Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
NINA SIMONE | At Town Hall
Selected by Justin Chadwick
Across her prolific career, Nina Simone released a handful of live albums, each of which could have been included here in this list with minimal dispute. Nina Simone at Newport (1960), Nina Simone at The Village Gate (1962), Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall (1963) and Black Gold (1970) immediately come to mind as classic fare.
But for me, it’s the recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee’s stirring 1959 performance at New York City’s Town Hall that takes the cake, by an ever-so-slight margin. With her then-nascent recording career entering the ascendant at the time, Simone’s piano prowess and penchant for emotionally charged soliloquies are on full display, from the opening traditional “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” to the particularly ominous rendition of the standard “Summertime” and the poignant “Wild is the Wind.”
I happen to walk past Town Hall each morning and evening on my way to and from my office, and upon studying the building’s brick-laced façade each day, I often think of how remarkable it is that nearly 60 years have now passed since Ms. Simone graced its stage for this gripping performance that still mesmerizes.