Nina Simone
High Priestess of Soul



by Tb1114 USER (7 Reviews)
August 4th, 2019 | 5 replies

Release Date: 1967 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Nina at her eclectic best.

Spoilers, this album ranks among Nina’s best. It's on the same mantle as Pastel Blues, …Sings the Blues, I Put a Spell on You, and Wild is the Wind. Out of her best albums, however, “High Priestess of Soul” absolutely ranks as the least homogenous. On “High Priestess…” one will experience an array of – yes, soul - but pop, swing, folk, blues, jazz, gospel and spiritual. In any other hands, this stark variance of genre would merely become hodgepodge.

With Nina, however, she transcended the archetype of popular multi-faceted, wide-appeal vocal talent (Flack, Franklin, Vaughn, etc.). Maybe it’s her vibrant activist spirit, or her sheer ability to convey her turmoil through immaculate contralto, but something about Nina’s musicianship reveals incomparable sincerity. And on "High Priestess" you will come to know with brazen sincerity the flame which sparks Nina's heart.

The centerpiece of this album, Simone’s own “Take Me to the Water,” is a whirlwind of gospel trope. The lyrical content (Nina praying to be baptized) is simplistic and limited – but that trope simplicity acts as a foil to the absolute authenticity of her vocal performance; when you hear Nina calling out to be baptized, you feel her repentance. You experience her life of trial, folly, hope, redemption, of humility following pride, of God following flesh.

Up to this point in the album, the standards of her era supply us excellent Berry, Ellington, and Bobby Scott tunes. Tunes about love lost, love trusted, love lusted, and love scorched. All these are accompanied by varying styles; all genuine, all catchy, all endearing. But for a brief moment Simone puts fleshly love on hold. “Take Me to the Water” has seen your life’s accumulating momentum of labor, romance, leisure, toil, civic interconnectedness and puts it all to halt. You are with Truth now. You were always with Truth – that previous enumeration was not figment – but now you are finally apart from all of the absolute bullsh*t.

Once this brief moment is over, seamlessly Simone has redeemed herself a joyous exclamation made by someone saved: “I’m Going Back Home.” We are back on Earth. We have seen God, and now we - with pride - take claim to our toil. All is well, even when we suffer. Even when the rest of the album bears songs that will break your heart, or break your back.

Nina can put on a performance, but when it’s time to cut the sh*t, she does so with tact. This is what you will find on this album: A spectrum of pop and human emotion; an enjoyable, well-done foray into the styles of the era and prior; a varied hand held by one of the greatest players. “Greatest” because when Truth asked her to fold, she set down her hand in absolute humility.


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Comments:Add a Comment 
August 3rd 2019


Duuuuude nice
dumb this didn’t have a review till now

Digging: nabosoposkle - s/t

August 4th 2019


Album Rating: 4.5

Thank you

& Yeah. Yeah. NS is a legend. This is by far my favorite album of hers, but I'd like to fill in her db on here a little more. Classic albums are being left unreviewed lol

August 4th 2019


Album Rating: 5.0

''but something about Nina’s musicianship reveals incomparable sincerity'' [2] so hard.

Thanks for reviewing this. She's one of the all time greatest artists imo, crazy that this didn't have a review yet.

August 5th 2019


Pastel Blues is my favorite soul album of all time, can't wait to check this.

August 5th 2019


Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks for enjoying it Trif!

@DadKF, This is really good but expect something very different from Pastel Blues. I think this is my favorite NS bc it encompasses so many genres and does it well. Whereas most of her other classics I strictly need to be in a bluesy or jazzy mood.

"I'm Gonna Leave You" "Take Me To the Water/I'm Going Back Home" and "I Hold No Grudge" are my absolute highlights. The only track I'm not super hot on is "Come Ye," which is unfortunate bc it's a Simone original. But other than that I absolutely adore this album.

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