Self-described as a cross between Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Supertramp, I was a bit apprehensive about what Franck Carducci’s third album, The Answer, might have in store – it’s a big ask to combine the aforementioned legends and come out smelling of roses!

Well, I needn’t have worried, although maybe now is the time for a disclaimer.  I’ve got a huge soft spot for prog bands such as Marillion, Genesis, Jethro Tull and Rush (as well as liking the 3 bands namechecked by Franck above) so it’s not really that surprising that even the first few seconds of opener ‘(Love Is) The Answer’ put my mind at rest that this was going to be no fran(c)kenstein of an album, but a real genuine gem.

A gorgeous minute-plus long intro, in true prog style, gives way to a beautiful keyboard refrain, from which the track builds to a stunning crescendo by the time you reach the 7th-minute climax.  So good the opener in fact that you wonder if Franck has peaked too early, but no.  ‘Slave to Rock’n’Roll’ (the guitar riff of which might sound rather familiar to Hard Rock Hell Radio listeners!) is a shorter snappier track but which still manages to squeeze in just the perfect amount of influences to please any rock fan with prog leanings.

The long song format is restored for both ‘Superstar’ and ‘The After Effect’.  Both tracks work wonderfully in the context of the album, with the listener having been steered nicely into accepting two sumptuous journeys into progressive rock both over ten minutes long.  Highlights include the Yes-like passage halfway through ‘The After Effect’ and the rather Fish-inspired vocal / guitar and lovely dramatic pause in the brilliant ‘Superstar’.

The pace is lessened slightly for the thoughtful piano-led ‘The Game of Life’, before the regular version of the album (presumably for vinyl) concludes with a brilliant 11-minute collaboration with American keyboard player Derek Sherinian on ‘Asylum’.

The extended version of The Answer also includes a couple of nice, more acoustic-based bonus tracks, plus trimmed-to-fit radio edits of the opening brace of songs.

Sublime guitar work throughout shows why Genesis legends himself Mr Steve Hackett has been a collaborator with, and influence on, Franck for many years.  Superb keyboards, great vocals and a tasty rhythm section mean this album really can stand toe-to-toe with the greats of prog rock.  If there was one minor criticism (and this is a purely personal point of taste!) it’s the use of the female backing vocals in places which doesn’t quite work for me, even though prog bands like Pink Floyd have shown this can be done to great effect.

Overall a stunning album, and one which has prompted me to go back over Franck Carducci’s back catalogue, and await with high-anticipation his appearance at HRH Prog X this October.  Rumours have it that Franck lays on quite a show – to be honest, based on this release the music would be more than enough – but this is prog after all, so bring it on!

The Answer by Franck Carducci is out now via www.franckcarducci.com.