Album Review: Torn Apart – Franck Carducci

A recipe for commercial disaster: take a French multi-instrumentalist. Move him, with all his instruments, to Amsterdam, let him play with Steve Hackett (who encourages him to release an album), then send him back to France temporarily to record a second album. None of the material on that album will ever reach the radio charts, and that’s an indication that it will be played and remembered longer than most tracks that do.

This multi-instrumentalist is Franck Carducci, who sings, plays bass, organ, keyboard, mellotron and guitar – and composes his own music. The album is Torn Apart, a 65 minute journey through the world inside Carducci’s head – and as on most journey through unknown territory, there is room for joy, surprise and in some places also disappointment – but in the end the feeling of having arrived.

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The journey starts at full energy with a keyboard and guitar driven opening for the title track Torn Apart. After the drums and the organ comes in, the 70s, slightly high pitched rock voice of Carducci starts telling us about a character getting stuck in life, and apparently losing his or her lover at some point. The song is short, lyrics wise, but since this opener is 10 minutes long, there’s enough room for an instrumental part that first covers every instrument and chord that Uriah Heep and Deep Purple have ever used, until everything quiets down and a whistle like sound (is this your mellotron, Franck?) sets in a tune that resembles You Can’t Always Get What You Want. This lasts for a bit (a bit too long for me actually), before leading back to an almost Rush-like instrumental part until the vocals come back in to continue the story, in a more dramatic tone this time. After the final verse, guitar and organ take turns playing good old classic rock solos to build a nice climax to the track.

The follow up track Closer to Irreversible starts a lot quieter, as a rock ballad, but soon the bass, organ and mellotron make it into something far from standard. After the first vocal part, Steve Hackett gets to show what he does with a guitar nowadays. The result is a solo that starts relatively melodic, but builds up into something fuller and faster, with additional effects near the end. After that, the track goes back to the ballad mood from te beginning, but with more room for guitar and organ. A track that has bits of 70s rock in it, but also modern guitar work and some Pendragon and IQ resemblances.

Journey Through the Mind then starts with a rocky, keyboard heavy intro, that immediately brings to mind a Styx song – and I’ll leave it up to the listener to find out which one (I know, but I like to give you all a bit of brain exercise as well). After the intro, a flute takes over, and then acoustic guitar and flute accompany the first verses. Vocals here are slightly less raw than on Torn Apart. Later on the organ wailing under the vocals reminds me of Bootcut, a side project of Beardfish keyboard player Rikard Sjöblom. Near the end we hear the Styx riff from the intro again, but the surprise of this track is the real ending – a full minute piece of tabla (a hindu drum) and sitar, which somehow fits but has nothing to do with the rest of the song.

The short piece (2 minutes) Articial Love, is full of Yes and Genesis influences, but with a modern touch. Funny bit is the guitar that at a certain point seems to sound like a violin, if ever so briefly.

After this, a longer part of the journey takes us through the 12 minute epic A Brief Tale of Time. The four pieces that form this composition are easily distinguishable. The first one, The Quest, is a dramatic piece, with high pitched vocals singing about a character on a journey toward its impossible, secrete love. The organ makes it grow fuller near the end, to introduce the second part Higher and Higher. Here, the organ disappears in favour of bass and acoustic guitar, while Yes like goals sing about the same character getting energy from its (answered?) love. However, suddenly the mood becomes darker and keyboards come in – giving a gloomy feeling, which is confirmed by the closing verse, which explains that the flight of love has taken a dangerous turn, tearing the lovers apart. This accompanied by a ‘square’ hard rock keyboard and guitar piece. A Genesis like guitar fades slowing into part three, 2078Möbius Trip, which seems to be a time loop. This part consists mainly of electronic sounds and noises, possibly mimicking a time machine. A computer voice tells the character to go away and meet its destiny. When the noises stop, we are in part 4, Back to Reality, in which the character accompanied by the piano and Hacket like guitar tells us that ‘nothing lasts forever but impossible love’.

If that is so, a Girlfriend for a Day may be a better idea. A rock ballad with piano and moog explains that. However, it’s a short one, and when you feel the drums are taking you into the song – that is actually the end of it. Surprise!

Instead, Mr. Hyde & Dr. Jekyll take us into a real classic rock piece, with lovely guitar and bass work. The Jekyll-Hyde theme is reflected in the song, which consists of two rocking parts interleaved by two more laid back parts before the full blown hard rocking outro (note the organ and the bass doing their job more than brilliantly!!)

After that, the actual (but not real) closing track Artifical Paradise keeps us busy for another 14 minutes. Lyrics wise, it could have fit 3-4 minutes or less, so we’re actually treated to a lot of instrumental work. There is a Genesis like piece with a melodic guitar (which for a second I though played the Phantom of the Opera tune) after the first verses, which then grows into a more full blown symphonic part. Then a short break with children’s voices takes us to a Spirit of Radio like part, which then drops into a part where the guitar thinks about ‘going Firth of Fifth‘. The organ pushes it away however to make room for a ballad like part with piano and acoustic guitar that develops into the final verse.  A 2 minute single note on the mellotron ends the track…

The only real disappointment on the album is the bonus track School, which is a lot like the original, but lacks it’s power and energy. The reason is probably the fact that it’s a bit slower than the original, and the vocals are a bit lower (and less piercing) than on the original Supertramp track. Maybe I like the original too much, but I wouldn’t have regretted it if this track was not on the album.

Overall, also after listening to his debut Oddity, Franck Carducci has delivered a fine album. I hear a lot of influences from the past that may make it a bit old fashioned for some, but the great musical skills of Carducci and his many guest musicians make up for that and sound and production wise it is a fine, modern album. Give it a try, and if you like, tell others to do the same!

(Also published on ProgArchives.com)