Nina Simone – Forbidden Fruit

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  • A stunning copy of Nina Simone’s superb 1961 release on Colpix with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • This may be the best sounding Nina Simone record we’ve ever played – at the very least it’s one of the best, and worlds better than most
  • There’s real Tubey Magic on this album, along with breathy vocals and in-your-listening-room midrange presence – don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing along
  • “… brilliant end to end. It rolls and weaves, suggests and states, looks under the skirts of the music… There’s not a mediocre song or rendition here. And you’ll never hear anyone else do any of them the way she does.”

This vintage stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).

Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real Nina Simone singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide.

What the best sides of Forbidden Fruit have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1961
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For on Forbidden Fruit

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Players

Nina Simone – vocals, piano
Al Schackman – guitar
Chris White – bass
Bobby Hamilton – drums

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Rags And Old Iron
No Good Man
Gin House Blues
I’ll Look Around
I Love To Love

Side Two

Work Song
Where Can I Go Without You
Just Say I Love Him (English Version)
Memphis In June
Forbidden Fruit

Amazon Rave Review

Simone’s death was a real loss to jazz – which she never considered her first interest. Maybe that’s part of the reason why what she did with it wasn’t quite like what anyone else would do.

I got this album – well, a degraded reel-to-reel tape of it – shortly after it came out, which was the year I graduated college. It’s brilliant end to end. It rolls and weaves, suggests and states, looks under the skirts of the music. The title track has generated lasting interest – maybe more for Oscar Brown’s lyrics than anything else, but it rollicks here. Still, my favorite is “Gin House Blues,” which aches and wails and seems to live inside the walls of what it describes.

There’s not a mediocre song or rendition here. And you’ll never hear anyone else do any of them the way she does.

– Derek Davis

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