Some soul folk don’t get Nancy Wilson. They say the veteran Ohio diva’s catalogue is too diverse. She’s comfortable with lounge jazz, sweet pop, movie tunes, standards and all kinds of everything. They’ll add that her unique sound is too cool, too sophisticated…. antiseptic even. I guess it’s how you define “soul”. If you believe that part of soul’s great appeal is emotional connection, then Ms Wilson has it in spades… dig out her ‘Face It Girl It’s Over’ or ‘Guess Who I saw Today’ if you need proof!
Whatever, this new “twofer” reissue from SoulMusic.com’s collaboration with Universal’s Caroline imprint brings into focus where we place Nancy Wilson. The collection pairs two of her classic Capitol albums – 1965’s ‘Today – My Way’ and ‘Nancy- Naturally’ from the following year. With the addition of 6 bonus tracks there are 29 cuts here and amongst them there’s plenty that veer to the middle of that road… enough to support the Nancy Wilson soul deniers. For starters there’s Ms W’s version of the Righteous Brothers’ ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ on which emotion is notably absent. dare I say that our own Cilla Black made a better fist of the song! Elsewhere things like ‘Love Has Many Faces’, a cover of ‘If I Ruled The World’ and the movie song ‘Watch What Happens’ are all too “loungified” to satisfy the soul brigade.
However fast forward to the Chess blues ‘My Babe’, the pacey ‘You Got The Power’, the quite beautiful ‘Afterthoughts’ or the ballad ‘Go Away’ and you have soul-a-plenty. The cut that perhaps best sums up our attitude to Nancy Wilson is her version of Bacharach/ David’s ‘Reach Out For Me’. Maybe it is a little more sanitised than Dionne Warwick or Lou Johnson’ versions but there’s a unique, special charm about Nancy’s delivery that make the cut irresistible.
Maybe Nancy Wilson is soul’s Marmite. But you need to taste the damn thing to make up your mind. This generous twofer will allow you to do just that