Franklin - Life Circle. 1974 Spain
LP issue: 2007 El Cocodrilo (2xLP)
CD issue: 2007 El Cocodrilo
Franklin were a psychedelic group operating in Franco era Spain, and managed to get out 2 singles and off into the void of obscurity they went. Until 2007, when a small label called El Cocodrilo, who specializes in 1960s Spanish pop, suddenly showed up with a full album's worth of progressive rock. There was a minor buzz at the time about it, that I didn't pay proper attention to myself, and now Franklin is once again a forgotten entity. Fortunately one of the discount dealers I buy from had a CD copy on hand, and I snatched it, determined to give it my undivided attention. Wise move.
The CD itself is something of a disaster from an archive historian's viewpoint. There's no data in the booklet, beyond the song titles and credits, which are all misspelled - and badly at that. Was it on purpose? Well, no, because the face of the disc has everything correct. In any case, you'll have to do your own research. Not a big deal, because the music is the most important thing, and here one should not have complaints.
The opening two tracks are from the first of the aforementioned singles. Recorded in 1971, it's not surprising to know these are cover tunes. Though you'll be hard pressed to recognize for most of the duration that 'Satisfaction' is indeed the Rolling Stones' chestnut. It's by far the most creative psychedelic variation of the song I've ever heard. And it's the type of track that usually ends up on one of those cool psych comps, where you want to learn more about a particular band. 'Border Song' is the Elton John gospel ballad, and is much more straightforward.
The next two tracks are from a 1973 single. Franklin are apparently more confident now, as these are both original compositions. 'What is Wrong?' is a solid hard blues rock number. It's also the last time you'll think of Franklin as a "normal" rock band. This is followed by 'Lasidore-Mifamire', and this is your first good clue that Franklin had already moved into a progressive rock direction. It's a creative instrumental piece, far from your usual B-side afterthought (see bottom of post for both covers). More on this style to come.
The next two tracks are not documented, but are recorded live. They're somewhat jammy and incongruous with the rest of the material. The sound quality is bootleg-standard. Personally I would have appended these two tracks at the end of the disc, but I think they were striving for a chronological order. I found them enjoyable for what they are though.
And now we get to the main course. The remainder of the CD is the namesake album 'Life Circle' and was recorded in 1974. This is something quite extraordinary. It doesn't remind me of any band coming from Spain - at any time in their history. Perhaps a distant relative to Canarios' Ciclos, and even that's a stretch. I would submit that if you were to walk into the room while this was playing, you'd ask which album from Italy is that anyway? The music here is from the earliest era of Italian prog rock, around 1971/1972. The reckless abandon, the sometimes purposeless wandering of ideas. I hear groups such as Panna Fredda, Planetarium, early Il Rovescio della Medaglia, and Sognando era Formula 3. There's a lot to digest here, and I'm just getting started. And the sound quality is excellent. Maybe not quite ready for prime time, but as an archival release, especially for the time and place, one should be quite pleased. I see this as an album that is likely to rise in stature but I'll stay with a conservative 4 star grade for now.
The CD (and LP) are now 10 years old, and disappearing without a trace. Be sure to grab this one before it goes extinct.
Franklin - Satisfaction. 1971 Ariola
Franklin - What's Wrong. 1973 Benzo