Customer Reviews: To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon January 5, 2009
I've owned the complete Nina Simone discography for some time, but I wanted this box set specifically for the 8 previously unreleased tracks and the 1970 documentary that I assumed had been lost.

The new material is fantastic. I'd gladly have paid just to hear the new, live recording of "Suzanne" included in this set. It's a brilliant concert piece, equal parts bold and vulnerable. I'd heard Nina sing with her brother Samuel at a 1968 Paris concert on the album Live at the Great Show, but if not for the release of "Let it Be Me" included on this set for the first time, I would never have known how truly talented and soulful he was. Music must have been a familial trait.

The DVD is brief (only about 20 minutes) but packs a punch. Nina is engaging and captivating, especially when she muses with her interviewer that freedom must be the equivalent of having no fear. A rehearsal cut of "Don't You Pay Them No Mind" before a concert is overwhelming. This was always one of my favorite songs on the High Priestess of Soul album and to see her perform it with the accompaniment of her grand piano, her mighty vibrato trembling with emotion, is something to behold. She closes a concert with "I Wish I Knew How (It Would Feel to Be Free)," taking the song in a new and liberating direction, singing along and quoting Bible scripture while her band provides a hypnotic melody.

This could easily pass as an introduction to Nina Simone's work, if that is what you're looking for. I don't agree with all of the choices included here as a career spanning collection, but this is an artist who recorded so many albums on so many different labels, if you took two Nina fans and asked them to assemble her best work, you'd inevitably come up with two completely different collections. It's part of the beauty of her music.

Attached to the set is a booklet with extensive track notes for every song, written by David Nathan, a founder of Nina's British fan club and frequent biographer of her life and career. While strained in some parts, his devotion to the artist is clear.

This is a great collection and I'm thankful to the producers who continue to memorialize this incomparably brilliant, yet often overlooked Diva of song.

Highly recommended.
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This is a wonderful collection for Nina Simone to gain more fans. The choices of the versions of songs for this collection, are the smooth more soothing ones. Each song easily fits together on the same album with any of the other songs. The DVD is really just for already fans. (I guess if your buying a box, you must already be a major fan)The mix of the clips of her performances and the interview disturbs the full experience. They should have had the performance then the interview. Do not get me wrong. I highly recommend this box set to anyone. I am personally a fan of the coarser versions of some songs. One thing I really like about Nina Simone, is that no two performance of her are the same.
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on July 9, 2010
The set of TO BE FREE: THE NINA SIMONE STORY is the perfect box set for those interested in getting to know this wonderful singing legend. It encompasses Simone's singing career from 1957 - 1993, '93 being the last time she recorded professionally, and gathers recordings that were done for different record labels and puts it all on three CDs.

If that weren't enough this set also includes one DVD that shows Simone being interviewed and performing in the recording studio and at cabarets and concert halls. Even though this documentary is short, running about 26-minutes, it's more than enough time to get a feel of the person behind the legend. I've read that she was bi-polar and it's clear that something is a little off in her demeanor in this doc, but the power and intensity really comes through. Like all geniuses, Simone comes off as a little eccentric, but very cool and highly intelligent! She seemed like someone who would've been great to hang out with. The picture quality is clear but it's obvious that this was filmed in 1969-70.

This set also comes with a booklet that's attached to the CD package that includes bio information by Ed Ward and liner notes from the CD set producer Richard Seidel. And there's detailed information written for each track included on this set, as well as photographs.

The sound quality is excellent with no discernible difference between tracks recorded in the 50s to the 90s, including the "live" performances peppered throughout this collection.

I'm new to the music of Nina Simone and this collection has more than brought me up to speed. In fact, this collection has such a variety of songs and styles from her body of work that it'll probably be the only one you'll need unless you're a hardcore fan and/or completist. I definitely recommend TO BE FREE.

Simone may not have possessed the most gifted singing voice in the business, but she worked that voice like warm molasses -- whispering, screaming, talking, singing or shouting -- until it covered your senses and made you feel something. Perhaps that's why her work has endured.
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on March 23, 2015
I am just a NINA Simone Fan. I particularly am interested in early recordings. I love that I purchased these as CD's. Sound quality is better in the CDA format. I am glad to have made the purchase and my thirty-year old son appreciates this as well! Right on! Nina!!!
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on May 1, 2011
This is a fabulous collection of Nina's work. It spans live and studio recordings, old (starting with 1957) as well as more recent (1993), from across all the record labels she recorded for. It's curated by the head of Nina Simone's British fanclub rather than some record company executive; a person with good knowledge of her work.

I have just about every CD she issued but this is the one I keep playing. Highly recommended.
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on January 3, 2013
I am a Nina Simone newbie. I have heard about her and decided to purchase this collection. I am a convert! I absolutely love it and I highly recommend it!
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on April 2, 2013
I purchased this CD and DVD as a birthday gift. I was told that it was the best collection of Nina Simone and they loved it. Would highly recommend it.
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on April 24, 2013
I love it...I purchased it for my daughter's birthday...and now i'm going to purchase one for me.
And it's nicely packaged.
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on December 31, 2008
this is a very "clean" crisp sounding set of recordings, and documents well a brilliant Musician and Vocalist, and the bonus tracks of unreleased material adds to your collection nicely, and with luck we will see more unreleased stuff come out as well as more recordings from Simone on Simone who did a wonderfull retake on some of Nina's Work and gave it a modern flair.

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on January 7, 2013
Great overview of the musical journey of Nina Simone. Maybe not the most comprehensive but she recorded so much and for so many labels, I think that would be volumes. Wonderful rarities as well.
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