Rock music should have a whole section of sociology dedicated to that form of art. Like human studies depicting the behaviours and habits of people following the label country / city / ethnicity sticking on them, musicians adopt different attitudes, ways of living and of interacting following the music genre they’re supposed to belong to.
For an example, take the ‘progressive rock’ genre. Although no human being has ever been able to clearly define what’s exactly the holy ‘prog-rock’ secret, it is clear that this genre, that was originally supposed to mix everything without boundaries, finally created more frontiers and limitations than any other. There’s a set of rules you have to follow to be part of the chosen few, to carry the heritage of the giants, gentle or not, to be the revelation of the genesis or the howe-to of the yessitude.
GONE SOLO, GONE SELL-OUT?
This ain’t a surprise, though, and surely doesn’t deserve an article in the Night Cats Lounge at all. What’s more unusual, is to notice that amongst the many artists seared ‘progressive’, only a few of them could really make it as solo artists.
Like if the required musicianship and virtuosity from all players would automatically demand the image of a band rather than a solo performer with session mates around him (or her). There’s hardly a real rock star in the prog-rock world, even when the frontman of a band shows a really appealing personality. Besides the flamboyant Rick Wakeman, who could really create a name on his own ? Some expatriates from big acts could sometimes have their own little success, without reaching a tenth of what their previous employer gave them, in terms of sales and fame, of course. Steve Hackett, Jon Anderson, maybe?
Oh sure some could really surpass or at least equal their ex-band, like Fish, Peter Gabriel or Phil Collins. But sociologically speaking, they’ve been kicked out of the ‘prog’ world by those high-powers of taste. Others did a tentative escape, but the sales of their albums made them quickly come back home. Families don’t like their Tony Banks or Chris Squire to go out at night. The ‘prog’ world doesn’t like rock stars, and if one succeeds as a solo act, he’d better be boring, geek-looking or shoe-gazing. That’s why people like Mike Oldfield and Steven Wilson could make a living in music instead of working at Starbucks.
Therefore, Franck Carducci is an obvious oddity in that world (no pun intended). He’s not just taking a recreational break from his previous band Mattis, he poses himself as a solo artist in a world of bands and groups and families. The road less traveled, as they say.
Another point that makes the guy quite a nice bloke is his stage attitude, closer to rock performers like Alice Cooper, David Bowie or even Kiss than to the penultimate clone of 1973 Peter Gabriel. Carducci shows an unusual energy that happily contrasts with the over-delicate restraint that dominates the genre.
And last but not least, although it’s sadly not always that obvious when you listen to his two albums “Oddity” and “Torn Apart”, he shamelessly admits influence from great melodists like Billy Joel and Paul McCartney, often contemptuously disdained by the prog-intelligentsia who doesn’t like ‘sell-outs’.
THE HOLY SECOND ROUND
After the bliss generated by the first-born “Oddity”, Carducci faces the holy pressure-of-the-second-album with his usual nonchalance and a definite absence of visual stress, despite the unavoidable comparisons that “Torn Apart” will have to stand to make his own place toward “Oddity”.
Visually speaking, the dark artwork made by Olivier Castan (keyboardist who obviously can use his hands for different purposes) is quite a move compared to the colourful painting from the 2011 record. It’s dominated by black, white and blood-red. Open the booklet and some names make you feel at home: Michael Strobel, Richard Vecchi, Chris Morfin (not Christian Morin the clarinetist, hey!), to name a few. Mr Hackett too is still there, except that he changed his name from John to Steve, and Nicolas NikoZark disappeard into the magician’s hat of Mr Carducci, sending the organist playing some nama time for your beloved sleepy cat.
The album being not for your eyes only, let’s take a track-by-track listening tour:
“Torn Apart”, the title track, starts with a refreshing straight-ahead rock intro, and through the song there’s some excellent lead guitar from Mathieu Spaeter and quite nice Hammond. The dialog between both instruments at the end is a highlight. Some very lightly funk elements on the bass guitar gives hopes on a more daredevil Carducci in the future.
Then comes “Closer To Irreversible”, full of blues influences in the structure, with an interesting move to a 5/4 rhythm that makes the bed of an interesting solo from Steve Hackett who gladly dared to play outside of the comfort zone the ‘prog-rocksers’ want him to stay.
“Journey Through The Mind”, now. Holy gosh, the intro seems to be an outtake of an old Marillion stuff! There’s a cute flute solo and Richard Vecchi’s Hammond makes up for the sudden lack of rocking guitars. From this song on, it’s clear that Carducci’s voice gained much expressiveness since “Oddity”. (For the record, an earlier version of “Journey Through The Mind” could be found on a compilation (“Evidence(s)”) where your beloved Snowcat provided a piece of art too.)
“Artificial Love” is the first short song of the album, as powerful as can be a drum and guitar war, courtesy of Laurent Falso who hits the sticks strongly enough to irritate the rocking Spaeter. Once again Carducci’s voice allows him now to explore a field he wouldn’t have been comfortable 5 years ago.
“A Brief Tale Of Time” allows the co-composer Vecchi to shine on keyboards and cinematographic FX, to the point of sending Spaeter to the corner with his nonetheless captivating guitar. The first part of the song could have been on “Oddity” or even on an early Anthony Phillips album, almost as a cliché. Luckily the piano ending carries a more somber mood that gladly contrasts with the obviousness of the first part.
“Girlfriend For A Day” is the other quickie of the album (no pun with the title intended… well, yes, pun intended indeed!), that could almost have been sung by Billy Joel on his end-of 70’s days. Deliciously refreshing.
“My Hyde & Dr Jekyll” is not a cover from GTR’s “Jeckyll & Hyde”, nor even a tribute, but talking of GTR (guitar), it’s now turn to veteran Michael Strobel to rock the 6-strings off. He does a rocking good job on both playing and co-writing. Carducci seems to enjoy his singing more than ever. The 6 minutes pass like one, some may have expected a longer development.
The closing epic “Artificial Paradises” starts with the theme already suggested in “Artificial Love”. It’s more in the mold of the previous record. The finale, with the little music box, has a little echo of Hacket’s “Shadow Of The Hierophant”, ironically.
Already done? Done. But this time too, Franck Carducci offers a bonus track, now a cover of Supertramp’s “School”, and though one can surely live without that version, it’s much more accurate than the too easy “Carpet Crawlers” 5 years ago.
IN WAITING FOR CARDUCCI N°3
Despite a few clichés here and there that will keep the average prog fans at ease, “Torn Apart” is deeper, more dense, a bit more adventurous and obviously rockier than its predecessor. The electric guitars are pure joy, superbly complemented by the Hammond and a Carducci who unconsciously changed his title from multi-instrumentist who sings to singer and multi-instrumentist.
Not everything is equally stunning though. The artwork started from a good idea, but those modern drawings may not be everyone’s taste, although they’re not computerised at all. Another flip side is the lyrics, that are not necessary groundbreaking, but don’t disturb either.
Carducci seems to be more himself here, less paying tribute to his influences, and his shameless rock star moves give his persona something quite interesting and worth the discovery. Let’s hope that for the 3rd album, he’ll unleash the crazy man within and will live up to his daredevil mind that seems to crave for explosion.
Franck Carducci’s Official Site: http://www.franckcarducci.com/