Nichelle Nichols

Down to Earth

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Although arguably best-known for her portrayal of communications officer, Lieutenant Nyota Uhura on the original sci-fi television program Star Trek, Nichelle Nichols (vocals) is likewise a formidable vocalist. Her abilities actually predate her acting prowess, as she was performing in nightclubs and had garnered a solo spot during a brief stint with Duke Ellington & His Orchestra, all of which she accomplished before 1960. Following a bit (and uncredited) part in Otto Preminger's silver screen adaptation of Porgy and Bess (1959), Nichols turned her attentions to the small screen when cast in an episode of the short-lived Lieutenant (1963). This took on further significance once she was allied with the show's writer/producer Gene Roddenberry, who developed Star Trek several years later. Concurrent with her work on that series, Nichols was recording for Epic Records, releasing a 45 rpm featuring "Know What I Mean" b/w "Why Don't You Do Right" in 1967. She then teamed up with jazz arranger Gerald Wilson to create Down to Earth (1968). Her tremendous talents stylistically run the gamut from the up-tempo and soulful "Feelin' Good" to the torch balladry of "Tenderly" and the touching "The More I See of You." She effortlessly takes on "The Lady Is a Tramp," adding a few hip and timely humorous asides. The lesser-known title "You'd Better Love Me" and the cover of Georgia Gibbs' "Home Lovin' Man" are brought to life with equal aplomb. To modern ears, Wilson's scores come off a bit dated, perhaps skewed to attract a younger audience. Nichols occasionally revisits her musical skills on-stage as well as in the studio, releasing Uhura Sings (1986) and Nichelle: Out of This World (1995). [Down to Earth has been issued on CD in several incarnations. The 2004 Collectors' Choice Music pressing not only includes the aforementioned 1967 single, but the previously unavailable "Hey Boy (Hey Girl)" and "It's Impossible" from the sessions the yielded the 7" platter. There is also a bonus track edition exclusive to China.]

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