Nina Simone: Remixed and Reimagined

A whole album of remixes is an unwieldy proposition, but Remixed and Reimagined is an effective exercise in establishing a new context for the work of Nina Simone.

Nina Simone

Remixed and Reimagined

Label: Legacy
US Release Date: 2006-10-31
UK Release Date: 2006-10-30

Nina Simone cannot defend or dismiss the latest record label contrivance of her work. She passed away in 2003, leaving behind a five-decade legacy of music. Visit the Nina Simone section in any record store and it's readily apparent that this legacy has been recycled and repackaged enough times to anesthetize even the most die-hard fan. Amidst a sea of collections that contain yet another "I Loves You Porgy" and "Mississippi Goddam", Remixed & Reimagined arrives as a welcome addition to the High Priestess of Soul's discography.

Following the remastered re-releases of Nina Simone's RCA albums, RCA/Legacy serves up a collection of remixed material culled from the seven years Simone recorded for RCA Records (1967-1974). The premise isn't entirely new since Verve Records remixed a few sides from Simone's Philips Records era for their Verve Remixed series. It is, however, a successful premise: a remix of "Sinner Man" hit the Top 10 of the Billboard Dance charts in 2003 and "Ain't Got No / I Got Life" entered the UK Top 30 in remixed form earlier this year. A whole album of remixes is an unwieldy proposition but producer Scott Schlachter wisely called on 13 different mix masters with 13 different styles to usher Simone's oeuvre into the 21st century.

On albums like Silk and Soul (1967), Simone recorded a wide range of repertoire. Alongside her own compositions, she recast songs like "The Look of Love" and "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" into exciting interpretive excursions. As with the panoply of styles on Simone's albums, the constant thread that stretches across Remixed & Reimagined is her inimitable voice. Fortunately, for listeners becoming acquainted with Nina Simone through this collection, that voice is kept intact on the remixes.

What is most compelling about Remixed & Reimagined is the variety of moods generated by each DJ. In the hands of Nina Simone, "My Man's Gone Now" (from Nina Simone Sings the Blues, 1967) was an intimate, emotionally wrought spiritual. DJ Wally's remix of the Porgy & Bess tune amplifies the stark timbre of Simone's delivery with a melancholy bass and drum rhythm track. In contrast, the Nickodemus remix of "Oooh Child", as in Simone's original, cultivates a hopeful and optimistic mood.

The project also succeeds when the DJ's elicit new meanings from the songs. Francois K triumphantly re-contextualizes George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun", the title track from Simone's 1971 album. The original version bordered on drippy hokum, but out of this remix emerges a gay anthem. Francois K drenches Simone's voice in beats that pulsate like tranquil, glowing rays of amber while the High Priestess quietly intones "It's alright now / You can come on out now". Chris Coco's remix of "To Love Somebody" could easily follow "Here Comes the Sun" in a DJ's set. Whereas the atmosphere Francois K creates is womb-like, "To Love Somebody" emerges with whirling mirror-balls and dry ice. Nina Simone devotees might cringe, but what keeps the listener engaged is the truth in Simone's voice. Even if the remix track is completely synthetic, the edge in Simone's raw performance compensates.

The most innovative track is courtesy of Jazzeem, who mischievously and lovingly remixes Simone's stirring version of Ike and Tina Turner's "Funkier than a Mosquito's Tweeter" (from It Is Finished, 1974). Emphasizing the song's original drum track and suspending the rhythm to highlight Simone's voice, Jazzeem crafts a treasure trove of sonic details: he loops Simone’s chuckle and studio banter, incorporates a brief trip-hop section, creates a nervous laugh by isolating a syllable, and fades the song out with a brief coda of hypersonic drumming.

"Funkier Than a Mosquito's Tweeter" proves that these remixes are destined to attract an audience beyond clubs and lounges because they're listenable even in solitude. (The only exception being Tony Humphries' interminable remix of "Turn Me On".) Inevitably, listeners will have different reactions to individual remixes, but Remixed and Reimagined, as a whole, is an effective exercise in establishing a new context for the work of this sorely missed artist.


This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.