Dramatic. Sassy. Sophisticated. Elegant. Mellow. Throughout her 50 years-and-counting career, Nancy Wilson has exuded these various musical ids with her moving vocal interpretations.
Dramatic. Sassy. Sophisticated. Elegant. Mellow. Throughout her 50 years-and-counting career, Nancy Wilson has exuded these various musical ids with her moving vocal interpretations. Whether swinging with jazzmen Cannonball Adderley and pianist George Shearing or putting her unique spin on pop standards as well as tunes penned by Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, James Taylor, and Gamble & Huff, Wilson has always been adept at making a song her own. Discovered by saxophonist Adderley, she began recording for Capitol in 1959. But it wasn't until her fourth album, which paired Wilson with Adderley and his quintet, that commercial success arrived—thanks in part to her 1962 top 20 R&B hit, "Save Your Love for Me." That classic performance plus the Grammy Award-winning "(You Don't Know) How Glad I Am" and early session work with trumpeter/arranger Gerald Wilson ("My Foolish Heart," "Seventh Son") are among the highlights found on the first disc—aptly titled Spanning the Decades—that opens this glorious David Nathan-helmed four-CD, 80-song retrospective. But it's the other three discs that get down to the heart of Wilson's Capitol career. Disc two, From the Vaults, unearths 14 tracks from the singer's previously unreleased 1968 album Live at the Sands. In addition to chart hits "Peace of Mind" and "Face It Girl, It's Over," Wilson gets the Las Vegas audience going with such standards as "Hello Young Lovers." Rounding out that CD are nine additional unreleased tracks recorded on various dates. The most telling of the four CDs is disc three, Nancy's Choice. Wilson herself chose all 22 of the disc's sides, which showcase the singer's various personalities. Noteworthy tracks include "China" and Wilson's wistful version of an old Eddie Kendricks tune "Can I." Fourth disc Hidden Gems features several cuts formerly available only in Japan, including live versions of Wilson performance staples "The Greatest Performance of My Life," "Guess Who I Saw Today," and "When Did You Leave Heaven?" An accompanying booklet includes a Billy Vera essay, interviews with Wilson's longtime manager John Levy and her musicians, celebrity quotes, plus comments from Wilson publicist Lynn Coles and the chanteuse herself. Unlike many contemporary singers whose limited range keeps them rooted in one particular sound, Wilson symbolizes an unfortunately bygone era of truly talented song stylists who could successfully transcend genres without missing a beat. It was about the voice and the song—which is the essence of Nancy Wilson.—GM