Nina Simone

Gold [Verve]

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Just one of three similarly titled collections -- all with entirely different track listings, including a Canadian version that has the same design template -- the American version of Nina Simone's Gold concentrates on the jazz iconoclast's recordings between 1964 and 1969. (The period covers her time on Philips and the first few years of her RCA contract, to which are added two 1987 tracks from Verve.) At the height of the protest movement, Simone was gaining new fans by the thousands with her strident performance of "Mississippi Goddam" or her suitably harrowing cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You" (which became her biggest hit). Simone was performing all manner of material during these years, including traditional songs such as "Sinnerman," songs from her own pen ("Four Women," "To Be Young, Gifted and Black," "Revolution"), and covers that, no matter how surprising, managed to be overwhelmed by her powerful persona -- everything from Chuck Berry's "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" to the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" to a Jimmy Webb song, "Do What You Gotta Do." It's difficult to recommend concentrating this hard on a short period of virtually anyone's career -- room is even made for some non-album material, including the odd novelty B-side "A Monster" -- but there's a healthy percentage of Nina Simone's best work here, and a lot to love for her biggest fans.

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