probably a mott point in the end.
A1 It Be’s That Way Sometime (2:54)
A2 The Look Of Love (2:22)
A3 Go To Hell (2:47)
A4 Love O’ Love (5:04)
A5 Cherish (3:20)
B1 I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (3:06)
B2 Turn Me On (2:24)
B3 The Turning Point (2:00)
B4 Some Say (2:07)
B5 Consummation (4:11)
Nina Simone began her seven-year recording contract with RCA with Nina Simone Sings the Blues in 1967, and followed it in the same year with Silk & Soul, recorded for RCA Victor at the label’s Studio B in New York City in four sessions in June 1967.
By the time of the recording, the 34-year-old Simone had already established herself as a richly diverse artist, comfortable with a range of styles and genres, with the popular songs of the day as well as traditional hymns or standards, with piano-vocal pieces and full-band numbers or instrumentals, with classical themes or with “pop” melodies. With Silk & Soul, the title suggests a move toward a “soul” theme. In fact, as with all of Simone’s recordings, it is far more diverse and all-encompassing than the title may suggest.
The first session, on June 13, yielded three of the five songs on Side Two of Silk & Soul. J.D. Loudermilk’s “Turn Me On” is the most sensuous, slinky, seductive number on the record, with its slow bluesy groove a successful bed for Simone’s rich, chocolate vocal. Martha Holmes’ “Turning Point” is an odd inclusion, at odds with the blues/soul/R&B influence of the rest of the album; beginning with a string arrangement that returns for the second verse, it morphs into a ‘child’s lullaby’ about a young girl meeting a “little brown girl” who “looks just like chocolate.” Simone gives her best childlike, vibrato-less vocal, but what originally appeared a rather twee children’s song ultimately becomes a song about racism, as the child narrator, through Simone’s spoken word, learns that her mother will not let her daughter play with the brown girl – presumably for her skin colour. The album’s epic closer, and only Simone original here, is “Consummation“, which is built on a woodwind and string arrangement; it is based on a theme by Bach, Simone’s favourite composer, and is similar in melody to “For All We Know,” which Simone recorded in 1957 during her first studio recording sessions. “Consummation” features the most emotional and emotive vocal performance on Silk & Soul; it is a commanding and show-stopping performance – where Simone appears impassioned and confident and soulful on other numbers, she really lets the emotion come through on her own love song, as she sings, “for thousands of years / my soul has roamed the Earth / in search for you.”
The second session, on June 15, yields three of the more strident numbers. Opener “It Be’s That Way Sometime” is a raucous soul groove written by Simone’s brother Samuel Waymon; Simone gives a stunning, passionate vocal performance as the horns, guitars, and rhythm section build up around her. Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” remains one of Nina Simone’s most renowned songs, and continues her series of anthemic civil rights-themed numbers. Simone’s vocal gradually grows in passion as the arrangement of electric guitars and horns create a rhythmic, soulful backing. Her husband and manager at the time, Andy Stroud, composed the solo piano-vocal “Love O’ Love“, the most gospel/blues-inspired song on the record. It puts the spotlight on Simone’s skills as a pianist but also her diverse vocal style, which here is couched in a forceful vibrato.
The third session, from June 21, yields three musically quite unrelated numbers, only serving to emphasise Simone’s admirable ability to slip into different guises with ease. “Cherish“, which closes Side One (written by Terry Kirkman and first released in 1966 by “sunshine pop” group The Association), is a beautiful, delicate number in which Simone multi-tracks her own gentle delivery to create sweet, pretty harmonies. The song grows into a more passionate, forceful number at around the two-minute mark, as Simone ups the ante on her vocals and the horn arrangement rises. The song then dips back into its gentle, elegant reverie. “Some Day” and “Go to Hell” are more upbeat, up-tempo soul stompers. The former, written by Charles Reuben, is a groovy horn-drenched number with another passionate vocal performance, while the latter, which brings horns and woodwinds into its arrangement, is a soulful and rhythmic waltz-time highlight. The final session, on June 29, yielded Simone’s delicate reading of the Bacharach-David composition “The Look of Love“, which, when Simone recorded it in 1967, was still a new song, freshly recorded for the James Bond film Casino Royale. Simone’s version is suitably romantic, with its satin-like arrangement of gentle horns and flutes – the embodiment of the “silk” ethos in comparison to the “soul” of some of the other numbers.
Silk & Soul is just over thirty minutes in length, but embraces a wider range of styles, sounds, and textures than its title would suggest. There is a divide between the “silk” numbers (“The Look of Love,” “Cherish“) and the “soul” ones (“It Be’s That Way Sometime“, “Some Say“) but the songs nevertheless hang together remarkably well. Simone is equally comfortable with civil rights-themed protest songs (“I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free“) as she is with straightforward love songs (“Consummation“), and her vocal delivery is superbly diverse and capable of various tones and styles, from the commanding, sheer force of presence of her slightly intimidating vibrato on the bluesy “Love O’ Love” to the sweetness and delicacy of “Cherish” to the vibrato-less, childlike “Turning Point“. All of these elements conspire to create quite a remarkable album that rewards repeated listening to reveal its true depths.