FAME Review: Francesca Simone - Playground
Francesca Simone - Playground


Francesca Simone

Blue Ladybug Records - 1654

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

The music world can always use another skilled female guitarist, as there are far too few extent. You can pretty much forget all the female rockers (and, yes, I'm talking to you, Joan Jett and ilk), save for very few, though the blues features a number of fine players (Bonnie Raitt, Ana Popovic, Samantha Fish, Joanne Shaw Taylor, etc.) and jazz has enjoyed an Emily Remler, a Mimi Fox, and others here and there. Well, Francesca Simone has stepped up to help fatten things up a bit, Playground being an attempt to fuse rock and jazz, but, really, Simone's actually a really fine jazz player when all's said and done.

This is readily seen on all the instrumental cuts (half the CD), right from the moment Jobim's classic Chenga de Saudade cuts in, a mellowly grooving track that she injects with funk elements and Benson-esque playing. Her notes are fat and perfect, filled with Brazilian sunshine and laissez-faire, pleasant as hell, soothing. This is repeated in Highway, shot through with beauty and well-considered inflections (including a very distinctively smooth slur move all her own). Though only 18, Simone plays like she's sat in on any number of fine studio sessions, at ease and confident. Part of that derives in the fact that she started classical training on piano at the age of 4…good Gawd, I was still learning to tie my shoes and wipe my own bottom at that point!

She knows how to compose, too, as all but two cuts are hers, and they flow smoothly. However, there's a down side. Her singing voice is educated but unfinished, the lyrics by Willim Randolph are banal—though fairly well in the Rik Emmet / Journey / Tom Cochrane mode—and the songs fall flat when forced to accommodate the two, much too anthemic. Ironically, though, I have to say she mostly vocally aced Tony Lindsay's (Santana) sit-in, which is curiously dispassionate. However Randolph ambled into the studio—yep, the same cat who penned the poetry—and beat the stuffing out of both of them in Welcome Back, in fact fired Simone to deliver a very spirited duet with him 'cause that cat knows how to sing and then some. But speaking of Santana, catch Simone's solos in Forever and a Day, VERY Carlos-esque. This young woman is a double threat (playing, writing) but falls short when reaching for chart strains. All due respect to producer Ray Obeido, but he made a very wrong call in that respect, kinda like Tom Scott in his production gig with wunderkind Brittni Paiva a couple of years back. Ya gotta be careful who you choose for guidance.

Track List:

  • The Fire
  • Chega De Saudade (A.C. Jobim)
  • Can You Hear the Music? (Simone / McClain)
  • Skating in Central Park
  • Highway 13
  • On Our Own
  • Forever and a Day
  • Welcome Back Randolph / Szotak)
  • The Fire (Reprise)
All music written by Francesca Simone and
all lyrics by William Randolph except as noted.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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