Classic Albums: Emergency Ward by Nina Simone

Right, now I’m up to chapter 27 of this novel I’m writing here and now and you are reading it too. It’s a fiction story of albums that should be listened to more than they’re. I’m just doing my little bit here on this blog thingy to highlighting them more and hopefully get some new fans or I could just be preaching to the converted but either way these are my personal fave albums, I’m calling them all Classic Albums now. I’ve thrown in some bigger names, then have little known ones too so where does Nina Simone come all that? In the middle ground, Maybe? Maybe not?

I can’t believe how little Nina Simone features on greatest albums lists of any or all kinds. Mojo Magazine‘s Big Bangs: 100 Records That Changed the World at number 93 is Nina Simone’s To Be Young, Gifted & Black single also can be found on her album Black Gold from 1969, the same song also made it to number 23 in Mojo Magazine’s 100 Greatest Protest Songs. Only one Simone album in 1001 Albums book which is 1966’s Wild Is The Wind. None in mainstream magazines like Rolling Stones/NME 500’s but it’s no wonder why I think they’re so full of shit most of the time. The New Yorker’s 100 Essential Jazz albums just has one comp album of hers called The Very Best Of Nina Simone 1967-1972 : Sugar In My Bowl which does include one track from this album here.

Unbelievable because she is to me just one greatest singer and performers ever. She did wrote some songs but played other people’s songs more than anything, from that old school performers from 1950’s who always had songwriters to do that job but after that she did recorded/sing songs from almost everywhere. She was the most amazing piano ever too and my intro to Nina was off course thought Nick Cave, the second time I’ve said that here on this list. Here on the Emergency Ward album she totally kill it and then does it again and again, well three or four times. Emergency Ward album only has four songs, two songs are just one long medley but most likely this will not be the last time Simone features in this list of mine. This is a live album, well I should say half of it is because the the last two songs is not in front of a crowd.

Nina with her extra smiley superfan in late 90’s

A little history lesson now for those who don’t know anything about her. Simone began her music career back in the late 50’s, the debut album Little Girl Blue was released in 1958 and thought out the 60’s she released one record or more a year, a few great live albums too in that time. It’s was until the 80’s she did crossed over to have her first mainstream hit because one of her old songs My Baby Just Cares For Me was used in a TV ad, is that how silly mainstream crowds are really? I guess so not that she was totally unknown or something she is/was incredible popular in Jazz/Soul music circles and in the 60’s became a major player in the Civil rights movement, her earliest protest song she wrote was from 1964 with Mississippi Goddam. Off course we now all should know what happen in America in the sixties, it’s all history as they say now. Well by 1970 Nina had left the U.S.A. and for various reason moved to live, work and based herself overseas and never did really return to America again. So Nina did finished up her then RCA record contract in those next few years with two live albums the very last one called It Is Finished. Which that’s pretty good but it’s just missing the power of what can be found on this Emergency Ward album which was the album just before that very last one BTW after that album she didn’t do a new album for four years, the longest gap in her career that she didn’t release anything at all.

With only three/four tracks it length but amazing it’s almost 35 mins. The opening live track was recorded at the U.S. army base called Fort Dix in New Jersey in Nov. 1971 and is a work of genius on her part to recorded there because as music critics at the time pointed out the album is Simone’s statement on the Vietnam War. Before even a note is played the crowd cheers “We want Nina!” on repeat, then a gentleman gives a very plain intro before the song starts plus the audience was on that night was mainly enlisted black GI’s. It’s ex-Beatles solo George Harrison song My Sweet Lord but here it’s been turned into a total Gospel number. She collaborations with members of The Bethany Baptist Church Junior Choir of South Jamaica, New York and with their “Hallelujahs” as the first words sung and then Nina starts to sing Harrison’s words and then hand-claps started too and beat goes in to overdrive pace with Simone building and then slowing the song to get her message a cross. Then Simone really start improvises varies on George’s lyrics with the poem Today Is A Killer by David Nelson. Nelson’s appeared only once with the group called The Last Poets, who did spoken word albums to music kind-off prototype of rap but back in the early 70’s. Today Is A Killer is a track on The Last Poets soundtrack album Right On! Nina mixed both these together in this 18 and half mins. track but finishing with the punch-line of “Today, who are you lord? You are a killer!”

Nina and her piano in the 70’s

If it was an LP this is where you would flip it over and find Poppies written by Lenny Bleecher and Jeremy Wind, the very short song of the album. I know very little about them at all and even now if you google them you don’t get much more so it seem they didn’t write much else and much about this song too. Red poppies are off course a symbol of remembrance of soldiers who have died during wartime and has been so since just after World War I. Then when Emergency Ward album was release Nina was talking about the then Vietnam war on that opening song. If you really what to think about all that now even today in 2016, WWI ended in November 1918 so I’ll ask how far have we really come in almost one hundred years? Nowhere, zero or maybe it’s just been a sail pace of better ways to kill each other. So poppies also are used in the drug opium and are often it’s called poppy tears and can be used to produce heroin etc. So it’s a drug song but once again it’s a protest against it, because she singing the line:”While you’re in the stupor, The door knocks and death takes another youth.” It’s does just seem like a real nice song in-between yet another Harrison solo number, both these numbers Nina play are from his triple LP after The Beatles broken up called All Things Must Pass. Only release the year before Simone recorded her own versions here. Both tracks on side two was recorded at RCA New York studio. Isn’t It A Pity is just herself solo at the piano and it’s just such so wonderful and beautiful way to finish this album and just listen right at the end of 11 mins. to the way she sung the word “Plastic” too.

Emergency Ward track listing and times

1. My Sweet Lord
Written by George Harrison
2. Today Is A Killer
Poem written by David Nelson
Medley: 18:29
3. Poppies
Music written by Jeremy Wind
Words written by Lennie Bleecher
4. Isn’t It A Pity
Written by George Harrison


My Classic Albums are, so far:

Tales From The Australian Underground – Volume 1 & 2 by Various Artists

Station To Station by David Bowie

Unplugged In New York by Nirvana

Rust In Peace by Megadeth

Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs by Marty Robbins

Henry’s Dream by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Whatever You Love, You Are by Dirty Three

Gala Mill by The Drones

Black Monk Time by The Monks

Ex Tropical by Lost Animal

Work (Work, Work) by HTRK

In The Wee Small Hours by Frank Sinatra

The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn by Pink Floyd

Songs Of Love And Hate by Leonard Cohen

Warm Leatherette by Grace Jones

The White House by The Dead C

Silence Is Sexy by Einstürzende Neubauten

Lulu by Lou Reed & Metallica

Kaira by Toumani Diabaté

Kings Of The Wild Frontier by Adam And The Ants

Drowning In The Fountain Of Youth by Dan Kelly And The Alpha Males

Aerial by Kate Bush

The Future by Leonard Cohen

Rock For Light by Bad Brains

Last Splash by The Breeders

Sex by The Necks

Emergency Ward by Nina Simone

So, this was the reason I started this blog. The idea is simply to write post about one of my fave album each that I consider a classic album. Please leave your comments below about each album because I would love to hear what you think about each album too, cheers!

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