Nina Simone: It Be’s That Way Sometimes
From Silk & Soul (RCA, 1967)

You could run through the superlatives all day and you still wouldn’t begin to capture the thrilling complexity of Nina Simone. One thing can be said categorically, however: Nina Simone was one of those rare talents who chose eclecticism over any single easy genre – possibly the most difficult path for an artist – and, moreover, it was a choice that she triumphed with, both commercially and artistically.

Such eclecticism depends on the right palette of material, of course. It also depends on a wide open emotional versatility. And, yes, Simone had that, too – whole warehouses full of it. She could croon an English folk ballad with tortured vulnerability, slap some joy back into even the moldiest jazz lyrics, or – in the case of “It Be’s That Way Sometimes” – extract those choice bitter notes and polish them until they shined like metal. Written by her brother Sam Waymon, Simone seems to especially relish the ironic spirit of this composition; hard drums breaking like waves beneath her, she tears into the material with a ferocity that could’ve bent steel. She is practically screaming “IT BE’S THAT SOMETIMES” by the end of the song. Powerful stuff.

“It Be’s That Way Sometimes” was the highlight of 1967’s Silk & Soul, one of Simone’s earliest albums for the RCA record label.

–DJ Little Danny (Office Naps)