Franck Carducci – The Answer
For regular visitors of the prog festivals in Europe, Franck Carducci is certainly no stranger, having played both Night of the Prog and the Artrock festival in Germany and the Progdreams festival at the Boerderij in Zoetermeer, amongst others. For those still unfamiliar with his music, his third album “The Answer” brings a brand of 70s-inspired prog rock that is very true to both “parts” of the genre. One of my main gripes with the genre of neo-prog is always that a lot of bands seem to take a lot of the “prog” but not very much of the “rock” from the progressive rock of the seventies. With Franck Carducci, this is not the case. There is plenty of rock here, as song titles like ‘Slave to Rock ‘n’ Roll’ make immediately obvious. As expected, then, this is the most no-nonsense rock song on the album, but the bridge still has some proggy elements. Some of the best Hammond moments can be found in this track, by the way, done beautifully by Olivier Castan. The chorus has a good sing-along quality to it, and you’ll probably be doing just that from the second time you hear it. Although ‘Superstar’ structurally is a more proggy song, there are some really ripping classic rock bits strewn throughout the song too, which are some of my favourites on the entire album.
The mix also harkens right back to the seventies, although the bass is much more prominent in the mix than probably any other band in the genre. This is not a negative, though, as Franck’s bass lines are both melodically interesting and energetic, pushing the catchy songs forward and making for altogether a very upbeat atmosphere. Of course, the album has all the hallmarks of classic prog, as we would expect, featuring a lot of Hammond organ, 12 string guitars, mellotrons and synthesizers. The melody in the chorus of ‘The After Effect’ is somehow very reminiscent of “The Mountain”-era Haken. The lyrics are particularly cheesy, but this doesn’t take away from the musical brilliance at display here. This song is the most modern proggy song on the album, and both the more progressive and the rocky bits are very catchy. Though the song is 10 minutes long, it feels only half that length. The quirky vocal lines just before the song slows down to a more atmospheric bridge part add a very playful feeling to this song and make it my favourite on the album. The opening song, ‘(Love Is) The Answer’, is presented in two wildly different versions on the album: the 8 minute normal (proggy) version, and the radio edit which is cut pretty much exactly in half. Although the radio edit is well done, this song leans very heavily on its 12 string guitar, and perhaps because of this the normal version just feels more natural. Particularly the chanting in the pre-chorus and the organ melody of the interludes give this track a very folky, early Genesis flavour.
Franck Carducci – The After Effect (click here if the video doesn’t play)
Musical surprises should be around every corner in a good prog album, and also here this album delivers. Highlights are the didgeridoo in the aforementioned album opener, ‘(Love is) The Answer’ and the very jazzy trumpet that sounds like it comes straight from a film noir in the piano ballad ‘The Game of Life’. Surprising, yes, but integrated very well, so it doesn’t feel like a gimmick. With the exceptions of these parts, the sound is not always as layered as you might expect a prog album to be, so you can be sure they can bring this stuff live perfectly, without having to resort to backing tracks. ‘The Asylum’ has a guest appearance from Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater, Sons of Apollo, Black Country Communion) but his solo is not my favourite part of the song, which is a very good, rather bluesy rock song – the tasty guitar solo that starts off the song is executed much better, in my opinion, so well-deserved praise goes to Fabrice Dutour. Oh, and this song has both cowbell and a drum solo, making this the only part of the album where the drums take the spotlight, played on this song by Jimmy Pallagrosi.
As a linguist, I cannot help but pay attention to song lyrics and phrasing, and here it is clear that we’re not dealing with a native speaker of English. It’s not the accent, as Franck’s is never too pronounced, nor is that of second vocalist Mary Reynaud in the parts that she sings, but in some sections, the lyrics just flow awkwardly. It does have a certain particular charm after a few listens though. All songs are like little stories on its own, and although the level of ‘Alice’s Eerie Dream’ from his debut album is never reached, story-wise, both ‘Superstar’ and ‘The After Effect’ went in very interesting directions. For ‘Superstar’ and ‘Slave to Rock ‘n’ Roll’ he also created his own superstar alter ego, named Arion Superstar. To learn more about this, I recommend you watch the ‘Slave to Rock ‘n’ Roll’ video below. Seeing as a lot of prog lyrics tend to be pretty dreamy and out there, the direct narrative here is a welcome change. And if you’ve seen them live before, you know that they do also really act out the stories presented here.
Franck Carducci – Slave to Rock ‘n’ Roll (click here if the video doesn’t play)
The album itself clocks in at around 52 minutes, but then we have around 20 minutes of bonus tracks and radio edits. These bonus tracks are bonus tracks simply because they didn’t fit on the vinyl version anymore (they are only on the CD and digital version), but they fit in perfectly, so I’ll treat them as any other song. Well, song, the first bonus track, ‘The Road to Nowhere’ is more of a ditty at only 2,5 minutes, but it’s a great 12-string and vocal singalong piece – another live highlight. ‘Beautiful Night’ is a very pretty love song. Of course, emotional responses are always difficult to quantify, especially in writing, but this song really struck a chord with me. The melody is captivating and unique but still memorable, and Franck’s vocal performance is really moving here. Then it ends the album in spectacular fashion with a subtle Pink Floyd keyboard outro.
The music business can be strange sometimes. Why do some musicians hit the big time, while others, operating in the same genres, stay much more underground and self-produced for their entire career? A question without an obvious answer – but Franck Carducci proves once again that quality isn’t it. “The Answer”, if you will pardon the terrible segue, strikes a great balance between catchy arena rock and classic prog very much rooted in the seventies, without being too directly derivative. Let’s hope that this album brings Franck another step further to mainstream (and perhaps label?) recognition.
- (Love Is) The Answer 8:01
- Slave To Rock ‘n’ Roll 5:42
- Superstar 12:27
- The After Effect 10:03
- The Game Of Life 4:32
- Asylum 11:11
- On The Road To Nowhere 2:38
- Beautiful Night 7:11
- (Love Is) The Answer (radio edit) 4:07
- Slave To Rock ‘n’ Roll (radio edit) 3:56