Simone (born Lisa Celeste Stroud) has a conflicted relationship to her mother, Nina Simone, which is apparent starting with her appropriation of her last name as her own stage name. Nina Simone herself acknowledged the problem, admitting in her autobiography, I Put a Spell on You, "...[O]ur relationship was complicated and difficult....I had never spent the time I should have done with her....There was no way I could make her understand how I just never had the time and how much I wished that I had." Simone tells her side of the story here in the sad ballad "Child in Me," which begins, "When I was young, I was often alone/Times I needed you the most, you were traveling on the road." "The child in me still cries for you," goes the chorus. That song, however, is the exception on an album billed as a tribute to Nina Simone that mines the elder singer's repertoire, but re-conceives it, at least musically. Working with producer Bob Belden and fronting the Rob Stoneback Big Band, Simone avoids most of her mother's signature songs, and she performs over swing arrangements, singing in a professionally trained voice that only rarely -- when she expertly hits a low note -- bears any suggestion of Nina Simone's. This is not surprising, given Simone's own extensive background (she was 45 years old on this album's release date), primarily in the musical theater, which culminated in her Broadway debut in 2002. Other than taking her mother's name, she mostly stayed away from Nina Simone's area of popular music until her death in 2003. Since then, Simone has been mounting tribute concerts to her mother. But at least in this case, "tribute" does not equate to "imitation," and Simone on Simone displays a confident, talented performer with a different take on some classic material.
Simone on Simone Review
by William Ruhlmann