Nina Simone – Pastel Blues

There are a lot of old jazz and blues albums being re-issued at very reasonable prices at the moment, this isn’t one of them, costing pretty much the same as a new release, but worth every penny.

The album was recorded in 1964 and 1965 and released by Phillips Records in 1965, peaking at number 139 on the Billboard charts, which is interesting as it almost certainly one of the top 100 albums of the decade, in my opinion, and this chart placing re-affirms my view that charts are not necessarily a reflection of what was actually good in any given year. Popular does not necessarily equal good.

I’m always on the look out for Nina Simone albums to add to my collection, and there are plenty to add as I only have two, this and ‘Little Girl Blue’, oh, and a best of CD that I bought in a charity shop for £0.50p.

The recording of this album is a little unclear to me as, online, some tracks are listed as ‘Recorded Live’ but it doesn’t say that on the album cover, maybe they were. It’s an album of cover versions, although back in this time period this was often the norm, with only the final track, the traditional song ‘Sinnerman’, credited to Simone as arranger.

Speaking of the cover, here is a special treat, the liner notes:

Tracklist

Be My Husband3:19
Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out2:35
End Of The Line2:51
Trouble In Mind2:37
Tell Me More And More And Then Some3:05
Chilly Winds Don’t Blow3:59
Ain’t No Use2:35
Strange Fruit3:26
Sinnerman10:15

I do prefer the Billy Holiday version of ‘Strange fruit’, which would be even better if the production values were as good as on this record (not that the Holiday version is terrible), but Simone still does a really good version.

There is a certain feeling to ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out’ that comes from Simone, as though she has lived it and is just passing on her story, she’s exceptionally good at owning a song and her voice carries a depth of emotion that few other performers seem to be able to achieve.