Picks and Pans Review: Simone

updated 05/26/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/26/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Simone on Simone |

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Like her stage name, Simone's debut disc honors her late mother, musical titan Nina Simone. But the album—including 11 tunes from Mom's renowned repertoire—amounts to a tricky proposition: Does Simone (born Lisa Celeste Stroud) really have the chops to survive comparison? The answer is yes. Backed by a big band, the 45-year-old Broadway veteran (Rent, Aida) brings both full-throated power and sensitivity to ballads and civil rights anthems. She's expressive on torchers like "Hold No Grudge" and bouncy on the lesser-known "Gal from Joe's." Most touching is "Music for Lovers," a live number about the bond between parent and child with Simone fittingly accompanied by her mother on piano.

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