Sunday, March 13, 2011

March 13: Nina Simone, "Do I Move You?"

Artist: Nina Simone
Song: "Do I Move You?"
Album: Nina Simone Sings The Blues
Year: 1967


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To be a true individual, to defy all definitions in sound and style, is without question the most difficult achievement in all of recorded music.  For the most part, even the most "out there" performers, at some level, can be classified along with other artists, as the core of their style has similar roots to some extent.  Those artists who have been able to exist outside of all classifications number in the single digits, and in nearly every case, these brilliant and unique creators of sound did not and do not receive all of the accolades they so richly deserve.  Among these pioneering and genre-defying individuals, few have the intrigue, uniqueness, and truly stunning sound that can be found within the absolutely smoldering voice of the one and only Nina Simone.  Mixing together elements of jazz, soul, blues, and even rock, her recordings remain some of the most treasured and mind-blowing in all of music history, yet she is often placed in a "second tier" behind many of the more mainstream artists of her day.  However, even her own sound began to get diluted and lost due to the intervention of her record label, so in 1967, she completely stripped things back down and released her genre-bending masterpiece, Nina Simone Sings The Blues.  Filled with some of her most beautiful and unique songs of her entire career, there are few moments in history that are are raw or musically original than the sound one finds on Nina Simone's extraordinary 1967 song, "Do I Move You?"

As soon as "Do I Move You?" begins, it makes itself appear as a standard blues song, with a swing and sway that are uniquely inviting.  The guitar playing from Eric Gale and Rudy Stevenson are absolutely perfect, as they burns slow across the track, building a mood and tension unlike any other recording in history.  While they are clearly playing in a blues style and progression, there is something different about their sound that makes it appear as a genre onto itself.  The addition of bassist Bob Bushnell and drummer Bernard Purdie heighten the overall mood, as they slowly rocks the song back and forth, not quite in a groove, but pushing the song deeper into itself.  However, the key to the distinctive sound on "Do I Move You?" is the way in which the piano and harmonica are worked into the track, as well as how the song progresses.  Buddy Lucas is absolutely brilliant on harmonica, and his performance gives the song a very raw and organic feel.  Combining this with the piano Ernie Hayes, the song has an almost Western feel to it, as he dances across the keys.  Yet the most stunning and mind-blowing aspect of "Do I Move You?" is the way in which the song "takes off" in the latter half of the recording.  As the tension begins to reach its apex, it takes on what is almost a rock and roll feel, and as it crashes to an end, it is literally impossible to place the song into any single category.

Yet while the musical portion of the song is nothing short of amazing, there is simply nothing that can compare to the sound and mood set into place by Nina Simone and her vocals.  In every way possible, there has never been another singer like Nina Simone, as both the sound and attitude that she brings to every track is completely distinctive, and it is in her vocal approach that her legend lives.  As "Do I Move You?" progresses, nearly every nuance of her singing style is put on display, and it all begins with a slow, swinging, almost seductive blues rhyme.  When she sings, "...do I move you? Are you willing? Do I groove you? Is it thrilling? Do I soothe you? Tell the truth now? Do I move you? Are you loose now? The answer better be yeah...It pleases me...," there is an empowered feel that demands that the listener responds with nothing more than the word, "yes."  It is this more aggressive, yet alluring sound that makes Simone's sound so impossible to define, and this mood only builds as the song progresses.  Working the entire vocal range, it is the way in which she quickly jumps from her low, somewhat coquettish sound to her unrestrained, soaring work in the upper registers that presents some of the most breathtaking moments on the entire song, and yet there is not a moment anywhere on "Do I Move You?" where the listener can do anything but sit in awe of the power and emotion of Nina Simone's voice.

Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of all of "Do I Move You?" is the pace at which the song moves.  Until the very end of the song, it seems to be moving at such a slow pace, that it is a purposeful tempo, ensuring that the mood and sway stay perfectly intact.  Keeping the tempo at the exact same pace, the energy quickly begins to simmer, and halfway through the song, the band manages to keep things at a critical mass, making the overall mood of the song brilliantly overwhelming.  It is in this combination of sound and mood where the music of Nina Simone completely defies all descriptions, as there is a rock attitude sitting under a blues progression with a vocal approach that borrows greatly from both jazz and soul.  Taking all of this together, and stripping away all of the "extras" that had been placed alongside Simone from her previous label, and "Do I Move You?" quickly makes its case as the most raw and hard hitting song of all time.  Simply put, both the band and singer have nothing holding them back, and they were able to capture the essence of a group that clearly had great chemistry and were unquestionably "in the groove" when the song was recorded.  Listeners can almost feel the heat and energy of the session, and it is easy to argue that the random shouts throughout the song were the results of the high energy being created within the studio.  Taking all this into account, there is absolutely no way to place this, or any of Nina Simone's catalog into any single genre, and there are few moments in her recordings that are as outright breathtaking or moving than one finds in her 1967 classic, "Do I Move You?"

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent write-up of a truly remarkable voice!

anger, no management required said...

no way to put it politely.
she sounds like vocal cunt juices.

AFE said...

Anger, no management required - if you can't put it politely, may I suggest you don't put it at all?

On a more positive note, this song is amazing.

thomas veselt said...

@AFE
and a happy new year to you....!!