…is awfully damn good!

Following up my 75th birthday shout out to Nancy Wilson a couple of weeks ago, I want to put up a review of her outstanding compilation LP — The Very Best of Nancy Wilson; The Capitol Recordings 1960-1976.

Nancy is one amazingly prolific vocal artist with literally scores of albums spanning from the late 50’s to the mid 2000’s. This amazing body of work traverses a wide gamut of genres … Jazz, R&B, Soul, Soft Jazz, Pop, Blues and the Standards all represent in her vast discography.

Though Nancy certainly produced a significant body of work before and after her Capitol Years (’60-’76), I think this 71 track compilation (pulled from 33 of the more than three dozen Capitol albums she rendered) is an excellent extract of her bountiful career — a 16 year “center cut” carve out that truly does deliver Nancy Wilson at her very best.

Nancy belongs in the conversation…

…with greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Lena Horn and Sarah Vaughn, but also sidles up next to Eydie Gormé, Dionne Warwick, Rosemary Clooney, and Carmen McRae … and Barbara Streisand … and Billy Holiday.

Wilson lights on all the genres these leading artists plied. With the possible exception of Ella — simply the best vocalist of all time in my opinion  — Nancy delivers quality numbers that stand shoulder to shoulder with their best work.

But always on her own terms…

To me, Nancy’s style reminds me of Sammy Davis Jr … fearlessly original but with an obvious respect for the material. Nancy performs the songs before her the way she thinks they will sound best — regardless of any historic genre inclinations or market pressure.

You hear her style dexterity exercised throughout these recordings, but be assured this is not dexterity for it’s own sake … rather this is Nancy Wilson singing the song — telling the story — the way she believes it needs to be told.

A self professed “song stylist”…

…Nancy held no truck with those that tried to box her into a category. That said, and at the risk of catching her ire, to my ear Nancy Wilson almost always brings a soul/R&B-ness to the material. Whether the number’s heritage is blues, Tin Pan Alley, Pop or Broadway, NW’s tell tail R&B styling nearly always obtains.

This is not to suggest a lack of versatility or that her material all sounds the same. In fact, just the opposite … Nancy vigorously exercised a happy talent for remaking genre numbers to suit her sense of the lyric and render something new. Sometimes the change is subtle; sometimes it’s right in your face, but ALWAYS Nancy’s way … and always appropriate and interesting stuff.

This LP is indeed the very best…

Like I mentioned at the top, I believe The Very Best of Nancy Wilson; The Capitol Recordings 1960-1976
represents the tenderloin of Nancy’s long career … 71 recognizable hits and some semi-rare numbers from studio and live performances that in the aggregate define Nancy Wilson like no one or two … or collection of ten or twenty songs can.

There’s really no serviceable way I can proffer a comprehensive review of this many quality tracks (full listing below) … even cherry-picking a dozen or so highlights would not do justice to the rich vein of wonderful songs, arrangers, writers… on this very nice Capitol EMI Gold release.

I strongly suggest you swing by Amazon, give the samples a listen (sadly, iTunes does not carry the LP) and then just buy the thing … at less that $20 this excellently produced LP, chock full of NW’s best material is a steal.

Casting aside my excuses…

Read through the track list below and you can see the folly in attempting to completely capture the essence of this LP (OK, one last excuse!), but I do want to hit on a scattered semi-random selection of favorite numbers from the album.

Nancy drops the coolest R&B rendition of a song that I NEVER would have teed up in this style — “Born Free” — and it is awesome. This number is a nutshell expression of Ms. Wilson’s willingness and ability to blow by genre boundaries. Just to drive the point home further, Nancy covers Andy Williams again with a lilting, bossa nova beat version of “Moon River” … fun stuff.

The core of the American Songbook is well represented with great NW versions of  “Fly Me To The Moon”, “For Once in My Life”, “Days Of Wine And Roses” … literally dozens of classic numbers rejiggered by Nancy’s perceptions of the lyrics and driven by her powerful, reverberant (but not “too forward”) vocals. There’s just so much here!

One of my favorite NW songs is her signature song (if that’s possible given her diverse catalog): “Guess Who I Saw Today” … Nancy’s crystal pure voice delivering such a blue sentiment … sort of a melancholy counter punch to Bacharach’s political incorrectness poster child number… “Wives and Lovers”.

Then we’re off to Brazil with “The Boy From Ipanema” … “Close Your Eyes” both sweet and haunting … a sassier version of “Hey There” … a New Orleans jazz tinged “Makin’ Whoopee” … a torch styled “Sunny”. Too much, there’s too much! Just go get this LP.

Track List for The Very Best Of Nancy Wilson; The Capitol Recordings 1960-1976

[Too many awesome songs to rate effectively … some favorites (just some!) bolded though.]

1. Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)
2. I Wanna Be Loved (2001 Digital Remaster)
3. On The Street Where You Live
4. Guess Who I Saw Today (2004 Digital Remaster)
5. What A Little Moonlight Can Do
6. Call It Stormy Monday But Tuesday Is Just As Bad
7. The Nearness Of You
8. On Green Dolphin Street
9. The Things We Did Last Summer
10. (I’m Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over
11. Happy Talk
12. The Old Country (Vocal)
13. Miss Otis Regrets (She’s Unable To Lunch Today) (1993 Digital Remaster)
14. Little Girl Blue
15. Sophisticated Lady
16. As Long As He Needs Me
17. You Can Have Him (2002 Digital Remaster)
18. Days Of Wine And Roses
19. Moon River
20. You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To
21. Never Let Me Go
22. The Song Is You
23. Satin Doll (1991 Digital Remaster)
24. Someone To Watch Over Me
25. The Boy From Ipanema
26. (You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am (24-Bit Digitally Remastered 01)
27. Don’t Rain On My Parade (2006 Digital Remaster)
28. West Coast Blues
29. Time After Time
30. There Will Never Be Another You
31. I Left My Heart In San Francisco
32. Call Me Irresponsible
33. What Kind Of Fool Am I?
34. Don’t Talk, Just Sing (2007 Digital Remaster)
35. Ten Good Years (2007 Digital Remaster)
36. The Music That Makes Me Dance (2007 Digital Remaster)
37. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
38. If I Ruled The World (2007 Digital Remaster)
39. Hey There
40. Makin’ Whoopee
41. The Shadow Of Your Smile
42. Close Your Eyes
43. Try A Little Tenderness
44. Like Someone In Love
45. Willow Weep For Me
46. Just For A Thrill
47. Born Free
48. Free Again (2002 Digital Remaster)
49. (I Stayed) Too Long At The Fair
50. Sunny
51. You’ve Changed (1995 Digital Remaster)
52. It Never Entered My Mind
53. For Once In My Life (1994 Digital Remaster)
54. Welcome To My Love (1994 Digital Remaster)
55. Face It Girl, It’s Over (2007 Digital Remaster)
56. Gentle On My Mind (2007 Digital Remaster)
57. The Man That Got Away (Live At The Sands) (2002 Digital Remaster)
58. I Can’t Get Started (Live At The Sands) (2002 Digital Remaster)
59. It Only Takes A Moment (2007 Digital Remaster)
60. Out Of This World (2007 Digital Remaster)
61. In A Long White Room (2007 Digital Remaster)
62. Son Of A Preacher Man
63. You’re All I Need To Get By
64. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
65. Joe (2007 Digital Remaster)
66. In A Sentimental Mood
67. Prelude To A Kiss (2001 Digital Remaster)
68. The Greatest Performance Of My Life (Live In Japan) (2002 Digital Remaster)
69. Don’t Misunderstand (2007 Digital Remaster)
70. You’re As Right As Rain (2002 Digital Remaster)
71. This Mother’s Daughter (2007 Digital Remaster)

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