Ah, Nina

Ah, Nina.

The mercurial, indefinable and always contrary Nina Simone was poorly represented on disc during her final years. This, her last studio album, was recorded in 1993 – a full decade before her death. That one of 20th century music’s finest female voices should suffer such a fate is a tragedy worthy of the saddest song.

This collection mixes the mature Simone with some lush arrangements. Her voice is richer and deeper; her phrasing resembles more than ever the tender voicing of a jazz trumpet. The original re-mastered album sounds more defined, with Michael Melvoin’s piano in particular benefiting from tinkering with the tinkling keys. A much slower take on the familiar standard “The More I See You” is a passionate rage against the view the age diminishes beauty, with Simone lustfully crooning over a jazz setting that belies the album’s 1993 vintage.

A relaxed session, with some expert musicians backing a truly transcendental voice, “A Single Woman” really comes into life with the newly archived bonus tracks. “The Long And Winding Road” is suddenly transformed into a morbid reflection on age - it’s message of love more pertinent than ever. The highlight of the album, it seems, lay on the cutting room floor – a treatment of “No Woman, No Cry” that reverses the songs meaning to create an affecting message of female empowerment.

An important work in its own right, the expanded version of “A Single Woman” gives a unique insight into the working process of one of pop music’s most singular voices. Remaining dedicated to the causes that fuelled her to the last, Nina Simone rages against the dying of the light in an album that deserves to be known as much more than a curiosity.


Follow Clash: