When one looks at the cover of David Francis’s Fake Valentine and sees his solemn, ancient face staring out from behind flowers and plants, he or she has to wonder just what kind of music this fellow produces. With a visage imparting some deep wisdom or gloom and a head of ghostly white hair, it’s hard to guess what to expect. What kind of sound, exactly, does this man produce?
Something more human, accessible, engaging, and likeable than you might expect, that’s what. Mr. David Francis’s sound, catchy and classic, is an honest summation and reprise of all good things rock n’ roll. In a world where music is often studio-fied to death or awash in tricky computer effects, his is a more basic, simple brand of music that is both sonically and emotionally evocative of classic rock. It’s honest, enjoyable, and good, which is just about all one could ask for.
And really, you can’t ask for more than the opener, “Fake Valentine.” The title sounds fluffy, but don’t let it deceive you; it’s a pretty, moving, and heartfelt (no pun intended) song with a timeless pop melody. Alongside a stark 12-string guitar and strings, David tells us he’s been “pretending, pretending, pretending.” Love’s often one way or the other in pop songs — you’ve either got it or you don’t — but Mr. Francis, ever the mature songwriter, tells of a relationship where the feelings of love seemed to be lost, when they were merely feigned. It’s short, but very, very sweet.
Elsewhere, his craft and talent is no less apparent. Songs like “Life Smiled” and “Reflections In The Mirror Of The Life I’m Wearing” are generously swathed with melodic goodness, and the aching “Lines In Blue Ink” is the perfect pop downer for late, uncertain nights.
For the most part, David dabbles mostly in the traditional, though he is not without variety; “Message” and “Time of Day” have a slightly tropical feel. The only song that really drifts from the conventional is the six-minute instrumental, “Song For A Party Never Held.” An epic by most definitions, it shifts from cosmopolitan piano ballad to baseball park anthem (complete with cheesy organs) to elegant piano movement to dark ambient before going back to where it all began.
On a first listen, it’s interesting; on a second, it’s great. Though it does hinge on being a little melodramatic at one point, as murky moans threaten to overtake the piano, it is mostly successful in taking a melodic idea and extending it and filtering it through different themes.
In less than forty minutes, the album is over, and the question is answered. What lies beneath that mysterious fellow? An open, pondering soul, one familiar with love’s ups and downs and with writing diverse, memorable songs. The album’s appeal transcends age, and could be appreciated by ears both young and old, both new and veteran, alike. For David Francis demonstrates the power of simplicity and of good song-writing and their ability to obliterate the need for much musical embellishment.
It is, in sum, a pleasantly enjoyable disc, one that deserves to be heard by far more than have probably had the chance to hear it. Do yourself a favor and give yourself a chance.
Written by Richie DeMaria.