You know how most progressive musicians are reserved and not just a little bit withdrawn? Is it in their nature due to the music they write and perform? Let’s be honest, you don’t hear of many of them trashing hotel rooms and throwing T.V.’s out of windows or even driving Rolls Royces into swimming pools.
No, to be honest, they probably drive Prius’ or Astras and spend time down the local Sainsbury or B&Q and doing 60mph in a 50mph limit is as big a transgression that they will make in their lifetime. Yes, there are always exceptions to the rule, musicians with a much more outgoing personality and a penchant to occasionally be a Drama Queen (You know what I mean Mike Morton :) ) but you have to turn to heavy metal and its variants to find a balls out, in your face, front man, or do you?
Through a recommendation on social media, I heard the track Torn Apart from French born, Dutch domiciled musician Franck Carducci and I was immediately blown away by the hard rock, blues infused sound of the song. Investigating further, I found a few videos on YouTube and sat back to be gobsmacked by the flamboyance, exuberance and slight insanity of this incredible musician.
Franck wouldn’t look out of place in a box of frogs (ask me if you’re not sure what that means) with his outrageous stage shows that feature a multitude of talented musicians and tend to be performed with tongue firmly in cheek. January of this year saw him release his second album, also called ‘Torn Apart’, and my curiosity was sufficiently piqued for me to want to get my hands on a copy of the album and give it an extended spin.
When I hear a new artist that I like I always like to delve deeper and find some history on said musician and Franck was no different…….
“Franck Carducci, a multi-instrumentalist, was born into a family where music is a way of life. Franck produced his first melody on the organ at age 5. He then proceeded to learn the guitar by the age of 11 and, at 14, Franck discovered The Beatles and joined his first rock band.
Little by little, he strived towards music that, while still being accessible, was also structurally more complex with different atmospheres. Progressive rock will come to define his passion for a music that’s both very rock and very atmospheric or psychedelic.
Between the ages of 20 and 30, he played with upwards of 20 different bands, and got involved in the recording of 15 different albums, including 2 with French female folk singer Yanne Matis.
In 2008, Franck moved to Amsterdam where he got into the local music scene and participated in several bands with styles varying between funk, soul, pop and rock music. Then in 2010, a dream came true, Franck opened a gig for one of his heroes, Steve Hackett.
This experience, and Steve’s advice, convinced Franck to focus on producing his own solo album. The goal was to produce a genuine album without concessions, but being sincere. The product of this was his debut album ‘Oddity’ which was widely acclaimed by the specialists of the genre, as well as being a lovely discovery for neophytes. It allowed Franck, backed-up by a passionate and professional band, to tour throughout Europe.
The success of ‘Oddity’ and the subsequent tour naturally led Franck to release a second album ‘Torn Apart’ in which one of the highlights is the special guest participation of his mentor, Mr Steve Hackett himself.
This new album gave Franck the opportunity to share his vision and let others discover the fantasy world within. Dive down into it, let yourself go, you’re off for a journey in an enchanting and eerie musical universe, a place where dreams are kings and emotions are queens!”
Franck is joined on the album by the members of his touring band contributing guitar, keyboards, synthesisers, drums and backing vocals.
So, to the album itself and the opening track, and title, Torn Apart which is the powerful blues-rock infused masterpiece that opened me up to Franck in the first place. A frenetic opening leads into a sultry and electric guitar riff that just blows you away. The introduction of the organ note just adds another level of brilliance and we are off on a mighty thrill ride. The vocals are empowered with a hard edged emotion and speak of smoke filled bars where whiskey is sunk by the gallon by a grizzled bunch of regulars. The incredible guitar playing leaves a frisson of excitement running through your whole system and the playful Hammond organ definitely has a twinkle in its eye. A slight segue into a more prog infused style inhabits the middle section of the song allowing you to get your breath back as its delicate sensibilities run through your mind. However this song is all about full on blues-rock power and it isn’t too long before that crunching double riffed guitar note comes high tailing back in to demand your attention once more. The funky guitar riffs and super-smooth keyboards are superbly nailed and, as the end is nigh, all hell lets loose again with some careering guitar runs that leave you grinning idiotically as they play off against each other and the pulsating keyboards. Keeping with the blues motif but heading down further towards the delta, Closer to Irreversible shows how versatile Franck’s voice can be, on this song it is breathy, honest and heartfelt and he serenades you backed by an organ that bleeds emotion and a guitar solo that almost feels alive as it rips through your heart and soul. You can thank Steve Hackett for that, showing his dexterity and skill as a blues guitarist isn’t too shabby at all. To me this is classic, soulful blues music that really gets under your skin and leaves you an emotionally drained, dry husk of humanity and it is cleverly done. Okay, that’s enough blues, time for some progressive rock don’t you think? Erm, okay Franck! Journey Through the Mind reminds me of another album I reviewed this week, The Neal Morse Band’s ‘The Grand Experiment’ with its similar, if more low key, pomp and circumstance. The dancing keyboard and guitar introduction nicely sets you up for delicate flute section that follows and you are firmly transplanted back into the seventies, Camel fashion. Franck enters stage left with a laid back and tender vocal with a subtle hint of melancholy thrown in. A graceful female backing vocal adjoins his voice as it continues to wend its way circuitously through your senses. Tablas and sitar add some eastern exotica to the track and the dulcet tones of a Mellotron can be heard adding a layer of sophistication to this complex yet accessible track that delivers a sophisticated slice of progressive rock, the sitar inspired run out is a delight.
Artificial Love is a two minute guitar and keyboard driven track with an sci-fi line running through it. Short yet extremely dynamic, it plays its part in the greater scheme of the album. The first epic on the album and another with definitive prog-rock ambitions, A Brief Tale of Time is a journey though many differing moods and motifs. The calm and deliberate introduction with a muted vocal and talkative synthesiser note lulls your senses and enchants you with its ethereal splendour. The charming melody dances across your psyche leaving you transfixed before the pace lifts a little and a pleasing acoustic guitar combines with a quivering keyboard note to provide a silken backdrop for the duet of male and female vocals. Taking a popular music route, it is endearingly honest whilst just about avoiding any accusations of pastiche. There is an instrumental section that follows next that screams early nineties Yes to my ears with its cultivated delivery and this segues into something darker as a momentary pause opens the door onto an industrial soundscape integrated with some dark and brooding noises that are quite suspenseful and mysterious and, well to me anyway, just about attached to the rest of the song. This temporary fugue is lifted as a piano and earnest vocals take up the story and deliver you to the end of this interesting track. That piano is the introduction to Girlfriend for a Day where Franck joins in to deliver another quality short song that wouldn’t be out of place on Billy Joel’s set-list, it left me wondering what could be achieved if he extended into a longer track, I really liked its bare yet classy simplicity.
So we have had blues-rock, delta blues, ballads and prog, where will Mr Carducci take us next I wonder? Well straight up hard rock, US style is the answer to that. Mr Hyde and Dr Jekyll is a grin inducing romp straight out of the Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band playbook. A superb guitar riff announces the start of this rocking track and it then proceeds to pull up its tight blue jeans and straighten its denim shirt and deliver on every level. Stylish keyboards, pulsating drums and Franck’s catchy vocals combine with the ever impressive and influential guitar to deliver a hard rock staple, addictive and irresistible. The second epic Artificial Paradises clocks in at just over fourteen minutes and is judged perfectly with never a wasted or perfunctory second insight. The intro is a slow burner as it builds up the anticipation with Franck’s notable vocals at the heart of everything. The drums sidle in unnoticed to add their rhythms and the guitar and keyboards complete the circle. A progressively styled song with other influences joining in to form a smorgasbord of musical styles, the guitar playing is particularly notable and profound. There is a section in the middle of the song where the music takes on a humility and sincerity all of its own before breaking forth as a full on prog masterpiece, Franck showing his incredible breadth of technique and ability, ably abetted by his fellow musicians. I sense that this track will be suitably imperious in a live setting, as impressive as it is on a recorded medium. The acoustic guitar that then enters signifies a change in tack as the track builds towards an appropriately bombastic conclusion, the repetitive vocals and melody keeping you on the edge of your seat as this musical theatre continues to amaze and bamboozle. Fans of Genesis’ Suppers Ready will know where I’m coming from.
And that is that, so to speak, or is it? If you happened to get the bonus version of the album there is a cover of Supertramp’s song School tagged on at the end. Quite faithful to the original with a cool jazz infused reggae guitar leading the rhythm section and the harmonica replaced by a didgeridoo, it is a very nice track and another showcase of Franck and his band’s sublime talents.
I have been thinking of how I would describe Franck Carducci’s music to the unaware and the closest I could get was to imagine Joe Bonamassa going into Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club to perform the Rocky Horror show in 7/8 time, take from that what you will. What is non-negotiable is the absolute fun and enthusiasm, and not inconsiderable amount of skill that is put into every note on the album to produce what has been an enjoyable romp from start to finish and Franck and his band deserve every accolade they should duly receive.