Nina Simone – 1965 – I Put A Spell On You
One of her most pop-oriented albums, but also one of her best and most consistent. Most of the songs feature dramatic, swinging large-band orchestration, with the accent on the brass and strings. Simonedidn’t write any of the material, turning to popular European songsmiths Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel, and Anthony Newley, as well as her husband, Andy Stroud, and her guitarist, Rudy Stevenson, for bluesier fare. There are really fine tunes and interpretations, on which Simone gives an edge to the potentially fey pop songs, taking a sudden (but not uncharacteristic) break for a straight jazz instrumental with “Blues on Purpose.” The title track, a jazzy string ballad version of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic, gave the Beatles the inspiration for the phrasing on the bridge of “Michelle.”
By Marcus S. Parrish
Nina Simone can be considered an acquired taste–like black coffee, fine brandy, or good cigars. With a voice that’s less than perfect, she’s nevertheless full of passion and pain, joy and raunchiness in her music. This album covers all those emotions set against the background her of well-arranged orchestration and her exceptional skill as a pianist.
Nina is a genre all her own. Her style varies broadly–from blues to jazz to gospel to folk and political music. This album is not a showcase that variety, merely one facet of it. This album has more of a fun feel to it than some of her other recordings–with songs like ‘Marriage is for Old Folks’ and ‘Gimme Some’ as well as the child-like ‘Beautiful Land.’ Nina is certainly no idealist, though, showing her passion and her pain in songs like ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas‘ and ‘You’ve Got to Learn’.
For Nina fans, this album is a nice break away from some of her moodier, darker work. For those just discovering Nina, this album would be an excellent way to ease into acquiring the taste for her music–splashing a little cream into one’s black coffee, as it were.
As a dedicated fan of Nina’s musical uniqueness, I’ve found this to be a very pleasant album that’s just right for lifting the stresses of day away and losing myself in a little bit of fun.
Standouts being “I put a spell on you” and “Feeling Good” two personal favorites.