I've always had a soft spot for French TV, a very quirky American band who combine the eccentric nature of Frank Zappa with a bit of Canterbury playfulness and a whole lot of classic jazz-fusion as well as the more avant-garde stylings of RIO. Often times not music for the faint of heart, French TV's stuff is ready made for those with challenging tastes, and once you peel back the layers there's always plenty of rewards to be found on any of their albums. Stories Without Fingerprints is their brand new double album, with the first disc being their new studio set, and the second a 'live-in-the-studio' affair that sees the band play the same set that they performed at a festival in Chicago back in 2018. The line-up on the album consists of:
Mike Sary-bass, loops, samples
Mark L. Perry-drums
Ludo Fabre-violin (tracks 1 & 3 on disc 1)
Kicking off with "Unexpected Secrets Of The House Of Mystery At The Witching Hour", the listener is treated to French TV's brand of quirky 'Zappa/Canterbury/Fusion' mayhem right from the start, with complex rhythms and soaring keys, guitar, and violin all coming together for some gloriously intricate ear candy. "This Decadent Poetry is Awful" is a moodier number, but no less potent or fascinating, while "Stubby Index Finger" recalls a head on collision between The Dixie Dregs and Mahavishnu Orchestra, nimble guitar lines swirling around majestic keyboards and lush violin, while bass & drums provide a furious foundation. Easily one of the highlight recommendations on Stories Without Fingerprints.
"The Museum of Worthless Inventions" takes on a more progressive/jazz-fusion approach, spacey synths and liquid guitar lines recalling Gong as well as Larry Coryell's Eleventh House, Strawser & Yoneda really laying down some fine tones and Perry killing it on the drums. More of a straightforward prog-rock approach can he heard on "That Jigsaw Puzzle Is Tearing Our Family Apart", a song that you can easily imagine the band adding vocals to and it would work out just as effectively, as it ebbs and flows in a way that someone like Jon Anderson would find a quick home within the arrangement. Closing out the new album is also the lengthiest track "A Cornucopia Of Riches", just over 9-minutes of melodic fusion, Sary's muscular bass lines running throughout lush arrangements that include a wealth of synths and tasty guitar licks. A wonderful composition that ends a truly enjoyable album.
But wait, there's more! Over on disc 2, you get a wealth of live in studio tracks that showcase more of the incredible French TV repertoire, such as the gloriously complex fusion of "Ghost Zone/Noble Obelisk", the majestic "The Odessa Steps Sequence" (love those big guitar riffs and soaring synths!), the blistering "Look at the Bears! Look at the Bears! Look at the Bears!", and the atmospheric yet quite melodic and metallic "A Cornucopia Of Riches". These tracks all have a bit more guitar firepower, but the quirky and complex nature of the music still shines bright and clear.
Fusion/prog fans who love challenging instrumental music will absolutely need to add this new CD from French TV to their collection. In close to 40 years this band hasn't let us down yet, and Stories Without Fingerprints is another astounding achievement.
Unexpected Secrets Of The House Of Mystery At The Witching Hour 08:32
This Decadent Poetry Is Awful 05:01
Stubby Index Finger 07:55
The Museum Of Worthless Inventions 07:43
That Jigsaw Puzzle Is Tearing Our Family Apart 06:25
A Cornucopia Of Riches 09:23
Ghost Zone/Noble Obelisk 08:31
This Decadent Poetry Is Awful (version 2) 05:00
The Odessa Steps Sequence 09:44
Look At The Bears! Look At The Bears! Look At The Bears! 09:20
Conversational Paradigms 07:43
That Thing On The Wall 08:51
Black Pit 03:55
A Cornucopia Of Riches (version 2) 09:50