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Nina Simone: Sings the Blues

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Though I’d reason it’s impossible to have too much Nina Simone in your CD library, and I applaud the various labels that have kept such an enormous amount of her material in print, there doesn’t seem an enormous necessity for this trio of RCA reissues. Not, at least, with RCA’s superlative, double-disc, 40-track Sugar in My Bowl: The Very Best of Nina Simone, 1967-72 still easily available.

Completists might, understandably, want both of Simone’s 1967 studio gems-Sings the Blues and Silk & Soul-in their original state, with their original cover art. And they will surely appreciate such bonuses as an alternate version of “Do I Move You?” on Blues and “Why Must Your Love Well Be So Dry” on Silk. Also, the idea behind Forever Young, Gifted and Black, which gathers several of Simone’s essential civilrights anthems-“Mississippi Goddam” and the powerful Martin Luther King eulogy “Why?” principal among them-on a single disc, seems a clever one. And, indeed, scattered among these three platters are a handful of precious gems-most obviously “Cherish,” “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” “House of the Rising Sun” and “The Times They Are A-Changin'”-that didn’t make it onto the compilation.

However you choose to delve into one of the richest periods of Simone’s singularly grand and gutsy recording career, it’s satisfying to know the options are too many rather than too few.