The Upshot: Operatic Prog-rock epic guaranteed to inspire your personal mental cinema.
BY FRED MILLS
The name Franky Valentyn might not ring all that many Stateside bells, but in his native Australia he’s a well-known veteran showman with a CV that stretches back several decades via the bands Mad Gorilla, The Beatnix, The Generation, Le Club Nerd, and his own Franky Valentyn Duo/Trio (take your pick) and The Franky Valentyn All-Stars. Along the way he’s notched numerous ACE (Australian Club Entertainment) Award nominations, and he also put together a children’s show called “Fun With Franky.” All this may or may not make him the proverbial Renaissance Man—real name: Frank Seckold—with his signature flair for flamboyance, he specializes in cabaret-style productions and covers performances (think Queen, Elvis, ABBA, Beatles, and Sinatra, plus Phantom of the Opera). But his press clips consistently paint him as a tireless entertainer with a huge fanbase.
All In a Dream, then, under the nom du rawk The Franky Valentyn Project, marks a new chapter in Valentyn’s book. Keep those above-namechecked artists close at hand, for this lengthy musical treatise is the proverbial full production, a Prog-inclined, Broadway-musical-in-the-making for lapsed Lloyd-Webber fans, with no shortage of Kate Bush pomp and Trans-Siberian Orchestra circumstance. The overture-styled opening cut, “Gothic Horror,” more than lives up to its title as a neoclassical, operatic scene-setter that ultimately gives way to a darkly surreal narrative. Later, the regal “Sara”—vocals by Nikki Bennett and guitar by Stephen Layton—simultaneously raises the blood pressure and chills to the bone, as if the aforementioned Bush and Queen’s Brian May had joined forces in a quest to seduce and imprison. And the tellingly-titled “Paul Isn’t Dead,” which features Valentyn himself handling lead vocals (in places he sounds like Ian Gillan during his Jesus Christ Superstar period), is a quirky Prog-rock take on the Macca urban legend.
The nearly 15-minute “The Jovian Moon Suite” closes the record out, its elaborate, and elegant, orchestral arrangement the stuff of pure cinema soundtracking. In fact, if you think of All In a Dream as just that, a soundtrack, rather than a “mere” rock album, the sonic possibilities turn endless. Coming to a mental theater near you, friends.
DOWNLOAD: “Gothic Horror,” “All In A Dream,” “Paul Isn’t Dead”