Franklin-Neumann Project, The - Machinery Of The Gods

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Fossil Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 49:34:00

The Franklin-Neumann Project is a duo of Gary W. Franklin and Bill Neumann who together play all the instruments, sing all the vocals, etc. Now that's the obvious, what isn't so obvious is style of music this duo creates. If you think Machinery Of The Gods is an album filled with rollicking rock themes, a la "Countdown," which I reviewed on the AXcavation compilation, then you will be surprised to hear the Queenryche-like "Symphony Of Man - Thieves," which also comes across a bit like Blue ?yster C?lt, Rainbow, and Black Sabbath in their mellower moments. Queenryche return for "I Can See Forever" (mainly that whomever is vocalizing here often sounds like Geoff Tate). This track is more keyboard based that anything else on the album, as elsewhere guitars are the focus instrument, though drums are high in the mix. But, if you think this band is only influenced by Queensryche, then there's "Event Horizon" which belies some of that.

The duo name check the artists that you can clearly hear in their sound - Dream Theater, Queensryche (as mentioned), Metallica, Steve Vai, Rush, Maiden, and many others. But Franklin-Neumann are also squarely in the AOR camp, as evidenced the soft balladic "Forever In Your Eyes" (shades of Survivor, Journey, REO Speedwagon, Styx, Aerosmith, and oh so many more). Make sure you have a lighter or two handy for this one, even if you don't have the stadium crowd to join you. Sway back and forth, looking up dreamily. Or, if you're a guy (or an unsentimental woman), hang on till the next track ("Mind's Eye")?cuz baby this is a rockin' tune! Uh-uh, think Satriani and fleet fingered guitar playing. Foot pressing the accelerator to the floor, your head is pinned back against the seat of your roadster, the open road is ahead of you, and there's nary a copper in sight. Pure exhilaration. And yet, nothing you ain't heard before.

The opener "Symphony Of Man - Kings And Commoners" drives with a slow pulse, a very laid back feel that is grated against by the distorted guitar that buzzes like a saw. The medieval theme evoking knights seems at odds with the Egyptian imagery of the sleeve. But there is a whole theme being developed here that is working on many levels. One that occurred to me, though not the first, was that there has been speculation that the pyramids were built by alien beings. The spacey references in "Event Horizon" help make this a valid suggestion (I mean, my suggestion as to theme).

As I was listening to "Symphony Of Man - Princes" (the second track), I kept thinking to myself that the whole mood and feel and arrangement seemed very familiar. That but for the distorted guitar (a la track one), and that the vocals didn't seem to be a burly Scotsman, this very well could be Marillion's "Grendel". And yes, as that track had hints to Genesis, those elements are here, too. But, take that imagery and AOR it a bit, and you'll have this track down.

I said that keys were most prominent in "I Can See Forever," but swirling, rippling washes twist and turn in "Android Dreams" while precise and delicate guitar notes are played. Keys give way to grinding guitars and driving percussion, as lead guitar leads become more frantic. Not only does Satriani and Vai come to mind, but so does Eric Johnson, as if there is a specific tone that must be used for tracks of this nature. Perhaps all three play the same brand of guitar (which isn't mentioned and I'm not going to guess at) and so all get the same tone.

"Event Horizon" begins somewhat like REM, before it takes on a Marillion-esque aspect, which fades away into something very much Iron Maiden like, except for the chorus. Electrified Eagles -- that's the phrase that comes to mind. And the ubiquitous Queensryche, of course. Hmm?maybe a little Kansas in there, too. The arrangement is somewhat sultry, though the subject matter isn't. Of course, I reviewed this track when reviewing the Unearthed compilation last month. What I didn't do is memorize this track or my comments on it, so I found it strange to look back now and see that I said much the same thing: "? music performed by cowboys of the digital age. I guess how the Eagles would sound with digital instruments, leaving the vocals to Randy Meisner."

About the rest of the album, "Need To Be - Osiris Gets A Mouth" reminded me at times of Arena (of "Jericho" specifically), though for the most part I think of Kansas, even if the imagery recalled Iron Maiden's Powerslave (an album name checked in the song even). There's "Countdown," which has a danceable beat, modern surf music. In fact, what I said about it earlier was: "It's not just a countdown, folks, it's a beachfront barbecue party, where folks in floral print shirts and Panama hats, or bikinis, are grooving hundreds of yards from a towering rocket."

And so all this leaves us with the title track. Sound effects that sound like they'd come from a space-spaghetti western and rumbling, stuttering drums open the track, clearing away from lyrical keys, time-keeping drums, and chugging guitars - yes, more 'ryche-isms here.

If the duo didn't make all this so engaging, one might dismiss them because of their strongly influenced sound. The album itself is quite good, though I do have some production quibbles, as the sound seems a little muddied, and the drums are sometimes too up in the mix. For me the real draw are the two instrumental rockers, "Mind's Eye" and "Countdown."

Symphony Of Man - Kings, Commoners (6:00), Princes (3:49) and Thieves (3:50) / Mendelssohn's Electric Guitar Concerto No. 1 in Em (1:16) / Forever In Your Eyes (3:46) / Mind's Eye (3:19) / I Can See Forever (3:38) / Android Dreams (4:21) / Event Horizon (5:45) / Need To Be (Osiris Gets A Mouth) (5:55) / Coundown (2:46) / Machinery Of The Gods (5:09)

Gary W Franklin and Bill Neumann - guitars, keyboards, vocals, etc.

Machinery Of The Gods (1999)
Dreams Of Infinity (2001)

Genre: Various Genres

Origin US

Added: May 15th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 737
Language: english


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