BBC Music Magazine
The best of Simone
Where to start on record Much of Nina Simone’s recorded legacy is derived from live performances and is unfortunately awash with releases of questionable provenance and endlessly reshuffled compilations of varying quality. However, in terms of both legitimacy and programming The Very Best of Nina Simone
(Sony) is a good starting point, scooping up most of her best-known work and demonstrating the variety of songwriters that inspired her, ranging from George and Ira Gershwin to Randy Newman. This compilation includes her extraordinary take on ‘Ain’t Got NO/I
Got Life’ from the musical Hair, often omitted from others, which sees her transforming the hippie anthem into a glorious celebration of identity and self-esteem.
Should you prefer to trace her recording career in more detail, several bargain box-sets of original album reissues are available on labels such as Warner Jazz and Real Gone, which are utilitarian but such good value as to be worth owning. The seven disc The Complete
Philips Albums (Verve) chronicles her recordings on that label from 1964-67 and is one of several Nina Simone items that are also available on vinyl.