Nina Simone, To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story

Douglas Wolk

By Douglas Wolk

on 05.21.12 in Reviews

To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story

Nina Simone

To Dr. Nina Simone, “freedom” meant — among other things — that she could never be pinned down as a particular kind of musician. Trained in both the gospel and classical traditions, she was capable of performing with extraordinary tenderness (as in her biggest American hit, George Gershwin’s “I Loves You, Porgy”) or blistering fury (she launched her reputation as a civil-rights activist with 1964′s “Mississippi Goddam”). You can’t get even a roughly complete handle on her from any three of her individual albums, but this set — covering 1957-93 recordings made for half a dozen labels — is the most thoughtfully selected survey of her work available.