Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Nina Simone

  • Baltimore [CTI, 1978] B-
  • A Single Woman [Elektra, 1993] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Baltimore [CTI, 1978]
Carried along on David Matthews's uncharacteristically infectious arrangement, Simone's version of one of Randy Newman's more perfunctory American-names songs is a glorious fluke on the order of Baez's "Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." I'm glad, though, that it's available as a single, because unlike owner-annotator Creed Taylor I don't find that Simone's "magnificent intensity . . . turns everything--even the most simple, mundane phrase or lyric--into a radiant, poetic message." On the contrary, her penchant for the mundane renders her intensity as bogus as her mannered melismas and pronunciation (move over, Inspector Clouseau) and the rote flatting of her vocal improvisations. There are several good cuts here; the song selection is often inspired (Hurley-Witkins's "The Family," perfect). But a woman who not only avoids coming out with the "bitch" in "Rich Girl" but hobbles the rhythm as well has real problems. B-

A Single Woman [Elektra, 1993] Dud