UK guitarist, Chris Francis has released his 2nd full CD release, Studs n' Sisters (Up To Speed Records), a 13 track all instrumental record. Aimed at guitar fans of Vai and Satriani, Francis runs the gamut of musical styles ranging from pop to contemporary jazz to hard rock. Francis doesn't have the sense of humor and sheer wackiness of a Vai or the mastery of Satriani's instrumental lyrical ability, but he ain't bad.
Now don't get me wrong, Chris Francis does have a sense of humor to him. He even does an instrumental version of Madonna's, "Material Girl". It does come across on this record, but not so much in his actual playing, but more in his CD layout. The liner notes break each song down into a pseudo movie review! Song titles and the overall feel of Studs n' Sisters is pretty fun, but unlike a Vai where his tongue in cheek humor comes out in his playing, Francis' goes in a more straight ahead approach. Francis is an able player for sure and he chameleons himself in different forms throughout this CD. Part Schenker, part Mike Stern, part Vai/Satch, Francis shows a bunch of varied influences and styles throughout the album.
One thing that is of notice for a guitar fan is always tone. I for one am not a fan of Francis' guitar tone. It is very nasally with a "honking" mid range that grates on the nerves and is very transistor like. Not a smooth flowing tone at all, which is usually paramount to a guitar instrumental record. But to Francis' defense, he does make that tone work for him somehow.
Francis has a nice phrasing to his playing and it is very evident within the chorus' of his songs, which are most time multi-tracked and full to bring out the harmony lines. His lead playing is very modern and lyrical, while not over playing like a lot of his instrumental contemporaries. He does possess a nice balance. I hear a lot of Michael Schenker in him, as well as Joe Satriani themed fluid legato runs.
Although the songs on Studs n' Sisters become more background filler than attention grabbing, highlight tracks like "Death Bitch" and "Light It Up", which show what Francis can do. There is even a tender ballad, "Used To Be". Guitar great, Blues Saraceno makes two guest appearances on Studs n' Sisters and really helps kick this CD in the ass. Check out the bonus track, "Deleted Scenes" for a great guitar duel between these two players.
All and all, Chris Francis has made a pretty good record. The guy is a very good player, but lacks the fire in his songs to bring him to the fore front of this genre. Not quite a metal player and not a pop player either, Francis will need to decide which side of the fence that he wants to be on. Until then, Studs n' Sisters is a decent release, but you probably won't keep running back to it for inspiration.
- Pickle And Baby Bear
- Studs n' Sisters
- Sometime Lady Crazy
- Light It Up
- Used To Be
- Lift The Dogs
- Riding For A Fall
- You Can Dance Better Than That
- 2nd base
- Death Bitch
- Sunday Nite @ The Sauceboat
- Material Girl
- Deleted Scenes (Bonus Track)