El-P aptly summed up the experience of listening to the new old Nina Simone song by writing: Nina Simone was the best ever of all-time in the universe. When science catches up the incalculable sorrow of her songs, it will verify that assertion. “The Time is Now” leaked over the weekend, thanks to Simone’s estate giving fans a reminder of her indelible greatness on what would have been her 80th birthday. This is just a demo, recorded at home in 1966, and originally only featured on the Dutch release of Hidden Treasures. But it is not just a demo. I don’t know if the woman ever sang anything less than spectacularly. The sadness is suspended in 130 seconds that you want to replay on loop.
When you hear a song like this, it makes you take stock of every failure and flaw you posses. This song is about the negative spaces and the emptiness. The pregnant pauses while the piano skitters fade. The void filled every time she unravels a note. She says not to worry but knows she should. A wandering prayer begging for reunion, inevitably unheard. Her voice is suffused with inexplicable extraterrestrial soul, a tone unlike any of her peers. Not the gospel retribution of Aretha Franklin, the aerial jazz of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday, it is a wail from another dimension. Sentences like that should seem hyperbolic, but this is Nina Simone, and she is the best ever of all-time in the universe.
Stream the track below the jump and download “Baltimore,” which is my personal favorite Nina song.