Friday, June 4, 2010

Franco (2010) Album Review

Where to begin?

It's hard to believe Franco Reyes' existence in Cebu's music scene goes a long way back, but I was never really that fond of his early releases with his then-band Frank!.  I do remember first seeing them performing covers- that day me and my brother decided to see a random concert, and with luck, caught one headlined by Frank.  They performed a complete set, what songs- I'm not sure, but if my memory serves me right, I think they played STP's Piece of Pie and a solo acoustic version of Plush.  I remember turning to my brother and saying, "this guy's got a really good voice".  Frank became permanently etched on my 'good band' radar after that gig, and they were just that- nothing to get excited over, really.

Within a span of several years, they had apparently released an album with little fanfare from me--- well, my feelings were the same for most (if not all) local musicians.  I never really 'drooled' over local music so to speak, not believing local acts would ever create any 'noteworthy' original tunes.  My expectations were low, and always only limited to good cover songs of the music that I do love, if I'm lucky.  Nothing more nothing less

Frank with Janjan Mendoza drumming for Czar Delos Santos.
(L-R): Ritze Arriba, Janjan Mendoza, Paul Cañada, Franco Reyes

That mindset would change after the release of Urbandub's Influence (also reviewed by this site).  By that time, Frank have since disbanded, only reuniting every once in awhile if Mr. Franco was in the country and available.  I would later hear that he moved to St. Petersburg (USA) around the mid 00's, continuing to write music and forming a new band in InYo- with Mike Sylvia (drums), Tommy Jamin (bass), and Anton Cortes (guitars).  In 2007 or 2008, I would hear these new songs, which Franco called 'demos', on his Myspace and Imeem page.  With the help of some nifty audio-ripping software, I was able to further drool over the tracks without having to be in front of a computer.

InYo (L-R): Anton Cortes, Franco Reyes, Tommy Jamin, Mike Sylvia

I believe it was in 2009 that Franco came home and started jamming with Gabby and Janjan of Urbandub, Buwi of Parokya ni Edgar, and 8 of Queso- and so started Franco.  They would ultimately re-record most of the 'Inyo tracks' with 3 new additions:   

Seasons, arguably one of the faster tracks on the record with obvious influences from 311 during the breaks, is a great opener.  It's convenient to consider it a love song- especially when taken out of context, but given its position in the album, it's an obvious invitation to the listener (...I'll wait for you to be a part of me and I of you...), and together "forever spin in love".

Last Waltz seems to suggest the momentary longing of good memories that lasted, a lost love perhaps, in a stupor (...will you hear my ailing words, will you be my everything?...) and the subsequent battle of the mind to quash the daydreams ('s clear as sober- to me you're just a fairytale...), only to long for it again (...count to three, you're stuck with me forever...).  The irony (and brilliance) of this song is that the 'waltz' never 'lasts'.

For My Dearly Departed is a solo acoustic track played over the sound of the gentle surf, left as they were from the last chants of "We Are" in This Gathering, closing the album with a hush, and singing the listener to sleep.

The album cover.

Despite the quality of the songs, there are a few things that need to be addressed.  The biggest problem in particular is the songs themselves which are basically just carbon copies of their original InYo versions (with the exception of the 3 songs mentioned above).  With the prior knowledge of InYo, it's almost impossible not to pit both releases against each other.  Both concerned parties may be in agreement with the recording of this album- but credit has to be given, and through the eyes of the listeners- through my eyes, it should be given to Franco Reyes and the rest of the members of InYo, not the members of Franco.  Seems they're conscious about their decisions seeing they named their band "Franco" in the first place.

But really, the whole picture takes on a new shape considering the 3 new songs.  They're just so good that they are somehow enough to give this album its own identity, not just some downgraded version of the original.

I would also have to say that the production values that went into the recording of InYo (US production) and Franco (PHILS production) vary greatly.  Though the tracks in the latter are more fleshed out and revitalized (since the band had ample time to further improve and tweak them), the audio quality still can't compare to the excellent production the InYo tracks got. Of course that would be the case. Recording studios in the Philippines have always had that major quality hiccup.

Franco (L-R): Gabby Alipe, 8 Toleran, Buwi Meneses
Janjan Mendoza, Franco Reyes

There's also the case of overdoing digital editing in some songs- most noticable in ones with quick "silent pauses" (Seasons- 1:04 to 1:16, A Mass...- 2:12 onwards).  Why bands opt to digitally clip these "silent pauses" instead of just doing it live/manually?  I don't know.  It only gives an awkward synthetic feel to a song, and damn them if they think they're fooling anybody into thinking it was all done "live".  Nevertheless, if they insisted on doing it, they should've made it so that it wasn't too obvious.

Lastly, one can also notice that the drumming is down a notch. Maybe it's directly related to the production woes or the fact that Janjan had to keep up with "already written" material, and it doesn't help he had to emulate someone who went to Berklee to learn his chops.

Despite these complaints, this album remains strong. At its core is great songwriting, and I'd go as far as recommending its quality from start to finish. It's about time the masses finally get a chance to hear one of the best Filipino rock singers to ever come out of the woodwork- who, by the way, not only sings with a convincing American tongue, but also sounds really good. It's safe to say Franco Reyes is definitely on a league of his own. You do not want to miss this album.

My score:
8 out of 10


eya said...

what issues?

Matthew said...

i would call that as carbon copy, since it's franco's own material, and you couldn't avoid the new line up to "basically copy" the inyo version since it's his (franco) material. if you listened closely you'll hear the difference of the original and the new version, you could hear the additional guitar track.

Marvic said...

Seasons is actually a love song he wrote for his wife. I think she's still in the States - long distance marriage.. .so the song goes "I'll wait for you, inspite of it all"...