SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
Meshell Ndegeocello – Pour Une Ame Souveraine (A dedication to Nina Simone) – Naïve (both vinyl & CD)
Published on December 3, 2012
Meshell Ndegeocello – Pour Une Ame Souveraine (A dedication to Nina Simone) – Naïve NV827061 both CD (53:45) & double LP [Distr. by Naxos] ****½:
(Meshell Ndegeocello bass; Chris Bruce, guitar; Jebin Bruni, keyboards and piano; Deantoni Parks, drums – with special guests, Sinead O’Connor, Lizz Wright, Toshi Reagon, Tracy Wannomae, Cody Chestnutt, Valerie June)
Meshell Ndegeocello’s choice to do a tribute album to Nina Simone is a natural fit. Nina Simone became an iconic vocalist due to her powerful voice, and even more so to a spirit of not wanting to be pinned down to a specific genre. She was an artist who took others to her vision rather than be programmed to expectations that the music industry might put on her.
Ms. Ndegeocello is a singer and bassist who has a restless spirit herself, and also explores race and stereotypes in her own musical journey. She has spread out her discography over a nearly twenty year period with less than a dozen releases, taking two to three years between each CD adding rap, pop, and jazz influences to her oeuvre.
Meshell’s tribute to Simone is a musical stew, where instead of recreating Simone’s vision of the songs that helped define Nina’s career, Ndegeocello instead puts her own stamp and interpretation on the fourteen tracks found here. The song selection is eclectic as we find both Simone’s compositions— “Real Real,” “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” “To Be Young Gifted and Black,” and “Four Women”—along with well-known songs that Simone helped make her own: Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” and The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun.” As much as the lyrics helped define Simone, here I feel that it is the guitars, keyboards, and especially Meshell’s insistent and intoxicating bass line that helps bring out the intrigue and power of the presentation that is so deeply moving.
Helping Meshell bring her vision to the Simone project are the guest vocalists who either take lead vocal or blend their voices with Ndegeocello’s unique whispery breathy vocals.
“Please Don’t Let Me Misunderstood” is a great opener and was often found on Simone’s greatest hit compilations. Meshell gives this song a moody mystique as the keyboards and guitar swirl in the background. “Suzanne” picks up the tempo in double time from Cohen’s masterpiece, and Park’s drumming drives the insistent beat as the music becomes more of the listener’s focus than Cohen’s famous lyrics.
“Real Real” is one of two tracks in a row that feature Toshi Reagon. Toshi handles background vocals here, where on “House of the Rising Sun” Reagon makes it a soulful ride over a funky backbeat. “Turn Me On” is done as country ballad, as Meshell emotes over Chris Bruce’s twangy guitar. “Feeling Good” continues the tender mood mated with just the right sense of edgy mystery that Meshell so effectively transmits in her feathery delivery.
Sinead O’Connor gives a country-western read to “Don’t Take All Night” as it expresses an anxiousness of a lover wanting the truth from her man. Lizz Wright brings strong gospel credentials to “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” backed by some great blues guitar lines. “Black is the Color of My True Loves Hair” and “To Be Young Gifted and Back” are two of the most well known Simone numbers. On the former, Meshell again takes the vocals in a dark, brooding place as she whispers the lyrics over a mournful drum march beat and reverb guitar. On the latter, Cody Chestnutt brings his lovely voice to the prideful “chest out” lyrics, while Tracy Wannomae’s soprano sax and flute adds much to this hopeful tune. Tracy adds these two instruments and her own background vocal as well to the funky “See Line Women.”
The double LP issue of this tribute comes highly recommended as its richness and pristine acoustics bring out Meshell’s voice and the swirling keyboards and guitar to full effect. Give the CD to someone special and keep the two LPs for your late night listening pleasure.
TrackList:Side A: Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Suzanne, Real Real, House of the Rising Sun Side B: Turn Me On, Feeling Good, Don’t Take All Night, Nobody’s Fault But Mine Side C: Be My Husband, Black is the Color of My True Loves Hair, See Line Woman Side D: Either Way I Lose, To Be Young Gifted and Black, Four Women