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Nicki Leighton-Thomas ‘One Good Scandal’ at the Playground Theatre

Nicki Leighton-Thomas

(Playground Theatre. 18 October – One Good Scandal launch. Review by Lavender Sutton)

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Nicki Leighton-Thomas and Alec Dankworth. Photo credit Sammy Adams

Vocalist Nicki Leighton-Thomas has released a follow up album of songs by the well-known poet and lyricist Fran Landesman. Her first album, Forbidden Games was released more than 20 years ago (2001). One Good Scandal is a collection of Landesman’s songs, all (bar one) written with composer Simon Wallace, who is also the pianist and arranger on the album. 

This project was spurred on when Leighton-Thomas met the writer, Richard Mason, who confessed to her that Forbidden Games had been his chosen soundtrack while writing his first novel. Finally given a reason to take another look at Landesman’s song list, Leighton-Thomas reached out to Wallace and they curated a collection of twelve tracks. 

A few chosen have never been recorded before like Did We Have Any Fun? And The Girl You Can’t Forget, which was written especially ‘for Nicki’, who had met Landesman in her later life and they became fast friends. 

Landesman’s lyrics and poems are known for her witty yet devastatingly honest words that unravel the human condition in a way that makes you think. She is most famous for the standard Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most written with composer Tommy Wolf but as time goes on, many more of the 300-odd songs that have been composed by Landesman and Wallace are becoming familiar within the vein of the Great American Songbook. 

The album launch, held at The Playground Theatre in West London, also featured Wallace on piano, Alec Dankworth on bass and Rod Youngs on drums. This trio appear on most of the tracks from the recording – a nice way to tie the two together. 

Starting with the new releases, Semi-Detached, and the title track, One Good Scandal, Leighton-Thomas shared a lot about her connection to these songs, which made her delivery more personalised and gave context to her relationship and affinity for Landesman’s music. 

To hear her share what it was like to have songs written directly for her – and then hear her own interpretation – is a rare treat for an audience.   

Another favourite was the playfully written Hyde-Side Blues, which quickly reveals its word play on Jekyll and Hyde and ‘hiding’ yourself from a new love. The band really sunk into the spicier nature of the blues. 

In a few cases, Leighton-Thomas sang a few without the band, which stood out as opportunities for her character to peek through. Don’t Cry Baby, It’s Only a Movie and The Girl You Can’t Forget were monologue-type moments that almost felt like a solo from a musical. 

A few tracks from the first album were incorporated in the set and stood out as highlights including Scars and I’m Not Taking Any Chances

Overall, fans of Fran Landesman are all grateful that Nicki Leighton-Thomas has had a revival of her love of these songs resulting in such special interpretations and another sneak peek into her lyrical catalogue. 

LINK: John Fordham’s Feature / Interview about the album

Purchase a copy of One Good Scandal

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