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Nina Simone: Fodder on My Wings

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Any Nina Simone reissue is a lovesome thing, but the first-ever U.S. release of 1982’s Fodder on My Wings (complete with three bonus tracks from the original sessions) is cause for exalted celebration. Arranged, conducted and conceived by the vocalist, recorded in Paris and built around a dozen Simone compositions (plus one intriguingly reworked cover), the album could have been titled The Many Shades of Nina Simone. Simone as the high priestess of joyfully spiritual romanticism is in full effect on “Il y a un Baume a Gilhead” and a rewrite of “If You Pray Right” titled “Heaven Belongs to You,” sung in English with a French chorus. Simone as the politicized world traveler sings with hymnlike reverence on “Le Peuple en Suisse” and free-spirited effervescence on “Liberian Calypso.” Simone the tireless civil-rights activist rises on the biting, minute-long “Color Is a Beautiful Thing” (a revitalization of her “The Ding Dong Song”), the bruised survivalist anthem “I Was Just a Stupid Dog to Them” and the title track. And Simone acts as a multicultural matriarch on “Vous Etes Seuls, Mais Je Desire Etre Avec Vous.” There’s also Simone the sly jokester, poking delicious fun with “Stop” at the bleakly pessimistic sentiment that defines Stephen Sondheim’s overwrought “Send in the Clowns.”

At the core of the album is a rare, powerful example of Simone with all masks stripped away: Her personal pain explodes to the surface as she reworks Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” into a diatribe about her dying father that bravely progresses from venomously embittered to cautiously conciliatory.