Franco - Cydonia Mensae

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Magnifico Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 52:09:00

Two things struck me listening to this album by guitarist/vocalist Franco Le Magna (or simply Franco) - how much his voice makes me think of John Wetton, and how it does so through a Roine Stolt filter. There is a curtain curvature to his vocal phrasing that Stolt has. Musically, I often thought of mid-period Rush (that is, 80's Rush). Given that Franco is Canadian, perhaps that isn't too surprising. Overall you could call it AOR with progressive tendencies, as the opening track "Raising Caine" also has a few hints of latter day Pink Floyd. This is the kind of track that would stealthily gain radio airplay a decade or so ago and slowly draw you in. Maybe it's my own experience. "Twisted Fusion" reminds me of Deep Purple circa Perfect Strangers and, in fact, of that title tune specifically.

Far from these tracks being guitar fests in which other instrumentalists guest, this is a well-rounded album. Certainly guitar is the lead instrument, aside from voice. Rounding out the line up is Sascha Tukatsch on drums and percussion, Tim Langan on bass, along with numerous guests on instruments such as flute, didjeridu, additional guitars, backing vocals.

Despite the fact the track opens with echoes of the classic Star Trek theme ("ahhs" provided by Amanda La Magna), the title track is a beefy, pulsing, driving thing that sounds so early 80s. I thought of Rick Springfield actually, though don't twitter at that, as I'm thinking of the post-"Jessie's Girl" version, where he was trying for more adult music. And Franco doesn't sound like Springfield, but there is a vibe here that I could see that latter also getting into. Langan's bass is slinky, Franco's easy guitar leads, the laid back drumming all evoking for me the well-coifed playboy swaggering up to the bar, a secret hiding behind his sunglasses. For some reason, I see him an electric blue suit. There is something about this track, perhaps it's the lyrics, perhaps it's the mood, perhaps its both, but kept thinking of An American Werewolf London (and of a super-casual "Private Eyes," the Hall & Oates hit).

"With You Again," is a warm, mid-tempo ballad, and one of the many places I thought of Wetton. "Save It" is very much like Emerson Lake and Palmer, and it's more than just the keys. But had it been ELP, it might be thought of as a rather soft ELP, a pop-ELP. Towards the end, we get a little double-bass drumming which is quite un-ELP like. Acoustic guitars begin "Tornado Dreams," but this soon becomes a very heavy rocker just a few steps this side of metal?no crunch and highly melodic.

That Franco has used the cinema as a launching pad for his compositions, one should be surprised to hear me say that I could hear this song on the soundtrack to some 80s flick, either the scene where the protagonists are being chased, or during the closing credits. This isn't so surprising either, as Franco states that "cinema has played a part in my writing. Each song is based on a movie, the making of a movie, or simply the fantasy that the silver screen may take us to."

Cydonia Mensae refers to the controversial feature on Mars' surface that resembles, from certain angles with certain lighting, a face. You can see images at the National Space Science Data Center at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Coincidentally, Cydonia Mensae has been the news recently because of updated photos (which weren't, when last I looked, posted to the link above).

Though the style is familiar, Franco has created a very good album. It's reverential, not imitative. It honors AOR-rock as much as it celebrates cinema. For those who love heavy, melodic rock, then seek out this disk.

Raising Caine (5:55) / Cydonia Mensae (6:24) / Twisted Fusion (5:49) / Red Blood (4:22) / Diamond Dust (6:37) / Godz (6:34) / With You Again (6:26) / Save It (5:16) / Tornado Dreams (4:13)

Franco La Magna - lead vocals, guitars, keyboards
Sascha Tukatsch - drums, percussion
Tim Langan - bass
Amanda La Magna - voices
Brittany La Magna - flute
John La Magna - guitars, classical guitar

Cydonia Mensae (2000)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin CA

Added: June 5th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 804
Language: english


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