‘Nina Simone And Her Friends’ Deluxe Reissue Brings Female Artists Into Focus

Originally released by Bethlehem Records in 1959, Nina Simone and Her Friends was a compilation album bringing together the few unreleased tracks from the 1957 Little Girl Blue recording session, but also included songs recorded by two other former Bethlehem artists, the jazz vocalist Carmen McRae and the song stylist Chris Connor. 

An RSD-Essentials exclusive “emerald-green” limited-edition 180-gram LP will be available for the album, along with CD and digital/streaming versions on December 3, 2021 from BMG. The reissue features a “fresh stereo master” done by Michael Graves as well as a vinyl remastering by Kevin Gray. Cheryl Pawelski produced the set, which includes a new essay by Daphne A. Brooks.

As Brooks explains in her essay:

“Bethlehem clustered their work — tracks that had previously appeared on the label’s Girlfriends compilation — together with the younger, upstart Simone’s and essentially offered up a collection of songs that span a range of genres — folk, jazz, pop song staples, and torch song laments, plus a couple of provocative original compositions by McRae and Simone. 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.” 

The single that’s been released so far, “African Mailman”, is an instrumental track recorded during the Little Girl Blue sessions, showcasing Nina Simone’s piano playing. At the time, Simone was in her mid-20s and still aspiring to be a classical concert pianist. 

Here’s our track listing for the new deluxe edition:

  1. Nina Simone – “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” 
  2. Chris Conner – “Someone to Watch Over Me” 
  3. Carmen McRae – “Old Devil Moon” 
  4. Nina Simone – “I Loves You, Porgy” 
  5. Chris Connor – “I Concentrate on You” 
  6. Carmen McRae – “You Made Me Care” 
  7. Nina Simone – “For All We Know” 
  8. Chris Connor – “From This Moment On” 
  9. Carmen McRae – “Too Much in Love to Care” 
  10. Nina Simone – “African Mailman” 
  11. Chris Connor – “All This and Heaven Too” 
  12. Carmen McRae – “Last Time for Love” 
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