- Nina Simone’s superb 1969 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two
- This vintage stereo pressing boasts exceptionally natural piano sound, breathy vocals and the Tubey Magic that only vintage vinyl pressings are capable of reproducing
- There are a lot of bad sounding Nina Simone albums out there in the bins, but fortunately this is not one of them – it’s rich, smooth and tubey, just the way we like our Female Vocal records to sound
- “Her own best accompanist (especially during the crossover-happy ’60s), Nina Simone sings and plays on this 1969 LP. With strident vocals and a thoughtful piano backing… frequently rewarding.”
*NOTE: On side two, a mark makes 20 light ticks at the beginning of track 1, Who Am I.
Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl notwithstanding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing Nina Simone music with top quality sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.
This ’60s LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely 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.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Nina Simone singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 54 years old), 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 can serve as a guide.
What excellent sides such as these 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 1969
- 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 studio space
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.
What We’re Listening For on Nina Simone and Piano!
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Ray Hall — would put them.
- 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 so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also 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 instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Ray Hall handled the engineering duties for this album and a host of other great albums for RCA, albums we know were brilliantly recorded because we’ve done shootouts for them and heard the best copies sound amazing with our own two ears.
Some of the better titles that come to mind include:
Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington – Recording Together For The First Time (1961)
Ray Brown / Cannonball Adderley – With The All-Star Big Band (1962)
Paul Desmond – Take Ten (1963)
Paul Desmond & Gerry Mulligan – Two Of A Mind (1962)
Stan Getz – Jazz Samba Encore (1963)
Della Reese – Della (1960)
Sonny Rollins – The Bridge (1962)
Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins – Sonny Meets Hawk (1963)
And too many more to list!
Seems I’m Never Tired Lovin’ You
Nobody’s Fault But Mine
I Think It’s Going To Rain Today
Everyone’s Gone To The Moon
Who Am I
The Human Touch
I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes)
The Desperate Ones
Her own best accompanist (especially during the crossover-happy ’60s), Nina Simone sings and plays on this 1969 LP. With strident vocals and a thoughtful piano backing, Simone makes her own a pair of radically different (though similarly fatalistic) compositions, Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” and Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today.” Her version of “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon” leans dangerously close to avant-garde overkill, but she returns with good performances on “Compensation” and “Who Am I?” A great moment comes when a tambourine finally joins her midway through “Another Spring,” and the lone jazz standard (“I Get Along Without You Very Well”) is given a touching performance. In an era when Simone often veered from crossover to experimental, Nina Simone and Piano! is undeniably difficult, but frequently rewarding.