Naked is announced as an intimate collection of Franck Carducci and Mary Reynaud pieces featuring stripped-down arrangements. In other words an album which includes only unplugged songs without all the electric instruments which colour the compositions and make them even more beautiful compared to the original versions written on the piano or guitar only. Naked to the bone so to speak. And that explains the title. Being both naked on the cover gives the album title even a deeper meaning. Although on the picture you can only see them naked up to their waist.
Carducci said about the album: "When we are both together, we often pick up a guitar and start singing songs. On stage or on a sofa, these songs could be our own or songs we borrow from others, old or new. During the full moon in January 2023, we decided to record them in the studio. Through these versions, more intimate and with minimalist arrangements, we wanted to share this “naked” dimension of our music with you all. This album is a gift to thank every one of you for all the love and support you have given us through the years”.
On Naked both contributed on the vocal parts. As for the instruments Franck Carducci played the Mellotron, piano, djembé, glockenspiel, guitar and bass. Mary Reynaud played the guitar, tambourine, chimes and shaker. Only one guest is present. Namely Laura Cox who did vocals and lead guitar on Slave To Rock 'N' Roll.
The album opener Under The Figtree is a nice sing a long song which Mary most of the time sings when she is doing a solo performance on the acoustic guitar. Here they sing it together and they accompany each other on the acoustic guitar.
Slave To Rock 'N' Roll is originally taken from The Answer (2019, see review), Carducci's third solo album. It sounds much the same as the original. Although you miss the rhythm section here. Again, Frank does the lead vocals here. The acoustic guitar solo is here very tasteful done by guest Laura Cox, who also does some additional vocals.
S&M is a song written by the American composer Ester Dean, which went into the creation of Rihanna's hit single. Mary sings this version and it's a very beautiful ballad. Very different compared to the up-beat original electronic version.
A Brief Tale Of Time is one of the highlights on Franck's second solo album Torn Apart (2015, see review). This version is also very beautifully done and comes close to the original version. Again, Frank does the lead vocals here.
Demain Je Partirai is another song which is included on Mary's solo set. A nice ballad sung in the French language by Reynaud.
Alice's Eerie Dream, taken from Frank's debut album ODDITY (2011, see review), is a rather popular song during live performances because of the incredible act on stage. This short version is rather up tempo and has lots of rhythm because of the use of instruments such as djembé, tambourine, chimes, shaker and clapping on the acoustic guitar.
Magic Passerelle is a composition by Reynaud and is another song which is included on Mary's solo set. On this Mary sung song, we can hear for the first time the Mellotron. The acoustic guitar parts are rather fast sometimes when the Mellotron is not used on the song. For me this certainly one of the highlights on the album.
The Bruce Springsteen cover Dancing In The Dark is a rather strange surprise to hear on this collection of songs. Franck does lead vocals here and is backed up by Mary in the background. This version is rather mediocre and probably the weakest song on the album.
Artificial Paradises is another highlight taken from the Torn Apart album. Here it is in the “naked” version and the absolute highlight of this album. Mary starts singing the song just like she does during live performances. However, this time around she does all of the lead vocals on this very strong version. Only during the ending Frank's voice comes to the front. He is mostly responsible for the instrumentation. While Mary's voice sound very strong she is accompanied on the Mellotron, acoustic guitar and piano. The leading instrument is without any doubt the acoustic piano. Special mention goes out to the glockenspiel parts done by Carducci.
All in all, this collection of unplugged songs is rather strong. Even more if you know that I am not really a fan of acoustic albums. Because most of the time the artists can't keep the listeners focused throughout the entire song when it is only performed on the acoustic guitar or piano. Well Franck and Mary kept me focused the whole forty minutes. So, bravo and thumbs up for both of them. Well done!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Dave Smith)
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