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Nina Simone: A Very Rare Evening

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A couple of years ago I paid a princely sum for a rather unusual CD reissue (manufactured in New Jersey but created for the Japanese market, complete with Japanese liner notes) of the aptly titled Rare Evening. Then, as now, I considered it money extremely well spent. Though the Simone catalog overflows with live recordings, this 1969 German concert outranks all others.

Focusing almost exclusively on then-contemporary material–the Gibb brothers’ “In the Morning” and “To Love Somebody,” Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today,” Aretha Franklin’s “Save Me,” the Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!”–Simone is at her most assuredly earthy and intrepidly regal. Fortunately, anyone can now add this gem to his or her library without having to shell out a king’s ransom. This domestic pressing (also from New Jersey) sounds very nearly as good as the import, at a fraction of the price.