December 2006

Nina Simone
Remixed & Reimagined

Nina Simone’s realpolitik folk-jazz might not naturally suggest itself as amenable to the whims of the remix artist, but listening to the rhythms inherent in Simone’s idiosyncratic phrasing spread across this disc’s wide-ranging beats, your equilibrium is bound to get thrown off as surely as your expectations.

A wildly eclectic performer, the late Simone is framed in her element here, a fusion artist further fused, with an emphasis on energy. Groovefinder’s “Ain’t Got No/I Got Life” collage busts apart traditional Memphis soul to fashion a minimalist groove—like some of the members of the Stax house band called in sick—while Daniel Y’s remix of “I Can’t See Nobody” provides the disc’s purest jolt of acid-culture Northern soul, Simone’s vocal steeped in all of the attendant earthiness of a field holler. Even the muddy, thudding bass-drum kicks of Coldcut’s “Save Me” signal pure groove beneath Simone’s ultra-processed vocal, her faint, rasping gasps for breath left intact in the mix—a rhythm to leave you ragged.

Most of these tracks almost cast Simone as a psych-Mod singer cutting loose at some warehouse gig—great late night fun, but with Simone’s righteous anger—which could, ironically, impart great tenderness. Hers was never less than protest music, no matter what genre one tended to associate with her art. On that score, DJ Logic’s revved-up take on “Obeah Woman” serves as the disc’s great proclamation of thoughts at odds with easy generalizations, like maybe this is what a hip-hop album would’ve sounded like on Impulse!—were a political activist fired up enough to cut a rap record.

Originally published in December 2006

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