BMG is following up its reissue earlier this year of Nina Simone's 1959 Bethlehem Records debut Little Girl Blue with the label's follow-up, Nina Simone and Her Friends. Like the earlier title, this newly remastered edition will be available on CD, LP, and in both high-definition and standard digital/streaming versions. The LP will be a Record Store Day Essentials emerald green 180-gram pressing available at record stores everywhere. All formats will arrive in stores on December 3.
Simone's discography for Bethlehem is famously small - just the Little Girl Blue album and the three additional songs on this collection. By the time of the release of Nina Simone and Her Friends, Simone had already left the label. So had the two other artists who comprise her "friends" - jazz vocalists Chris Connor and Carmen McRae. (Simone departed for the greener pastures of Colpix Records.) But Bethlehem was eager to cash in on the new star. Nina Simone and Her Friends was the result.
The 12-song sequence encompasses four cuts from each artist. Simone's selections include the Gershwins and DuBose Heyward's "I Loves You, Porgy," a top 20 Pop/top 5 R&B entry for the artist as released off Little Girl Blue. Her repertoire is rounded out with three outtakes from Little Girl Blue: the evocative, improvised piano-led instrumental "African Mailman" plus the spiritual "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" and the Sam Lewis/J. Fred Coots standard "For All We Know."
Chris Connor had spent 1953-1955 on Bethlehem before being snapped up by Atlantic Records where she remained for roughly seven years. She's heard on songs by the Gershwins ("Someone to Watch Over Me"), Cole Porter ("I Concentrate on You," "From This Moment On"), and Jimmy Van Heusen and Eddie DeLange ("All This and Heaven, Too"). McRae, the third song stylist on the LP, was featured on Burton Lane and E.Y. Harburg's Finian's Rainbow classic "Old Devil Moon," her own "Last Time for Love," and the lesser-known tunes "Too Much in Love to Care" and "You Made Me Care." McRae had left Bethlehem in 1956 to join the esteemed Decca roster.
BMG's reissue features a stereo remaster by Michael Graves as well as a vinyl remaster by Kevin Gray. Omnivore's Cheryl Pawelski produced the set, which includes a new essay by Daphne A. Brooks, author of Liner Notes for the Revolution. Brooks writes, "Each track is a reminder of the clear-eyed independence, verve, and confidence of three artists whose music, taken together, brims with the majesty and the assured talents of the late 1950s women artists who led with conviction and invention as musicians and song interpreters."
Look for Nina Simone and Her Friends in multiple formats on December 3. You'll find pre-order links and the track listing below!
Nina Simone and Her Friends (Bethlehem BS-6041, 1959 - reissued BMG, 2021)
- Nina Simone - "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands"
- Chris Connor - "Someone to Watch Over Me"
- Carmen McRae - "Old Devil Moon"
- Nina Simone - "I Loves You, Porgy"
- Chris Connor - "I Concentrate on You"
- Carmen McRae - "You Made Me Care"
- Nina Simone - "For All We Know"
- Chris Connor - "From This Moment On"
- Carmen McRae - "Too Much in Love to Care"
- Nina Simone - "African Mailman"
- Chris Connor - "All This and Heaven Too"
- Carmen McRae - "Last Time for Love"