There was a fertile tradition in France for instrumental (mainly) symphonic rock in the second half of the seventies. Many had a characteristically keyboard-dominated sound, utilizing the freshly introduced polyphonic synthesizers. Their musical influences were both the well-knowns of the British progressive rock scene (Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, EL&P) and a broad range of classical composers (Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky). Some were entirely instrumental (Shylock, Acyntia), though others also used vocals to some degree (Wapassou, Pulsar, Atoll, Artcane, Skryvania). Acintya combined the floating and romantic sound (dominated by violin and synthesizers) of Wapassou with the more rhythmic approach of Shylock. Their album La Cite Des Dieux Oublies contained only three long tracks, often constructed like suites (in this case a major composition made up of different melodic sections). The album has its moments but is the work of a young group struggling to find their own identity. They were ambitious to attempt large scale compositions but sometimes lacked sufficiently convincing melodic material. Still this is promising and one would really have liked to hear a second album.
|1||LA CITE DES DIEUX OUBLIES||1978||SRC 161.754|
A little known group playing theatrical rock vaguely comparable to Alice but more versatile stylistically. The result was somewhat patchy.
|1||LES ANNÉES D'ERRANCE||1979||PRIVATE PRESS|
The group recorded nice albums of folk-rock with male/female vocal harmonies, harmonica and acoustic guitar. The second album makes more use of electric guitars as well, the overall sound being comparable to Malicorne, Ripaille and Emeraude.
|1||CHANSONS POR QUE||1974||PRIVATE PRESS|
Those familar with the legendary Sandrose album might be surprised when encountering the solo albums of the eminent guitarist Jean Pierre Alarcen. Both of them are instrumental. Alarcen (1978) is close to conventional jazz-rock dominated by electric guitar and electric piano. Many tracks have lively elements of Latin American and Spanish folk music, comparable to the Spanish group Iceberg. Two tracks are totally different, comprising classical music played by strings only. This is slow, melancholic music full of minor chords. Those tracks mostly set the standards for Tableau No. 1. Just like Laurent Thibault's album, this is a work challenging the boundaries between classical and rock. It sounds like the solemn J. S. Bach as interpreted by someone from a generation grown up on the dark side of the moon. It's a work (in three movements) of deep emotion and great dynamics from calm solo electric piano to full-strength pirouettes from the guitarist with full backing from the other musicians. If you have the ability to dive into his serious state of mind, you will love it. Others will accuse the album of being too romantic, poetic and pathetic.
|1||ALARCEN||1978||L'ESCARGOT ESC 371|
|2||TABLEAU NO. 1||1979||SCOPPUZZLE ZZ 001|
Named after the Alice travelling to Wonderland in Lewis Caroll's immortal novel, this group had an uncommon sound for a French band, more similar in style to contemporary British rock. One of the reasons for this was the blues-rock background of several members. The first line-up (early 1970) included Auffredo, Suzan, Duplant and two ex-members of Alan Jack Civilization: Claude Olmos (guitar) and Jean Falissard (drums). This configuration only recorded Alice's first single "De L'Autre Côté Du Miroir" (the other side of the mirror)/ "Viens".
Their first album was recorded at the Marquee Studio in London in October 1970. The important contributions from Auffredo (mainly on flute but also sax and violin), Suzan (mainly on organ) and Besse (playing great guitar) led to obvious comparisons with Jethro Tull, Traffic and Family. Alice's greatest strength was their talent for songwriting, composing songs with an instant appeal. Their music was lively and rural with some hippie vibes, maybe closest to Traffic's second album. On some tracks Alice used warbling Leslie effects on the vocals. Along with the first Magma album, this was one of the best French albums of 1970. In spite of this, it didn't influence the future direction of French progressive rock, as is usually regarded as being linked with the classic songwriting tradition of the late sixties. Arrêtez Le Monde (1972) was a far more "progressive" effort. The English lyrics version of the album is very rare. Alice belonged to the first generation of French rock groups along with Martin Circus, Alan Jack Civilization and Systeme Crapoutchik.
|2||ARRÊTEZ LE MONDE||1972||POLYOOR 2393 043|
|2||ALL ICE (ENGLISH LYRICS)||1972||POLYDOR 2393 043|
|A1||UN PEU DE PASSÉ DANS L'AVENIR||1976||PHILIPS|
This band played a "low-budget style" of progressive rock, centered around electric guitar and organ. They were obviously inspired by more famous French bands such as Pulsar, Ange and Mona Lisa, but also Pink Floyd and Genesis (or even the German band Jane). Their album has a short running time (less than 30 minutes), and is arguably also short on original ideas. A very average album for those with a special interest in this musical genre.
|1||ALPHA CENTAURI||1976||ATS 3071|
These competent jazz-rockers performed from 1973 and throughout the seventies in various incarnations (featuring ex-members of Komintern, Red Noise and Pataphonie) Their only album consisted of four tracks recorded live at St. Gratien au Centre Culturel "Le Forum" on 12 May 1979. Contact is a minor masterpiece in the field of inspired, powerful free-jazz that makes the most out of a simple guitar-bass-drums format. In places the album is similar to the group Exmagma as well as those mentioned above.
|1||CONTACT||1979||SPIRALES SRP 3318|
The group was co-founded by Claude Alvarez-Peryre, who had previously played with Malicorne. Alpha Ralpha's music was mostly instrumental symphonic jazz-rock with an equal mix of guitars and keyboards, easily recognisable as being recorded in the second half of the seventies. Obviously they had studied the instrumental parts of Genesis' Wind And Wuthering. The album has a very trivial feeling and is short on originality. It is more suited to background muzak (not always a bad thing) than concentrated listening. The use of vibraphone and marimba on several tracks is notable but whilst it is not a bad album, it is overshadowed by countless others.
|1||ALPHA RALPHA||1977||WARNER WB 56.330|
|A1||EGREGORE||1980||RCA PL 37285|
A group of very minor interest who played soft progressive rock focused on keyboards and guitars and with French lyrics.
|1||LES BILLIARDS VERTS||1979||PRIVATE PRESS|
Lavialle, Fontaine and Blanc had played together since 1965 in Les Primativ's, Expression and (except Lavialle) Daevid Allen's group Bananamoon (1967-1969). Ame Son's album was recorded in London and Paris, between September-October 1969, making it one of the earliest true French rock albums. Through Daevid Allen, members of the group had become attuned to the idea of musical freedom from London's "spontaneous under-ground" psychedelic scene (mostly centered around the UFO club). Catalyse has its shares of interstellar overdrives and bananamoons in June, being a powerful collection of largely improvised music somewhere between psychedelia and free jazz (it isn't really noisy, though). Electric guitars and flute are backed by a busy rhythm section on long, segued selections. A great album with freaky underground vibes throughout. Ame Son broke up in June 1971 but reformed in 1973 with other musicians, including Alain Renaud, Jean-Louis Aubert and Jaques Dudon. Marc Blanc made two LP's of "Ame Songs" during the eighties with Renaud, Jannik Top and Benoît Widemann. Ame Son reformed a few years ago and recorded a new album.
This is one of the ultimate rarities of French heavy progressive rock - so rare that few collectors even know of its existence. The album has seven tracks dominated by energetic fuzz and wah-wah guitar. Nothing more was ever heard from this trio.
An unknown underground folk group whose music was based on acoustic guitars, vocals and tablas. Most lyrics were in English.
|1||MARE LA LANDE||197?||PALMAS|
A little known folk-rock ensemble featuring electric guitars, keyboards, flute and both male and female vocals. Comparable to Malicorne.
ALBUM (UP TO 1980):
|1||LE JOUEUR DE LUNE||1979||PRIVATE PRESS|
This folk band made music close to their Celtic roots, playing traditional acoustic instruments (guitars, harp, violin, but also featuring some occasional organ). One to check out for those who want to delve into the world of minstrels and kings.
|1||MUSIQUES CELTIQUES||1973||PHILIPS 6332.145|
|2||TRON DOUE||1974||CMD 340|
One of the mainstays of French rock throughout the seventies, Ange released their first single in 1970. Several years later (when the band had become rich and famous), live recordings from this early period (January and March 1971) were released on En Concert (1977). The technical quality is poor, but the most ardent fans will enjoy this opportunity to hear selections written by the Decamps brothers not available elsewhere. The personal style of Ange had yet to develop, here sounding like a raw mixture of Martin Circus, Genesis, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd. Their track on Groovy Pop Session (1972), "Le Vieux De La Montagne", is technically better and was their first release on Philips, their record company throughout the seventies. Caricatures (1972) instantly established Ange as a leading name in French rock, earning their reputation as this country's equivalent of Genesis. This doesn't imply that Ange were imitators, they just had the same affection for rock theatre. This led to animated live shows with costumes and play, largely masterminded by Christian Decamps. The music of Ange also has a lot to do with theatrical concepts, veering from French vaudeville to heavy progressive, from Jacques Brel to dissonant synth textures and from heartfelt soft ballads to inimical madman rantings. The framework of it all was always symphonic rock, often revealing Ange's talent for writing haunting melodies. Their instrumentation was also tasteful, dominated by the two keyboard players arsenal of organ, piano and mellotron, although all members contributed both with the writing and arrangements.
The golden era of Ange lasted from 1972 to 1977, after which the original group disintegrated. From their first five albums, it is difficult to pick a favourite. All are well-crafted concept albums, particularly attractive to the French-speaking record collector. Why not start with Le Cimetière Des Arlequins, which contains some of their most beautiful melodies. The English lyrics version of Ange's fifth album was a failure (their vision didn't easily transcribe) and was quickly withdrawn. A double live album, Ange Tome VI, concluded the period. Later albums are only of interest for committed fans.
|1||CARICATURES||1972||PHILIPS 6332 066|
|2||LE CIMETIÈRE DES ARLEQUINS||1973||PHILIPS 6325 037|
|3||AU-DELÀ DU DÈLIRE||1974||PHILIPS 9101 004|
|4||EMILE JACOTEY||1975||PHILIPS 9101 012|
|5||PAR LES FILS DE MANDRIN||1976||PHILIPS 9101 090|
|5B||BY THE SONS OF MANDRIN||1976||PHILIPS|
|6||ANGE TOME VI (2LP)||1977||PHILIPS 6641 715|
|7||EN CONCERT (2LP)||1978||RCA PL 37.153|
|8||GUET-APENS||1978||PHILIPS 9101 184|
|9||VU D'UN CHIEN||1980||PHILIPS 6313 023|
|10||MOTEUR!||1982||PHILIPS 6313 156|
|11||A PROPOS DE||1983||PHILIPS 6313 404|
|A1||LE MAL D'ADAM||1979||PHILIPS 9101 233|
|B1||HISTOIRE DE FOU||1979||PHILIPS 9101 212|
|C1||RUE DU SALBERT||1978||CRYPTO ZAL 6448|
|D1||COULEURS DE TEMPS||1978||CRYPTO ZAL 6468|
Needless to say, they played traditional Celtic folk music with little to do with 70's rock. I believe their albums should be enjoyable for all into this particular genre.
|1||MUSIQUES CELTIQUES||1973||PHILIPS 6332 145|
|2||ANN TRISKELL||1975||VELIA 2230 016|
|3||TRON DOUE||1980||PHILIPS 9101 259|
Another group to follow the theatrical rock path after Ange with mixed results. Some parts of their album are close to psychedelic folk, while others seem to have a Zappa-influence. The primary used instruments are electric guitars and sax.
|.||LA CÉLÈBRE ASCENSION ABYSSALE DE JOSEPH CELSIUS||1978||3 TEMPS 783309|
His real name is Daniel Le Bras. He was first recognised as a noteworthy up-and-coming folk guitarist on Alan Stivell's early albums (such as Chemins De Terre). His own albums (particularly Douar Nevez) are much closer to symphonic rock than you might assume, being almost a French equivalent of Mike Oldfield (at the time of Hergest Ridge, although more energetic and vigourous than this). Dan Ar Bras proved to be a talented composer and arranger aside from his long standing reputation as an excellent player.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|1||DOUAR NEVEZ||1977||HEXAGONE 883 009|
|2||ALLEZ DIRE A LA VILLE||1978||HEXAGONE 883 021|
|3||THE EARTH'S LAMENT||1979||HEXAGONE 883 034|
A seven-piece group who played traditional folk material with some electric arrangements. It's quite similar to the first two Gwendal albums.
|1||FOLK CELTIQUE (2LP)||1974||FESTIVAL 173|
Another group playing largely traditional material. Their album included an impressive long suite named "Suite Keltia".
|1||FOLK CELTIC||1974||VOGUE LDY 28.013|
This group from the Paris suburbs existed in various forms for more than ten years, although only one album was recorded with the help from Philippe Besombres. Arachnoid included dark and brooding tracks similar to Ange, Pulsar, Genesis, King Crimson and zeuhl-rock (check the Magma-entry for an explanation of this term). Arachnoid were able to create uncomfortable moods with violent vocals (or spoken parts), distorted lead guitars and a rich array of keyboards (synthesizers, mellotron, electric piano). This works best on the 8-minute track "Toutes Ces Images". In some places the group are lost in endless instrumental elaborations, lacking distinctive melodies and variety of mood. The album might be enjoyable for those who enjoy King Crimson's coldest moments.
|1||ARACHNOID||1979||DIVOX A 3304|
They made a competent album of modern free jazz with some more ethnic rock influenced tracks. The group continued the tradition started by Komintern and Mahjun in the early seventies.
|1||MARRON DINGUE||1978||EXIT ARC 001|
This trio made a legendary album that is seriously rare these days. In fact their sound is not too far removed from Arachnoid above, specialising in anguished atmospheres. Archaïa had more zeuhl-elements in their music and strange, chanting vocals, though. Also of note is the use of percussion rather than drums and some tasty distorted guitars. Reasonably interesting overall, this album still isn't worth the astronomical price tag dealers ask for. 1,000 copies were pressed, but reputedly half of them were destroyed (probably because they didn't manage to sell them). Michel Munier commited suicide three years later.
This represents a twin soul of the Belgian group Univers Zero (Daniel Denis from this group also guested on several Art Zoyd albums), sharing their vision of a new and innovative kind of music - chamber rock. Art Zoyd's music is a clever combination of early 20th Century barbarian classical music (Bartok and Stravinsky) and so-called rock (Magma, Henry Cow and Zappa's serious instrumental works). The result is so unique and magnificent that everyone should investigate. There is no guitar, no keyboards, just strings, woodwinds, percussion and bass. The long tracks are often segued as in classical ballet music. A great starting place is Musique Pour L'Odysee. You'll either love it or hate it!
ALBUMS (UP TO 1983)
|1||SYMPHONIE POUR LE JOUR OÙ BRÛLERONT LES CITÈS||1976||TARTEMPTION 001|
|1B||(DIFFERENT MIX)||1981||ATEM 7010|
|2||MUSIQUE POUR L'ODYSSEE||1979||ATEM 7002|
|3||GÈNÈRATION SANS FUTUR||1980||ATEM 7007|
|4||PHASE IV (2LP)||1982||REC REC 14/15|
|5||ESPECES INQUIETS||1983||CRYONIC INC 1153|
This group from Clermont-Ferrand only made one album, which is a real shame! Odyssee (1977) was a promising start, obviously influenced by King Crimson circa 1972-75, but with more warmth and less tension (also less vocals). The long and varied tracks develop through several phases with a dynamic range as broad as in symphonic music. Electric guitar and keyboards are the key ingredients, treated with effects such as flanging, wah-wah and massive echoes. Some parts of the album are quite ethereal and spacious. The only weakness is that Artcane's ideas lacked some originality, but that detracts little from its value. Good progressive rock!
|1||ODYSSEE||1977||PHILIPS 9101 141|
This group sounded similar to Malicorne, playing mainly acoustic folk with a lot of traditional instruments. L'Hirondelle has many beautiful moments, sometimes reminding one of a French Tir Na Nog (their first album). Recommended! The very rare second album is rumoured to be more adventurous, utilising more synthesizers.
|2||TRADITION ET RENOUVEAU||1978||WARNER|
Bakirel and Tekeli chose an apt name for the group they formed in 1973, as both were of Turkish origins. Their two albums are competent efforts of soft progressive rock comparable to Jade Warrior (their slightly oriental approach with electric guitar and flute), King Crimson (their softer aspects), Genesis (their poetic qualities) and Yes (their most acrimonious style), but also with occasional hints of Turkish folk music. The instrumental work is very good, but what Asia Minor lacked was strong melodies. As a result they belong to the second division of "French" progressive rock bands (although they weren't really French).
|1||CROSSING THE LINE||1979||WAM 001|
|2||BETWEEN FLESH AND DIVINE||1980||WAM 101|
A ridiculous rock opera about the Pioneer satellite with pathetic space music and children's songs.
This album was the brainchild of record engineer and producer Jean-Pierre Massiera. Like Visitors, Atlantide was not a real group but just a recording concept. The resulting album shares the same flaws and oddities as the Visitors album, being an unspectactular mixture of quasi-psychedelic heavy rock mixed with more symphonic ingredients. The instru-mentation is rudimentary for a French production, largely guitars with some electronic effects (and mellotron on just one track). It contains irritating falsetto vocals and cliché heavy riffs, much like the worst of Vanilla Fudge, Uriah Heep or the Italian New Trolls and the drum solos are, as always, superfluous, especially when the album clocks in at just 32 minutes. Some acoustic guitar parts are reminscent of Steve Hackett. This is a weak and ill-focused album. Some of the session musicians also played with Visitors, Orion and Carpe Diem.
|ATLANTIDE||1976||CRYPTO ZAL 6423|
One of the most famous French groups in the field of melodic symphonic rock was Atoll from Metz. Luc Serra, Jean Luc Thillot and Alain Gozzo decided to form a group in February 1972. Reinforced by Andre Balzer (vocals), Michel Taillet (keyboards) and Francis Paul (bass), Atoll released their first single on Eurodisc in October 1973 ("Je T'Aime Quand Je Te Vois" / "Change Ta Vie"). This sold 40,000 copies, quite impressive for a debut. Patrick Kiffer replaced Francis Paul for the second single ("Le Secret Du Mage" / "Je Fais Un Rêve") and then Jean Thillot switched from guitar to bass. Only the A-side of the second single was included on Musiciens - Magiciens, released in November 1974. Atoll's music combined the archetypical symphonic rock influences (from Genesis and Yes) with vocal harmonies reminscent of drowsy American soft-rock (CS&N, America). Like their contemporaries Mona Lisa, Atoll were also influenced by Ange and Magma, giving the music a distinctive French character. At this early stage, Atoll was better at composing songs than playing fluent instrumental music with its own soul. This is the work of a group yet to find their own personality, just discovering how to play complex musical structures. For this reason, short tracks such as "Musiciens - Magiciens" and "Le Secret Du Mage" are the most memorable. The album was engineered by Jean Pierre Massiera, but still sounds surprisingly dry and dull.
L'Araignée-Mal was clearly an improvement with a more illustrious production, improved ensemble playing and more delicate melodic themes.
|1||MUSICIENS - MAGICIENS||1974||EURODISC 87.008|
|4||ROCK-PUZZLE||1980||EURODISC 914 300|
|5||COSMIC TRIPS||1981||EURODISC 201.761|
This trio recorded some of the most beautiful French folk music ever made. Most of it is acoustically based with stringed instruments and flutes creating an enchanting and timeless atmosphere (mediaeval or Celtic flutes and sparse synthesizers are combined in a way that sounds totally natural). The vocal arrangements are often for two (male) voices. They arrived rather late on the scene (in the scope of this book) but don't let that distract you! They are every bit as good as Malicorne. Strongly recommended to all folk fans!
|2||PAUVRE SENS ET PAUVRE MÉMOIRE||1980||ACM 280|
|3||ROTROENGES DU MER CHANT AMOUR||1981||0481 AV 014|
A folk-rock group from Britanny mixing traditional and modern instruments (flute, electric guitars, keyboards). The tracks had symphonic textures and some frantic guitar solos. Two attractive albums for the folk-rock connoisseur.
|1||LA BELLE DE JOSSELIN||1978||ARFOLK SB 370|
|2||SERVICE COMPRIS||1979||ARFOLK SB 501|
A strange album from an anonymous group of musicians and the female vocalist Catherine Le Forestier. This is a kind of free ethnic music, more or less based on Arabian music, but very loose and spontaneous. Long and repetitive tracks which seem a bit disturbing to me, although a few people rate this one highly.
|1||BABEL||1976||PHILIPS 9101 060|
Bahamas played quite mainstream, melodious progressive rock. The album has some resemblance to Camel and Pink Floyd, but lacked a bit of imagination. Neither good nor bad, this is quite harmless but consequently of limited interest.
|1||LE VOYAGEUR IMMOBILE||1976||MOTORS 2933 201|
This group played magnificent folk-rock with a rich array of stringed instruments. Their repertoire consisted of both traditional songs and original compositions and contained a fine balance between purely acoustic and electric arrangements. Many tracks have a Celtic feeling, sometimes like a cross between Steeleye Span and the German band Hoelderlin (first album). Perhaps 'long-haired folk-rock' sums it up? La Saison Des Amours (1979) is particularly recommended. In Evelyne Beline Girardon they now had a female vocalist on the same level as Emmanuelle Parrerin. Listening to this, you may well wonder why La Bamboche is not better known among true music lovers and collectors.
|1||LA BAMBOCHE||1975||HEXAGONE 883 003|
|2||LA BAMBOCHE 2||1976||HEXAGONE 883 005|
|3||QUITTE PARIS||1977||HEXAGONE 883 012|
|S1||QUINTESSENCE||1978||HEXAGONE 883 032|
|4||LA SAISON DES AMOURS||1979||BALLON NOIR 13.007|
This synthesizer player made a couple of albums at the end of the decade, although Ville Ouverte was recorded in 1975. This is a monotonous, slowly evolving experimental record, dealing with the concept of Pandemonium - a mythical future society. There's not a sequencer in sight here and Baptiste's works are related to the experimental industrial rock developing in the early 80's. His albums were highly innovative for their time, but certainly not to everybody's taste.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|1||VILLE OUVERTE||1979||ATEM 7003|
|2||NON, JAMAIS L'ESPÉRANCE||1980||ATEM 7004|
A jazz-rock fusion album that might be of interest to readers into the more experimental part of the Canterbury scene.
|1||SUBREPTICEMENT||1979||AWA BB 006|
On his first album, Bernard Benoit revealed himself to be a French equivalent to John Renborn, playing short pieces of solo acoustic guitar (with occasional flute and vocals). Celtic folk music, in fact. His later albums are similar but have additional electric guitar and synthesizers. Nice background music!
|1||GUITARE CENTIQUE||1973||KELENN 30.176|
|2||LUTUNN NOZ||1975||ARION ARN 33.306|
|4||PRÉLUDE ENGLOUTI||1981||VELIA DISQUES 2230.089|
A folk poet helped by Jean-Pierre Alarcen on several albums, including L'Alternative.
|1||FRANCOIS BERANGER||1969||CBS 564 234|
|2||CA DOIT ÊTRE BIEN||1971||CBS 64558|
|3||RACHEL||1974||ESCARGOT ESC 320|
|4||LE MONDE BOUGE||1974||ESCARGOT ESC 323|
|5||L'ALTERNATIVE||1975||ESCARGOT ESC 328|
|6||JOUE PAS AVEC MES NERFS||1978||ESC ARGET ESC 390|
|7||FRANCOIS BERANGER||1980||ESCARGOT ESC 402|
This is a guy who believed in freedom of expression. His first album is a mayhem of avant-garde coupled with eastern music. Lots of wind instruments and percussion are evident, and he is perhaps comparable to the German group Limbus 4.
|1||MUSIQ MUSIQ||1973||FUTURA SON 06|
|3||CATALOGUE ANTWERPEN LIVE||1979 PHONIE DOUCE|
This guy is not afraid to experiment musically. Libra contains 17 pieces of very different music quite like a peculiar sound illustration record (used for sound effects by the makers of TV series, movies, etc.) imitating Faust, Ron Geesin, Tangerine Dream, early Kraftwerk and Pink Floyd, Igor Watkevitch and Opus Avantra. These aural experiments make up a damn good 'headmovie', if you're motivated to stretch the limits of your imagination. From a more critical point of view, the album has equal amounts of both interesting and ridiculous moments. His collaboration with Jean-Louis Rizet was more "ordinary" (if that is the proper word for the works of such artists), with its excursions into sequencer-controlled synthesizer music.
The third album is reputed to be excellent, but is very rare and I haven't heard it.
|2||BESOMBRES-RIZET (2LP)||1976||PÔLE 0006/7|
|3||BESOMBRES||1979||DIVOX A 3305|
A little known but quite original trio also known as BJT. Their album contained eccentric jazz-rock with some psychedelic leanings (the do-what-you-want spirit) and, occasionally, sitar and tablas.
This sound engineer and musician also made a track for the Puissance 13 + 2 collection, released on Theleme. His full-length album contains standard length pop-rock songs comparable to Ophiucus, Iris and (to a less degree) Zoo. The production is occasionally spiced with some strange effects, but nothing here is particularly noteworthy.
This synthesist was very influenced by the Berlin school of Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream. Bocquet's first two albums are his best, utilizing the classic synth'n'seq style (as opposed to rock'n'roll) with pulsating patterns, gradually unfolding new abstract landscapes. This is among the most successful attempts in this genre in France. Voyage Cerebral (1979) was pressed in considerably larger quantities and is a solid improvement on the debut. Eclipse (1977) was available only by mail order and was sold out within two months. Sequences was another fair album, but the momentum was lost and subsequent efforts have been disappointing.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1981):
|2||VOYAGE CEREBRAL||1979||FLVM 3012|
Not to be confused with the above, Roland Bocquet was the mainman of Catharsis, who released many great albums from 1971 to 1976. His solo album offers plenty of variety and nice, soft and quiet instrumentais (approaching the mid-70's stylings of Vangelis). Bocquet plays all types of keyboards with the help of a flute and bass player only.
|1||PARADIA||1977||COBRA COB 37.008|
This international group lived as a commune on the Spanish island of Deya and were acquaintances of Daevid Allen and Gilly Smyth. Their album is an attractive journey into the more mystical realms of hippie-folk, somewhere between Robin Williamson, Daevid Allen and some tracks by the German group Popol Vuh. Many songs have a strong Eastern touch with tamboura, acoustic guitar, flute and male/female vocals. This album will satisfy any ardent fan of psych-folk! Some members of Book Of Am might have helped out on Daevid Allen's solo albums from this period.
|1||BOOK OF AM||1978||PRIVATE PRESS|
This is one of the best known French rock poets, meaning you'll need a good understanding of the language to really appreciate his albums. His style is vaguely similar to Pete Brown or Daevid Allen, distinguished by emotional verbal rantings. His first album was centered around a 20-minute French version (lyrics by Boris Bergman) of Arlo Guthrie's composition "Alice's Restaurant", supervised by Guthrie himself. This album has period charm to a certain degree, although Booz's style developed enormously on subsequent efforts.
Le Jour Oú les Vaches was much stronger musically with some illustrious orchestral arrangements by William Sheller. The overall feeling is frequently disturbing and unsettled. Emmanuel Booz is generally considered to be one of the leading French singer-poets of the seventies.
|1||LE RESTAURANT D'ALICE||1970||BARCLAY 920.186|
|2||LE JOUR OÙ LES VACHES||1974||ATLANTIC 50.095|
|4||DANS QUEL ÈTAT J'ERRE||1979||POLYDOR 2393 259|
As many will know, Boulé had previously played guitar on several Clearlight albums. If one is comparing Clearlight to Gong, then Boulé's solo albums are equivalent to those of Steve Hillage with a quite similar guitar technique and taste for spacious effects. While this is excellent, the songwriting is more dubious, sometimes bordering on mainstream rock. Both albums have superb sound quality (they were recorded in the Ramses Studio).
|1||PHOTO MUSIK||1978||POLYDOR 2473 086|
|2||NON FICTION||1979||POLYDOR 2393 227|
A hippie outfit lost in time, playing a lively mixture of folk and blues, featuring tablas and kazoos.
Francois Breant had previously played in Cruciferius and Nemo. On these solo albums he is helped by several of his friends from those groups. They deserve to be heard by more people as they are much better than the average keyboard player solo album. An addition to the jazz-rock elements of his past is the massive use of ARP Odyssey synthesizer moving the general sound a bit in the direction of Vangelis.
|1||SONS OPTIQUES||1978||EGG 900.553|
|2||VOYEUR EXTRA-LUCIDE||1979||EGG 900.584|
This group's album contained elements of folk, rock and progressive music.
One of the many French poets. Included here due to the famous backing musicians, many of whom you'll recognise from early line-ups of Magma.
Btesh was originally the vocalist with Tangerine and the main reason why their first album was quite a success. Naturally, she continued the blend of (mostly) American and (some) French folk-rock on her "solo" album. Her voice is still brilliant, but the songs are not as fresh as on the Tangerine album. Still everything is done in a reflective mood, similar to some of Joni Mitchell's records.
ALBUM BY VALÉRY BTESH & POLLEN:
|1||RÊVES CRISTAL||1977||CRYPTO ZAL 6414|
Bucchi had previously played complex jazz with Y. Seffer's group Speed Limit. His solo album contained much more approachable jazz-rock, performed with help from prestigious musicians such as Jannick Top (ex-Magma) and Patrice Tison (who had previously played with the group Bahamas and with Benoit Widemann). Several tracks are performed without drums and show traces of "chamber rock". This combined with more powerful tracks make this album unusually dynamic. Recommended!
|1||SUNFLOWER||1978||TREMA 310 047|
Cahen's albums veered in the direction of jazz (related to Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, etc.), but I've included them as Cahen is known to many readers for his relationship with Magma.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|1||PIANO CONCERTS||1975||CHANT DU MONDE LDX74588|
|2||TENDRE PIANO SOLO||1978||FREE BIRD FLY 02|
|3||THANK YOU FRIENDS||1978||ATLANTIC|
|4||GREAT WINDS||1979||TREMA 310 069|
A free music ensemble that played a number of concerts between 1975 and 1978. Camizole founded "Le collectif dupon et ses fantômes" with the closely related Etron Fou. Later also Mozaïk, Grand Gouïa, Nouvel Asile Culturel and Herbe Rouge joined this rock-in-opposition oriented formation. The listed CD contained spontaneous live material intended for an album to be released on Tapioca (but the label went bankrupt). The pieces are entitled "Extrait No. 1-15" and all had cacophonous elements.
ARCHIVE MATERIAL (CD):
|1||CAMIZOLE (1977)||1999||SPALAX 14549|
A little known group that followed the heels of Mona Lisa and Iris.
This band came from Nice on the French South-coast, where they formed at a high school as early as 1969. Initially influenced by British progressive rock, Carpe Diem (Latin expression = 'to seize the moment') gradually developed a new French musical consciousness along with other pioneering groups such as Alice and Ange. In 1971 they recorded a demo single and pressed up a few copies for friends. At this point the group already played a lot of live performances. The line-tip on their two albums came together in late 1974 when they decided to turn professional. A year later Carpe Diem was signed to Arcane (later forced to change their name to Crypto for legal reasons) and recorded their first album at Antibes-Azurville Studios in August 1975.
Here they played refined symphonic rock with hints of ECM jazz and chamber rock. Those unfamilar with the French rock scene may compare them to Camel, Yes and Genesis, but Carpe Diem are more similar to domestic groups such as Ange, Pentacle, Mona Lisa, Pulsar, Wapassou and Atoll. The most striking features of the Carpe Diem sound were the combinations of soprano sax and keyboards (mostly manipulated organ and synthesizers). Most tracks were very long (10-13 minutes) with just very brief vocal parts. Some may find their intricate instrumental arrangements a bit long-winded, overshadowing the musicians' spontaneous carte blanche (or even carpe diem), even if it was always done with great care.
Cueille Le Jour (1977) continued in the same direction, featuring perhaps their greatest composition "Couleurs", a 22-minute suite of 5 different stages. The second side of the album contained 5 separate tracks of greater variety. Carpe Diem had great ambitions for a proposed third album, but it only appeared as a demo. The band fell out with Crypto for financial reasons, hoping for more lucrative offers from other companies. With the advent of punk and new wave this didn't happen. When their live engagements also dried up, they decided to split up. They left us two albums which are always good but never really brillant. They are indispensable for anyone into French rock, but a more optional choice for others.
|1||EN REGARDANT PASSER LETEMPS||1976||ARCANE 913.051|
|2||CUEILLE LE JOUR||1977||CRYPTO ZAL 6403|
A French band with a very distinctive sound centered around Roland Bocquet's ghostly Farfisa organ. Their first album (recorded March 1971 at Studio ETA) was a mixture of easily accessible tunes, strange wordless chanting, high hippie spirits, Arabian elements, strong percussion and a few avant-garde excursions. Their music had a very spontaneous feeling, as if the group was assembled for some kind of occult ritual using music to reach a higher consciousness. Arguably they had some common ground with the early Pink Floyd and Amon Düül philosophically, but it lead to other conclusions musically. Masq is also notable for its surrealistic cover design.
Three members quit the group before Les Chevrons (recorded December 1971) but their sound didn't change much. There were more tracks and they were more compressed (giving way to more melodies), but this didn't spoil the characteristic spontaneous feel of their charming music.
Quite a lot more material was recorded in 1971, but not released until 1975. 32 Mars contained the title track in a long (11:30) and short (3:06) format, in addition to the tracks "Masq" (a hit single in France) and "Les Chevrons" in alternate versions. Clocking in at just 23 minutes it was short even for French albums of the time.
Illuminations contained recordings from June and November 1971 featuring Charlotte's distinctive chanting on many tracks. Her academic vocal training shines through (the members were former music academy students), sometimes close to Donella Del Monaco in Opus Avantra. The musical variety was greater than before, ranging from the trancendental "Aube" via uncommon treatments of music from the 17th and 18th Century, to the childish "Mignonne Allons Voir". Among these short pieces are some of Catharsis' finest recordings. For the next two albums, Catharsis reduced themselves to background musicians for Bernard Verley's spoken, sung and sometimes bellowed recitations of verses by Rimbaud. However, the albums are good in their own right.
After a break, Roland Boquet introduced a revamped Catharsis line-up in 1975. Lei Boléro Du Veau Des Dames was a more down-to-earth effort containing rather ordinary instrumental music similar to the better movie soundtracks. This was nice background music but lacking a bit in intensity.
Catharsis' last album Et S'Aimer El Mourir was remote from their early albums, even if it reunited many old members. Their approach was now more jazzy, perhaps comparable to late seventies Camel or even Schicke, Fuhrs & Fröhling minus their mellotrons. After this, Roland Bocquet recorded a great solo album.
|1||MASQ||1971||SARAVAH SH 10.025|
|2||LES CHEVRONS||1972||SARAVAH SH 10.035|
|3||RIMBAUD, C'EST TOI||1972||PATHÉ 114.73/74|
|4||POP POÈMES||1973||PATHÉ PES 528.002|
|5||32 MARS (REC. 1971)||1975||FESTIVAL FLD 652|
|6||ILLUMINATIONS (1971)||1975||FESTIVAL FLD 655|
|7||LE BOLÉRO DU VEAU DES DAMES||1976||FESTIVAL FLD 676|
|8||ET S'AIMER ET MOURIR||1976||FESTIVAL FLD 678|
|A1||PARADIA||1977||COBRA COB 37.008|
A largely forgotten private pressing of underground folk with English lyrics. Only a few copies were made and given away to friends. The group play their own compositions with guitars, flutes, dulcimer, percussion and autoharp. It was issued in a hand-made black-white cover, which also included an insert.
|1||OLD GREEN VILLAGE||197?||PRIV. PRESS|
Chaconne recorded a good traditional folk LP with mainly female vocals. One side contained Anglo-American songs, the other French songs.
|1||CHACONNE||1977||UNIDISC UD 30.1345|
Chalibaude made an album of refreshing folk-rock with electric guitar, dulcimer, flute, violin and great vocals.
|1||LES NOCES DU PAPILLON||1976||CEZAME CEZ 1017|
This band played melodious folk-rock comparable to Tangerine (both groups reveal a fascination for Californian folk-rock). Chemin Blanc wrote their own songs, distinguished by sweeping vocal harmonies and relaxed guitars and keyboards. Two tasteful albums that should have a wide appeal.
|1||CHEMIN BLANC||1976||RCA PL 37.010|
|2||CHEMIN BLANC 2||1977||HEXAGONE 883.016|
This large theatrical troupe played musical theatre, like a cross between Principal Edwards Magic Theatre and "Radio Gnome"-period Gong, but of course all in French! Aurora (1971) is a top rarity these days, and was released on the legendary Futura label. The two later albums are somewhat easier to find but in a similar style.
|1||AURORA||1971||FUTURA VOIX 01|
|2||CHANT POUR LE DELTA||1976||CHÊNE NOIR 001|
|3||ORPHÉE 2000||1977||CHÊNE NOIR 002|
Their album contained really good heavy rock, strongly influenced by Jimi Hendrix. Among the tracks was a version of "Crosstown Traffic". Bernard Monnieri later played in Terpandre, a group founded in 1973, although their only album (containing good symphonic rock) was not released before 1981.
|1||CHICO MAGNETIC BAND||1971||VOGUE 17.001|
A little known folk band in the Malicorne vein that deserves more attention. La Chifonnie's repertoire consisted of traditional French songs arranged for both traditional and modern instruments. Their efforts compare favourably with other French groups of the era, particularly in their refined use of multi-layered vocals involving all band members.
|1||LA CHIFONNIE||1977||HEXAGONE 883.008|
|2||AU DESSUS DU PONT||1978||HEXAGONE 883.0??|
Chute Libre played an instrumental jazz-rock fusion in the archetypical French smooth style (Spheroe, Patchwork, Edition Speciale) with slight Latin American undertones. Definitely one of the best groups of this genre.
|1||CHUTE LIBRE||1977||EMI PATHÉ 2C066 14359|
|2||ALI BABA||1978||EMI PATHÉ 2C068 14522|
A "chanteuse" whose albums are close to folk-rock at times. She was helped by members of Workshop de Lyon and Arcane V.
|3||SI VOUS SAVIEZ COMME||1978||RCA|
Clearlight was a non de plume for Cyrille Verdeaux and his musical and spiritual visions. Clearlight Symphony was widely distributed by Virgin, in an attempt to repeat the enormous success of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells. Musically, the Clearlight album is every inch as good, benefiting from its broader musical input - from Tim Blake, Steve Hillage, Christian Boule and Didier Malherbe. Rather than a 'symphony', this is an accomplished concerto for mellotron and synth bubbles - with a wealth of good melodic material and ethereal new age atmospheres. The follow-up Forever Blowing Bubbles is another great album.
The first Clearlight album with a French title paradoxically had English lyrics sung by Ian Bellamy (ex-Zoo). The vocal parts don't mix quite as well with the instrumental ones (which are excellent).
|1||CLEARLIGHT SYMPHONY||1975||VIRGIN XLBY 840.067|
|2||FOREVER BLOWING BUBBLES||1975||VIRGIN XLBY 840.098|
|3||LES CONTES DU SINGE FOU||1977||ISADORA ISA 9009|
|4||VISIONS||1978||POLYDOR 2393 185|
|A1||DELIRED CAMELEON FAMILY||1975||EMI 2C066 13087|
A group which merged soft elements of jazz, rock and ethnic music. This is background music that is neither disturbing nor exciting (I tend to forget the musical themes 5 minutes after playing the record).
|1||REGINA ASTRIS||1977||GRATTE CIEL 2003|
|2||MIXTUS ORBIS||1979||GRATTE CIEL 2009|
A short-lived group formed by Claude Olmos (ex-Alan Jack Civilisation and Alice). Their album is underrated, making it a good investment. Olmos later played with Magma for a while.
|1||WAKAN TANKA||1971||BYG 529.018|
Progressive free-jazz by a weird bunch who later evolved into Full Moon Ensemble. Approach with extreme caution...
|2||COHELMEX ENSEMBLE||1971||SARAVAH SH 10.024|
A flautist who played jazz-rock at various times, which was comparable to Jade Warrior, Soft Machine and Ariel Kalwa. His first album was typified by pleasant instrumental doodlings with some oriental leanings (sitar and tablas). The second had a stronger jazz-rock flavour a la Soft Machine circa Fourth.
A group from Montpellier who played conventional jazz-rock comparable to Napoli Centrale and Return To Forever.
|2||CLEF DE CIEL||1979||VILLAGE 100 255 251|
A marginal case for inclusion, as their music was closer to jazz than rock.
|1||4 VOYAGES||1976||RCA FLP 10.132|
|2||ARKHAM||1977||RCA PL 37.109|
|3||CHRONIQUES TERRESTRES||1979||RCA PL 37239|
A one-off gathering of these musicians to play electric folk in the general style of Gwendal, although with vocals.
|1||LA CONFRÉRIE DES FOUS||1979||BALLON NOIR 13.008|
This group played hippie-folk with both male and female lead vocals. Jean Cohen-Solal guested on flute.
|2||BALLADES A CONTRE-JOUR||1978||PRIVATE PRESS|
Cortex played soft jazz-rock with the emphasis on funky rhythms. Not my first choice, but some collectors of fusion jazz-rock are very enthusiastic about them.
|1||TROPEAU BLEU||1975||ESPÉRANCE ESP 155.524|
|2||VOLUME 2||1977||ESPÉRANCE ESP 165.501|
|3||POURQUOI?||1978||CRYPTO ZAL 6458|
Long forgotten folk-pop.
|1||LE ROI COSQUER||1971||PERIDES|
Another of the folk poets. The longest track on the album had some impressive fuzz guitar.
|1||ALAIN COULAS||1975||PRIVATE PRESS|
According to the cover notes, this was "dedicated to radio, film and TV musical illustrators". 12 instrumentais with a strong bias towards brass, somewhere between jazz-rock and easy listening and containing funny written comments such as "two tempos: slow/medium fast, contrast, alternative, dilemna (sic!), dreams/reality".
|1||CREATIVE POP||1970||IML 01|
What a shame this bunch of hippies didn't record any proper albums in their lifetime! Sharing much of the same ideologies and musical philosophies of Gong, they were big attractions at the open air festivals, ie: when they turned up in time! Luckily some Revox, Uher and Teac tapes of concerts from France and North Africa (!) were recently unveiled and released on CD by Legend Music. This is good instrumental jamming stuff with powerful guitars, bubbling synths and even some sax and flute. The music is so full of good spirits that you forget the primitive sound quality (it's tolerable, really). If you fancy a cross between Gong and Amon Düül II, then this is for you!
ARCHIVE MATERIAL (CD):
|1||CONCERTS 1972 & 1975||1995||LEGEND LM 9005|
Only 700 copies were made of their album, which has to be labelled "underground folk" with acoustic guitars, violin, bodhran, flute and percussion.
|1||LA CHANSON DU FOU||1976||PRIVATE PRESS|
Cruciferius are one of the true icons of French progressive rock. Their sound was quite unusual and hard to describe; quite brooding and with heavy guitars but also influenced by black and Latin American music, rhythm and blues, harmony-pop, soul and jazz. Arguably, they shared many influences with Magma at this stage. Their album includes cover versions of "Big Bird" and "Gimme Some Lovin"' (a superb version really transforming this old standard), in addition to their own strong material (all with English lyrics). Paganotti used lyrics by Edgar Allan Poe on "Annabel Lee", where his low-pitched voice sounds like a cross between Lou Reed and Elvis! Marc Perru's vocals are closer to Steve Winwood. At this early stage (1970), this was one of the best albums released in France. Perru and Breant continued some of Cruciferius's ideas in their next group Nemo.
|1||A NICE WAY OF LIFE||1970||EGG 940.011|
Not a pop album by any means, this is very good Celtic folk-rock with electric guitars and a female vocalist similar to Dagmar Krause. Still almost entirely unknown among collectors.
The listed albums are very rare, containing "home-made" folk-rock with slightly psychedelic edges.
|2||L'AMOUR ET LA HAINE||1981||PRIVATE PRESS|
These guys were previously members of Presence, a group which released one album on Warner in 1973, influenced by Crosby, Stills & Nash. The first album had symphonic leanings, like a cross between Ripaille and Genesis, while the second veered in a more folky direction.
|1||DARRAS & DESUMEUR||1975||RCA FPL 10069|
|2||PAROLES ET MUSIQUES||1979||RCA PL 37340|
This is one of the exploitation psychedelic oddities that are seen fetching a lot of bucks these days. I wouldn't give away my cash for pop singer F. R. David's first strained efforts! It contains the usual ingredients of guitar and organ (even some mellotron). To be filed along with Supra Pop Impressions and Eden Rose, although inferior to these.
|1||A BRIGHT TOMORROW||1971||SUGAR PLUM 30.001|
Daydé was the vocalist of Zoo at the time of their first LP in 1969. His solo career had a promising start with J'Aime (1971), enhanced by the guitar duties of Claude Engel (ex-Omega Plus and Magma). This is nice jazzy rock. White Soul was a disappointing follow-up and Mamy Blue moved closer to maintream easy listening.
|1||J'AIME||1971||RIVIERA 521 160|
|2||WHITE SOUL||1971||RIVIERA 521 189|
|3||MAMY BLUE||1972||RIVIERA 121 384|
This little known duo made an album of experimental music somewhere between La Monte Young and Third Ear Band.
A folk singer who might interest some readers. He played traditional folklore from Britanny.
|2||LE GRAND CERF VOLANT||1976||NEVENOE|
This was a phantom group assembled for the recording of the soundtrack to Pierre Clementi's movie "Visa de Censure No. X". The music was written by Cyrille Verdeaux (of Clearlight) and Yvan Coaquette (of Musica Electronica Viva and Spacecraft). The production is less rigid than Clearlight, sounding both more improvised and more powerful. Some segments even have a psychedelic thread, also indicated by the marijuana leaves on the sleeve. This is the case for their best track "Raganesh", opening the album in Eastern mode and proving that at least some hippies were still alive and well in 1975! Should please any Gong fan.
|1||DELIRED CAMELEON FAMILY||1975||EMI 066-13087|
Demay made a competent album of instrumentais highlighted by his electric guitars. His style was somewhere in between Camel's Andy Latimer and Alain Markusfeld (although a bit jazzier).
Only one hundred copies were made of this private pressing. The music, recorded between 1968 and 1978, is reputedly hippie-folk comparable to Tyrannosaurus Rex.
|1||DENIS||1978||BABA COOL SYSTEM|
French psychedelic rock - did it exist? Yes, but not exactly in abundance, and mainly restricted to singles and EPs (Les Goths, Tac Poum Systeme). One of the few exceptions to this is the ultra-rare album by Dickens. These guys were probably well acquainted with the US underground bands, at least judging from "Ange De Lune", a French adaption of a song recorded by the American group Genesis. Apart from that, the group played their own material, with great guitar and organ driven psych comparable to the heavy LA sound (Iron Butterfly and Doors). Serge Baumer later played in the group Treponem Pal.
|1||ROYAL INCARNATION||1969||PRESIDENT F050993|
A Corsican singer who played powerful rock with the help of some quite well-known musicians - Breant had been with Cruciferius and Nemo, and Rizitelli with Bahamas.
An album featuring many well-known musicians. The music varies from proper songs to free-jazz in a poetic style reminiscent of Guy Skornik, Ométaxalia, Magma and Zao.
|1||DIEU EST FOU||1976||CBS 81589|
Line-up not listed (a quartet)
This was a commercial group formed by some previous members of Martin Circus and Triangle. Most of their material was forgettable pop, but a few tracks (on the 1972 album) were nearer to "progressive rock". The group also provided the backing to an album by the American female singer Emily (released in 1972 on EMI Pathé).
|1||DYNASTIE CRISIS||1970||SOMETHIN' ELSE 849 522|
|2||DYNASTIE CRISIS||1972||HARVEST 2C062 12363|
This album was an instrumental symphonic keyboard extravaganza! You might like it if you're into Bo Hansson or Peter Bardens's contributions to Camel. Hubert Vrayance later made further albums (under his own name), which cultivated the electronic aspects of his music and are comparable to albums released on the Sky label.
In many ways, the Eden Rose album has equal status with the one by Omega Plus, both being 1969 projects by talented musicians who would become better known in the seventies. As many will know, this was an earlier incarnation of Sandrose, with period charm in place of the later finesse. On offer are eight instrumental melodies with organ, electric guitar and piano. This is not unlike the early Procol Harum sound, with the ghost of Bach lurking in the corridors. Generally, Eden Rose is quicker and more vital, with some brilliant melodic developments. I doubt you will fine better instrumental albums from the period, and certainly not French ones.
|1||ON THE WAY TO EDEN||1969||KATEMA KA 33.507|
Edition Spéciale are among the most respected French progressive fusion groups, along with Chute Libre and Spheroe. Their most accomplished album was Horizon Digital (1978), produced by Laurent Thibault.
|1||ALLÉE DES TILLEUS||1976||UNITED ARTISTS UAS 29965|
|2||ALIQUANTE||1977||RCA PL 37.069|
|3||HORIZON DIGITAL||1978||RCA PL 37.215|
A folk poet with that typical French attitude, similar to Emmanuel Booz and Gerard Manset. His first album is eagerly hunted by some Magma collectors. Four Magma-members (of 1970) provided the tasteful backing tracks, playing softer music than you would ever expect from them! The arrangements were written by Teddy Lasry. Generally speaking, the early Elbaz albums have short poetic songs. With Kessler's involvement, the arrangements became more elaborate with layers of different keyboards behind Elbaz's calm voice.
|2||LE MIROIR DE L'ARBRE||197?||ALVAREZ|
|3||LE VENT AUX AILES||197?||ALVAREZ|
|4||LES MOTS SONT DE LA MUSIQUE||1976||ALVAREZ|
|5||ELBAZ & S. KESSLER||197?||ALVAREZ|
|6||PARADIS TERRESTRE OU (2LP)||1979||OXYGENE|
Ellebore played quiet folk music centered around vocals, acoustic guitars and violin.
This shouldn't be confused with the 80's symphonic (and quite a good one at that) outfit of the same name. This particular Elohim recorded a concept album dealing with esotericism. The sound is very uncommon, almost a cross between early zeuhl-rock and the soundtrack for the "Hair"-musical! A good choice for fans of the unusual, but this is not entirely successful musically!
|1||A L'AUBÉ DU VERSEAU||1975||PHILIPS 6325.207|
This band released a private pressing rather late for inclusion here, but it is good (in sound quality too) and really deserves a mention. Their music was conceptual, progressive folk-rock with baroque touches and lots of spoken English lyrics, centered around two long tracks: "Viking" (12:00) and "Geoffroy" (16:28). Some parts have acoustic guitar and piano only, others have the full electric treatment with melodic guitar, piano, bass and drums.
This bunch played good jazz-rock comparable to Hatfield & The North with an easy-going spirit. The interplay between electric guitar and electric piano is compelling on these long pieces. The album only contained three tracks in all.
|1||SORTIE DE SECOURS||1976||PÔLE 0015|
A super-rare private pressing containing folk-rock with a psychedelic edge, possibly influenced by the folky aspects of the US West Coast sound.
|1||EN CES JOURS LES TEMPS HEUREUX||1971||PRIVATE PRESS|
His albums consisted of traditional sounding soft-rock with a rural feel to it, similar to Crosby, Stills & Nash, the second Traffic album, Blind Faith and Ginger Baker's Airforce.
|1||ENGEL STORY||1973||CBS 65439|
A vocalist whose style was reminiscent of Albert Marcoeur, singing his poetry to a jazzy backing by Francois Ovide, Denis Brely, Dominique Widiez, Hervé Derrien and others.
|1||G. ENTREMONT & CO||1975||PATHÉ 2C064-13071|
|2||LES REGARDS DE GLACE||1979||PHILIPS 9101 226|
This important group, first known as Lemon Pie, was formed by Ledissez and Guerin in 1968. Their innovative blend of rock, jazz and other ingredients characteristically failed to attract French record companies, until Laurent Thibault recognised them as being really impressive in early 1971. At that time he was just about to launch his own label Thélème (distributed by Barclay) and offered the band recording time in the legendary Chateau d'Herrouville studio (whose famous clients have ranged from Elton John to Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd). Mexico (because Ledissez had lived there), became Thélème's first release, setting high standards from the outset. Ergo Sum had a really refined and tasteful sound with Ledissez's broken voice (reminiscent of Roger Chapman from Family and Alvarro Fella of Jumbo), Meynet's violin (quite similar to Dave Arbus of East Of Eden) and Guerin's chilling electric piano as their main forces. This was not 'progressive' in the sense of 'endless instrumentais', rather more like Traffic's song-based approximation (on their second album), characterised by impeccable musicianship and songwriting. Ergo Sum used English lyrics, which was most common before Ange strengthened bands' confidence in using French. The album Mexico is a classic and still a refreshing experience to hear today.
Regretably the group only just survived into 1972, with Marc Perru (ex-Cruciferius) and Edouard Magnani replacing Leonardi and Touat. This line-up recorded a last single ('Tijuana"). Their last live engagement was performed by a different configuration, including Francois Breant (also ex-Cruciferius), Jean-My Truong (pre-Zao) and Marc Bertaux. Breant and Perru then formed a new group named Nemo.
Eskaton were one of the most interesting Magma-related groups to appear at the turn of the eighties, referring to their style as "musique post-atomique". Ardeur (1980) was strongly inspired by Magma at the time of Live (1975) and Üdü Wüdü (1976). Eskaton retained the French language and added monophonic synthesizers to good effect. Engineer Jean-Louis Rizet (best known from his collaboration with Philippe Besombres) might have offered the group a few suggestions. The album was recorded and mixed at Studio Ramses, but apparently failed to impress Polydor and was released in association with Elanore Productions.
Their second album Fiction had a more personal style and "modern" sound.
|1||4 VISIONS||1979||(CASETTE ONLY!)|
An album of experimental neo-classic music, sometimes resembling Igor Wakhevitch.
|1||POP ORGAN & PERCUSSION||1972||ATLANTIC 40.395|
A very minor group, included here due to the participation of ex-members from Tac Poum Systeme and Edition Speciale.
This group were one of the leading exponents of the Rock In Opposition movement in France. Their music is spontaneous, wacky, playful, insane, humourous, random, noisy and dadaistic, stretching the concepts of Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica and Henry Cow's Leg End to their outer limits. This music is certainly an acquired taste. Those who love it are surely subscribers to the mail order lists of Recommended Records (and probably their psychiatrist as well!).
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|1||BATELAGES||1977||GRATTE CIEL 2001|
|2||LES 3 FOUS PERDEGAGNENT||1978||TAPIOCA 10020|
|3||EN DIRECT DES ETATS-UNIS D'AMÉRIQUE||1979||CELLULOID CEL 6572|
An exploitation album featuring members of Triangle and Martin Circus. This is very bland and tedious - who needs a 16-minute version of "Gimme Some Lovin' " or a slowed down, laughable progressive version of "Louie Louie"? Pink Floyd fans will buy it just to hear the version of "Let There Be More Light" (which in fact is decent), but 70% of this album is rubbish.
|1||EXPÉRIENCE (2LP)||1971||VOGUE SLVLX 575|
A quartet who played pleasant instrumental fusion set firmly within the French idiom (Benoit Widemann, Francois Breant and Shylock) but also influenced by the instrumental Camel (particularly the keyboards of Peter Bardens). Generally, Falstaff's music is more impressive than inspired, if you catch my drift.
(a trio, no credits on the record sleeve)
Their album contained acoustically-based hippie-folk music with male vocals.
|1||PAUVRE TERRE||1977||DE PLEIN VENT FAR7801|
Only some test-pressings exist of this symphonic progressive offering dating from circa 1980. It had French lyrics and sounded similar to Camel, Iris, Ange and Nuance.
The project of one Henri-Jean Enu, Fille Qui Mousse has been something of an enigma in French underground rock. Their album never got a proper release, as their label Futura went bankrupt at a stage when only about ten test pressings of Trixie Spapleton 291 had been made. On offer here is anarchic free-rock, more inventive than Mahogany Brain and similar to Ame Son, vintage Gong and Crium Delirium. The best track is a rough jam with electric guitar and violin, not dissimilar to Amon Düül II. Other tracks have spoken words backed by tape loops, strange noises almost predating Current 93, and there are some reasonably coherent tracks with guitars, bass and drums. Obviously not an album for the faint-hearted, this is good stuff for anyone with a taste for unusual, experimental music.
|1||TRIXIE STAPLETON 291||1973||FUTURA RED 04|
Their album contained mainly instrumental music somewhere between mid-70's Tangerine Dream (Froese's input rather than Franke's) and Clearlight's Symphony with some of Ravel's "Bolero" and Pink Floyd's "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" thrown in for good measure. It's also close to side one of the Älgarnas Trädgård album, if you know it. There are layers upon layers of mellotrons and synthesizers with a hypnotic bass and drum backing, augmented by strange chanting and acoustic guitars. This album is strong on unusually surrealistic atmospheres, much like the soundtrack to a painting by Salvador Dali. Recommended!
|1||SYMPTOME DEI||1979||FLVM 3006|
A mythical record from a quartet incorporating members from four different countries (France, USA, Spain and England). Along with Dickens, this is one of the very few "French" psychedelic albums, with a sound reminiscent of American psychedelic groups such as Blues Magoos. The French guitar player Jean Pierre Castelain later made a mediocre solo album.
|1||FLEURS DE PAVOT||1968||MERCURY|
The name of this project of Pascal Comelade was taken from a Heldon composition on Allez Teia (1974). As this indicates, Fluence offer repetitive sceneries of minimalistic electronics, analogous to the Eno-ingredient of Fripp & Eno. Richard Pinhas has a cameo role playing guitar on one track (there were three in all). Not an album to everybody's taste. Comelade released several (more accessible) albums in the eighties under his own name.
One of the most famous French 'chanteuses' of the 70's, with a powerful voice and idiosyncratic style equalling Catherine Ribeiro.
|1||BRIGITTE EST FOLLE||1970||SARAVAH SH 10.001|
|2||COMME Á LA RADIO||1971||SARAVAH SH 10.006|
|3||BRIGITTE FANTAINE||1972||SARAVAH SH 10.034|
|5||JE NE CONNAIS PAS CET HOMME||1974||SARAVAH SH10.041|
|6||LE BONHEUR||1975||SARAVAH SH 10.059|
|7||DOUZE CHANSONS AVANT LE DÉLUGE.|
|8||LES ÉGLANTINES SONT PEUT-ÊTRE FORMIDABLES|
|9||VOUS ET NOUS||1978||SARAVAH RSL 1071|
A multi-instrumentalist, whose album sounds influenced by Robert Wyatt.
|1||COCKTAIL||1977||GRATTE CIEL 2006|
Fraj recorded an obscure album of psychedelic progressive rock.
A poet with a style comparable to Gerard Manset and Emmanuel Booz.
|1||PEUT ETRE AUX YEUX SILENCE||1970||CAT CR 2001|
One of many exploitation LPs devoted to the greatest guitar player of all time, documenting the deterioration of his material in less competent hands.
|1||BEST OF JIMI HENDRIX||1970||MUSIDISC 30CV1208|
A jazz-rock combo featuring sax, guitar and piano. The music is not far removed from Soft Machine, Rhesus O and Moving Gelatine Plates. The latter was actually signed to CBS by Claude Delcloo, the drummer and leader of Full Moon Ensemble, who was artistic director for the label then.
|1||CROWDED WITH LONELINESS||1971 CBS 64267|
A group who played quite vigorous instrumental Celtic folk, including Irish elements.
An excellent guitar player from the folk scene whose album meets the usual high quality of Cezame's standards, interpreting Irish and French folk material in a very appealing way.
|1||DENIS GASSER||1976||CEZAME CEZ 1020|
Another avant-garde LP released on Futura with all the usual ingredients. Free-rock with electric piano, organ and rambling percussion.
|1||LE MASSACRE DU PRINTEMPS||1971||FUTURA|
An album of experimental fusion (including jazz and strange ethnic music) performed by ex-members of Horde Catalytique Pour La Fin, who released a similarly inaccessible album on Futura in 1971.
|1||HORIZON||1975||CHANT DU MONDE 74561|
There should be little need to go into detail with this legendary group, as all readers are probably familiar with them. If not, you can read about them in other Borderline books. If anyone still needs some recommendations, start with Gong's best albums You, Angel's Egg, Camembert Electrique and Flying Teapot.
|1||MAGICK BROTHER||1970||BYG 529.305|
|2||CAMEMBERT ELECTRIQUE||1971||BYG 529.345|
|3||CONTINENTAL CIRCUS||1972||PHILIPS 6332.033|
|4||FLYING TEAPOT||1973||BYG 529.027|
|5||ANGEL'S EGG||1973||VIRGIN V2007 (UK)|
|6||YOU||1974||VIRGIN V2046 (UK)|
|7||SHAMAL||1976||VIRGIN V2019 (UK)|
|8||GAZEUSE!||1977||VIRGIN V2074 (UK)|
|9||LIVE ETC. (2LP)||1977||VIRGIN VD3501 (UK)|
|10||GONG EST MORT! (2LP)||1977||TAPIOCA 10002/3|
|11||EXPRESSO 2||1978||VIRGIN V2099 (UK)|
This bunch made an eccentric album possibly inspired by Frank Zappa and Gong.
|1||PAS IMPORTANT||1981||MCI 1001|
Goude's first album wasn't particularly interesting - a collaboration with a percussion player. From 1977 to 1979, Goude was a member of the artistically very successful Wejdorje, who played zeuhl rock of the highest echelon. Elements from their sound were also evident on his masterpiece Drones (1979), competing with Laurent Thibault's Mais On Ne Peut... as the best ever solo album from people associated with Magma. It was recorded in Ramses Studio for Polydor, who were also responsible for great releases by Georges Grünblatt, Christian Boulé, Richard Pinhas and Rahmann. Drones works very well due to the abundance of inspired musical themes and stylistic diversity. Goude's music was never clichéd. The production is also exceptionally good, as if each second was closely scrutinised (which it probably was). A myriad of the best French musicians took part in the recordings.
Unfortunately most people were alien to progressive music at this time and Goude wasn't allowed to make further albums. He was still much involved in music though, including making movie soundtracks. He has recently recorded a new album.
|1||JEUNES ANNÉES||1976||SARAVAH SH 10.064|
|2||DRONES||1979||POLYDOR 2473 108|
His fairly good album consisted of instrumental music, mostly on piano and synthesizers. This is comparable to mid-seventies Vangelis and Clearlight. Philippe Besombres who produced the album, was later involved in a collaboration with Jean-Louis Rizet.
|1||3000 MILES AWAY||1977||PÔLE 0014|
A band of the late seventies and early eighties, following in the footsteps of Mona Lisa, Atoll and Ange and with little to distinguish themselves. Only 1,000 copies of their album were pressed.
Grünblatt played with Pinhas on Heldon's second and third albums. His own album was recorded as early as 1977, but the release was postponed until 1980. About half of the material is nice electronic music based on repeated melodic themes, much like a cross between Vangelis and Michael Rother. The rest is more fusion-oriented with strong bass, lead guitar solos and rich synth textures. A very good production courtesy of Studio Ramses. This album is often over-looked, but should be heard by more than Heldon completists!
|1||K-PRISS||1980||POLYDOR 2473 911|
Their album is reputed to contain excellent experimental music influenced by Heldon, Magma and Cos.
|1||DES ETRES AU CERVEAU APPARENT||1980||STERNE|
A Breton group lead by the singer Gweltaz Ar Fur. Their first album was produced by Igor Wakhewitch, although Bonedoú Ruz! (1974) is usually considered their best effort. This is typical folk-rock with guitars, violins, percussion and some traditional instruments.
|1||CHANTS CELTIQUES||1973||ATLANTIC 40500|
|2||BONEDOÚ RUZ!||1974||FESTIVAL FLD 646|
Along with Malicorne, Gwendal were among the most influential French folk-rock artists. Their first couple of albums were quite traditionally orientated, with a wealth of flutes, bombardes, violins, mandolins and acoustic guitar mostly playing instrumentais in vigorous dance tempo. From A Vos Desirs onwards, Gwendal's albums should have a much wider appeal. A Gentle Giant-like dexterity made their music more complex, with a tendency to build up long suites of separate tunes. This was a continuing trend and many people insist their early eighties albums are the best.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1983):
|1||GWENDAL 1||1974||PATHÉ 2C064 12.725|
|2||GWENDAL 2||1975||PATHÉ 2C064 13.075|
|3||A VOS DESIRS||1977||PATHÉ 2C066 14403|
|4||GWENDAL 4||1979||PATHÉ 2C068 14.841|
|5||EN CONCERT||1981||PATHÉ 2C068 72.379|
|6||LOCOMO||1983||PATHÉ 2C068 72.707|
Despite a dubious title, his only release is quite a good instrumental concept album with organ in the limelight. It's rather similar to the instrumental segments of Procol Harum, Van Der Graaf Generator and Eden Rose.
|1||POP SYMPHONY||1971||PIERRE CARDIN CAR330U|
France had a unique tradition of 'pop poets', being a continental, eccentric variation on the singer-songwriter idiom where the poems or lyrics had the most important role. The musical backdrop was often jazzy and largely improvised, attempting to follow each thoughtful digression of the poet in charge. Dashiell Hedayat (his real name is Jack-Alain Léger) was probably the most important underground poet in the country, being influenced by the beat generation (Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, etc). His lyrics will not be discussed here (learning all European languages would keep me in universities for the rest of my life), but the music fits in well, being an anarchic mixture of free rock and jazz with some repeated rhythms struggling to keep some reasonable discipline. This works best when Hedayat is not seriously attempting to sing! On Obsolete (1971) he is almost comparable to a seriously freaked out (and French speaking) Bob Dylan backed by Gong. As many of you already will know, Gong indeed provided the loose accompaniment and make this album highly collectable (although I'm doubtful if the typical Gong-fan will like it!). Recorded insanity!
ALBUM AS MELMOTH:
|1||LA DEVANTURE DES IVRESSES||1969||ARION 30-T-079|
In the late sixties, Richard Pinhas started his musical career in Blues Convention, who were formed by Klaus Blasquiz who would soon become Magma's renowned vocalist. Pinhas then formed a new group named Schizo with Patrick Gauthier and Pierre and Coco Roussel. Two singles were recorded and released, the last one on Disjuncta, a small company established by Pinhas himself when his music failed to interest the larger record companies. In 1973, he saw the potential of making experimental music with a combination of synthesizers and electric guitar. This marked the birth of Heldon, the brainchild of Pinhas which was a group only in name.
The Disjuncta period resulted in four albums recorded on a low budget, all born out of a prolonged admiration of the Fripp-Eno collaboration, with anguished guitar parts enveloped in ambient electronics. Electronic Guerilla (1974) was an innovative album, the opening track "Zind" sounding much like a missing link between High Tide and Chrome exhausted by some Ruhrgebiet pollution. The most significant tracks, "Back To Heldon" and "Circulus Vitiosus" were more mannered, with synthesizers and sequencers pulsing forward in a mechanical way.
Allez Tela (1974) was more relaxed, sometimes bordering on the subliminal. "In Wake Of King Fripp", a tribute Fripp, featured nice mellotron work by Georges Grünblatt. A couple of acoustic guitar doodlings were clearly inept. The album is best remembered for "Fluence", a long and slowly evolving work more influenced by Terry Riley, which remains Heldon's most ambient work.
The double album It's Always Rock'n'Roll (probably a caustic remark aimed at a contemporary Rolling Stones album) was patchy, a collection of loose ends. Arguably, it contained some great ideas, but they had already been exposed on preceding albums. "Aurore" (18:17) and "Doctor Blood Money" (16:51) have minimal development and interest and just seem to last forever. Only recommended for those who fancy Eno records that stick in the groove. "Zind Destruction" offered some relief - a violent pastiche on boogie blues. Agneta Nilsson (named after Pinhas' Swedish girlfriend) was Heldon's most accomplished album to date, condensing the Heldon concept to a more united work entitled "Perspective", ending up with the ensemble of Pinhas, Patrick Gauthier, Alain Bellaïche and Coco Roussel playing live (Heldon's other works were the result of careful overdubbing). In 1976 Pinhas was at last signed to Cobra, a branch of a major company. This brought a few changes; firstly Heldon would include regular contributions from Patrick Gauthier and Francois Auger, and secondly Pinhas would also release material under his own name. However, most importantly, it was a musical turning point. Pinhas' predominant interest in radical politics now seemed to transfer to his music. Un Reve Sans Consequence Speciale at last fulfilled the promise that lay in Electronic Guerrilla. This is the prototype industrial rock album with violent guitar, percussive mania and mechanic sequencer patterns. To enter this murky world might be drudgery for some and a real pleasure for others. Very few will manage to remain indifferent to this album. Interface (1977) should have wider appeal with its clearer production offering more breathing room. The title track (filling one side) is one of Heldon's most innovative creations, an uncomfortable venture into Silicon Valley introduced by pounding rhythms saturated in effects. Heldon's last album was also the best. Stand By stood on an imaginary crossroads between Robert Fripp, Magma and Tangerine Dream.
|1||I - ELECTRONIC GUERILLA||1974||DISJUNCTA 000.001|
|2||ll - ALLEZ-TEIA||1975||DISJUNCTA 000.002|
|3||III - IT'S ALWAYS ROCK'N'ROLL||1975||DISJUNCTA 000.006/7|
|4||IV - AGNETA NILSSON||1976||URUS 000.011|
|5||UN RÊVE SANS CONSÉQUENCE SPECIALE||1976||COBRA COB 37.002|
|6||INTERFACE||1977||COBRA COB 37.013|
|7||STAND BY||1978||EGG 900.578|
Their album was released well into the eighties but deserves to be mentioned. It contains really interesting experimental music recalling early Henry Cow and Faust with a wealth of strange and disjointed atmospheres.
|1||IL Y A DES JOURS||1984||AYAA DT 0385|
Their weird album was dedicated to The Residents and Faust. In addition, Heratius' dadaistic experimental rock recalled Etron Fou, Captain Beefheart and Gilbert Artman. The album was recorded under simple conditions on a Revox A77. Too strenuous for me, but check them out if you like playful and spontaneous music.
A multi-instrumentalist who is also a capable singer in the traditional folk vein. The album has an intimate atmosphere.
|1||AU PAYS DE LERIDA||1979||DISCOVALE WM 04|
His album (based on the book of the same title) is little known but certainly worth more attention. This is exiting, serene electro-acoustic music, influenced by meditative Indian traditional music. A good choice for the adventurous listener. Laizeau also recorded with Heldon. Sadly the album is very difficult to find!
|1||BARDO THODOL||1978||SCORPIOS SC 109.407|
A loose group based round the Blanc brothers, who had played together in various formations (Flash, Something and Honeyelk's precursor Honey Dream) throughout the seventies. Their album was a gem, with two highly original tracks. In the tradition of Magma, Honeyelk used their own kind of language, adapting their own words and syllables to fit in with the music. The music was quite different to Magma though, softer and with nice melodic developments faintly resembling Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator playing jazz. The combination of clarinet, synthesizers, electric piano and electric guitar was unusual and cannot easily be compared to others. An indispensable album, even if it clocked in at just 26 minutes (rivalling Catharsis).
|1||STOYZ VI DOZÉVÉLOY||1979||OXYGENE OXY 047|
They made an album of improvised experimental music in Nice in February 1971. Their name is self-descriptive.
|1||HORDE CATALYTIQUE POUR LA FIN||1971||FUTURA SON 03|
An obscure concept album directed by Jean-Pierre Massiera. Obviously he always wished to be a horror movie director, as this disjointed headmovie used studio effects, musique concrete, sinister choir voices and even some rock music. This album has been overrated lately due to its rarity. Better to send your money to a charity organisation than fork out a fortune for this nonsense. If you are looking for good albums of this kind, try Igor Wakhewitch!
|1||L'ETRANGE MR. WHINSTER||1976||EURODISC 913 063|
This was another of Jean-Pierre Massiera's musical projects (see also Atlantide and Visitors), collecting sessionmen for an ill-focused album ranging from space / symphonic rock to pop music with a broad range of influences (disco, soul, jazz). It sounds very dated and should be ignored even by hard core collectors.
|1||HUMAN EGG||1978||CRYPTO ZL 37156|
Hybride's album was a private release with material ranging from heavy rock to plain melodic rock. Robert Defer later became guitar player in a late incarnation of Ange.
|1||CA N'A PAS D'IMPOETANCE||1977||FLVM 3016|
A short-lived group formed by Philippe Besombres as an attempt to make his electronic music more accessible, in the wake of the recent success of Tangerine Dream, J.-M. Jarre, Vangelis and Kraftwerk. As a result this is rhythmic, sequencer-propelled music with some electric guitar textures. Many will find this dated today and lacking new ideas. For synthesizer fanatics only.
|1||HYDRAVION||1978||COBRA COB 37.012|
|2||STRATOS AIRLINES||1980||CARRERE 67350|
This is the artist name of multi-instrumentalist Thierry Muller. These albums offer a quite intimate experimental music (at times comparable to Brian Eno, Terry Riley, Faust and Edgar Froese). Largely based on synthesizer, it is monotonous and repetitive. Low-fi sounds put you in a dream-like state after a while. Muller has a strong sense of aesthetics.
Recommended to all with an interest in this genre.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|1||PERIODIK MINDTROUBLE||1978||OXYGENE OXY 09|
|2||10 SUICIDES||1980||SCOPA INVISIBLE 10007|
A duo that really caught the remaining hippie spirit circa 1970 on their brilliant album. Often written off as a Crosby, Stills & Nash sound-alike, their material was much more imaginative, both in the production and arrangements. Starting with the harmony vocals, CS&N were far from the only ones using them. Ilous & Decuyper's intricate harmony and chorus overdubs had as much in common with The Hollies, Beach Boys and The Beatles. Their acoustic and electric guitars prevail, occasionally joined by keyboards and the rhythm section of Systeme Crapoutchik.
The stand-out track is an imaginative version of "Eleanor Rigby" with a stunning lead guitar guest performance by Jean-Pierre Alarcen. Tracks such as "Vous Mourrez Demain'', "Berceuse" and "Mélancolie" have something in common with the pastoral, lazy atmosphere of the short songs on Pink Floyd's More and Atom Heart Mother or McCartney's Ram. "Beurk!" is almost a cross between "Honky Tonk Woman" and "Drive My Car". A Norwegian nursery rhyme (sung by a female from the Oslo-area, if you need to know!) appeared for some reason at the beginning of "Cor Bucolique", before giving way to a slow instrumental for French horn (an instrument frequenty used by Martin Circus), acoustic guitar and birdsong. Throughout there is creative use of studio effects (strange echoes, warbled Leslie-sounds and double-tracking). Most important of all, the songwriting is on a par with several major artists. An unpretentious album, full of happy spirits, that will be mauled by the cynics!
|1||ILOUS & DECUYPER||1971||FLAMOPHONE 33.03|
|A1||ILOUS||1975||FLAMOPHONE 2933 101|
Their only album contained nice, quiet, soft progressive rock. The emphasis lies on melody with tender, high-pitched vocals, sometimes in close duets. Organ is the principal instrument, sharing some classical aspirations with Procol Harum. Arguably, this music is closely related to the softest elements of several late-60's UK groups, such as Soft Machine (Wyatt's "Hope For Happiness"), Pink Floyd (their post-Barrett singles) and The Who (their falsetto vocal pop songs). No other French group I can think of had this attractive, lush, lightness at this time. Tony and Alain Carbonare later played in the folk group Machin.
This is the prime exponent of French blues-rock, closely related to the British late-60's blues-rock boom (as initiated by Alexis Korner and John Mayall). Hearing it for the first time, you'd swear this was a lost UK Decca or Vertigo release. If you'd heard this was a Continental band, your next thought would be to place it in the lowlands, which at least had a healthy blues scene. France? It can't happen there, to paraphrase Frank Zappa. Actually, quite a few French guitar players had an early background playing the blues. Whereas John Mayall's records showcased British up-and-coming guitar stars, Alan Jack's Bluesy Mind belonged to Claude Olmos, imprinting the album with his superb techniques. After the Civilization was ruined (didn't take too long as it was a session group), he joined Magma, which may be another surprise for some, but bear in mind that the man he replaced, Claude Engel, had played blues-rock in Omega Plus.
|1||BLUESY MIND||1969||BYG 529.011|
Not much needs to be said about this million selling artist, beloved and hated as he is. No one will change their view on Jarre, no matter what I write! Few people know his early works, which aren't indicative of his later style (being bland scores for little known movies). Oxygene was the first encounter with electronic music - for Jarre himself and eventually for a large horde of record buyers. In reality it was a good album with many attractive melodic themes. This is not the work of someone wanting to create surrealistic experiments in sound, but of someone adding electronic timbres to his wistful melodies. The use of neanderthal rhythm computers is frequent, giving reviewers reason to label it "synth-boogie". Equinoxe followed the same path with a slightly enlarged heap of equipment. In a way, this music is simple and childlike, but no less valid than serious avant-garde - we need this outlook on life as well. Popular music isn't always bad, but requires a talent for genuine melodies. Over the next decade the growth of available synthesizers and ego gradually numbed Jarre's melodic talent, only to be revitalised (largely due to the self-imposed equipment restrictions) on Oxygene Part 2.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980)
|1||DESERTED PALACE||1973||SAM FOX SF1079|
|2||LES GRANGES BRÛLÉES||1973||EDEN ROC ER 62502|
|3||EQUINOXE||1978||DREYFUS FDM 83150|
These hippies made an album of bland folk-rock (including original songs and cover versions of "Ring Ring", "Sounds Of Silence'', etc.). Unknown to most and it should remain so.
|1||ON THE WAY||1971||NEULLY|
Unlike Gérard Manset, this singer remains very obscure, although there are strong similarities between his album and Manset's La Mort d'Orion, both in the lavish orchestrations and its lyrical content.
Basically, this was a pop group singing lyrics by Boris Bergman (who also wrote for Aphrodite's Child and Emmanuel Booz). Their album contained lightweight songs with frequent use of piano, mellotron and violin. The better moments are reminiscent of late sixties Procol Harum.
|1||JUPITER SUNSET||1970||PATHÉ 2C 064 11238|
This composer worked in the seventies with serial and minimalistic music. His first album was vaguely comparable to Terry Riley with slowly evolving and largely meditative constructions for sax and keyboards.
Osmose was a collaboration with Richard Tinti (a double album where each composer made two sides) aiming for a harmonic association between minimalistic music and the natural sounds of rivers, animals and rain forests (Tinti had made field recordings in South-Eastern Asia). The basic idea is fascinating and the result is fine for background listening or as the ideal backdrop to a TV feature about rain forests. The back cover provided detailed descriptions of the environments where the recordings had been made.
|1||ARIEL||1975||ASTRAL MUSE 9999|
|2||OSMOSE (2LP)||1978||SFP 3.5021/22|
|3||INTERFRÉQUENCE||1979||MP 2000 MP 200|
A duo who played keyboard-based instrumentais comparable to H. J. Roedelius and Eden.
|1||10 GMT||1980||FLVM 3013|
In common with Maajun and their own predecessor Red Noise, Komintern played radical political rock, incorporating anything from revolutionary chants to fairground music. They were similar to other political rock groups in West Germany and Italy, such as Area, Stormy Six, Floh De Cologne and Checkpoint Charlie. Komintern were just as idiosyncratic as these. Their album will not appeal to everybody's taste but will be greatly appreciated by some.
|1||LE BAL DU RAT MORT||1971||HARVEST 2C062-11.774|
Obscure electric folk-rock rumoured to be great (I've seen it compared to the John St. Field album).
Lard Free was a tool for Gilbert Artman's musical experiments, starting with what sounds like King Fripp having his Mahogany Brain squeezed through a Soft Machine. Six tracks of four musicians going through the motions to largely repetitive rhythms. Not entirely successful, but still interesting and certainly worth hearing for the open minded.
I'm Around About Midnight switched to electronics with notable contributions from Richard Pinhas. Arguably this is more interesting than the earliest Heldon album, being more varied and less derivative (of Fripp & Eno, that is). Spirale Malax was a masterpiece - and in effect krautrock made in France. This departure into the deepest corridors of dreams has the same transient magic as Tangerine Dream albums between 1974-75, with equally surreal production where instruments seem to undulate between the speakers. Too bad Gilbert Artman deserted this direction in favour of Urban Sax!
|1||GILBERT ARTMAN'S LARD FREE||1973||VAMP VP 59500|
|2||I'M AROUND ABOUT MIDNIGHT||1975||VAMP VP 59502|
|3||III - SPIRALE MALAX||1977||COBRA COB 37.007|
Many will know Teddy Lasry by his contributions to several Magma albums, although his own albums are far away from zeuhl rock. In return, Lasry makes meditative and repetitive music similar to the hypnotic works of Terry Riley, although using sax and flute in addition to the usual keyboards. Seven Stones was a more animated album with greater use of synthesizers. By now Lasry's relaxed melodic themes were more comparable to Vangelis and Mike Oldfield.
|1||E=MC2||1976||RCA FPL1 0148|
|3||LA FEMME QUI VENAIT D'AILLEURS||1977||SONIMAGE SI 823|
|4||SEVEN STONES||1979||RCA PL 37.257|
|5||INTERPOL||1979||SONIMAGE SI 825|
|A1||CREATIVE POP||1971?||IML 01|
His album might be of interest to some, as it was a period piece of soft psychedelic songs with occasional fuzz guitar, organ and various studio effects.
Didier Lockwood is one of the leading electric violin jazz players in France along with Jean-Luc Ponty. His career in the seventies included ventures such as Abracadabra, Rahmann, Visitors, Magma, Zao and Surya. The listed albums will surely please anyone into vigorous jazz-rock. Befittingly, the album bearing that particular name more or less defines the whole genre - a true classic!
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|1||JAZZ ROCK||1976||ZIG-ZAG 773.001|
|2||NEW WORLD||1979||MFS 2S 068 63048|
This group with French, Italian and English members made one of the jewels in the genre of Celtic folk. Almost all of the material was traditional (French, Irish, British and American), but very tastefully augmented with just a little hint of hippie-folk. Their sound was characterized by the use of traditional stringed instruments and percussion, combined with some floating piano (manipulated). The female vocalist has a fine voice fitting the lively material like a hand in a glove. French members Gérard Lavigne and Gérard Lhomme also played with the pre-Malicorne outfit Pierre de Grenoble.
Machin played electric folk-rock full of joy and folly. Needless to say, the musicianship is impeccable with two ex-members of Iris in their ranks. They mix traditional (violin, mandolin and acoustic) and modern (electric guitar, synthesizers) elements in a typical seventies manner. Alain Carbonare later played progressive rock in the group Würtemberg.
|1||MOI, JE SUIS UN FOLKEUX||1976||FESTIVAL FLD 668|
|2||TOUT FOLKANT||1977||FESTIVAL FLD 681|
|3||RALES FOLK||1978||STERNE STE 26.504|
The group played commercially orientated progressive rock in the style of 10CC or Barclay James Harvest.
|1||SCHOOL OF TIME||1978||CORELIA MAD 001|
The most legendary, influential and original of all French bands (as you already know!) was formed in 1969 by ex-members of Zorgones (Francis Moze, Laurent Thibault and Zabu), Chinese (Christian Vander and Bernard Paganotti), Blues Convention (Klaus Blasquiz) and Omega Plus (Claude Engel). The Zorgones had in fact recorded an album in 1968, but only a single was eventually released. Possibly the whole album will be released some day due to its historical interest.
Magma's unique verbal vision which materialised in the artificial language 'Kobaia' almost happened by accident, when an embryonic version of the (then unnamed) group discovered onoma-topoeia had certain strange effects enhancing both the rhythmic drive and the overall sound. Combined with ravishingly original music as a result of a wide spectrum of influences (John Coltrane, Miles Davis, free jazz, soul, rhythm and blues, Igor Stravinky and Carl Orff) this made Magma the definitive powerhouse of the seventies French rock scene.
The line-up present on Univeria Zekt came together in late 1969 after months of instability. The album was recorded with very limited studio time in April 1970. Not since The Mothers Of Invention's Freak Out had a debut presented a double album revealing such a flourish of original ideas. Klaus (Claude) Blasquiz's vocals, groans and screams made Magma instantly recognisable. Christian Vander was already their musical director with his first classic compositions "Kobaia", "Aïna" and "Stoah". Among the others, Claude Engel's and Laurent Thibault's (who had abandoned the bass and just produced the album) compositions were most noteworthy. However, these directions were not developed on later albums. The adventurous and complex rhythms of Vander were often very unusual, given extra punch by Moze's powerful bass lines. The instrumental variations were dominated by piano, flute and sax. Still Magma's patented "zeuhl" rock wasn't fully developed yet, still sharing some common ground with other early French bands. Their affirmation for early 20th Century European classical music would be much more evident on later albums.
Recording and performing such music didn't ensure a good income and in between the first and second album the members spent several stints as session musicians, among them backing the poets Gilles Elbaz and Jean-Max Brua on their respective 1970 albums. Teddy Lasry also participated on a sound illustration record named Creative Pop (not recommended).
1001 Centigrades (recorded April 1971), severed the remaining links to Anglo-American pop music, being a more difficult and complex work than its predecessor. With new members Jeff Seffer (sax, bass clarinet) and Louis Toesca (trumpet) and a total absence of guitars, Magma's music was closer to progressive jazz than rock. Blasquiz' chanting had become incredibly expressive, acting as the medium of the Kobaian vocals, howling, screaming, singing and speaking in tongues. Again, Vander's composition "Rïah Sahïltaahk" was the centerpiece. Teddy Lasry's "Iss Lanseï Doïa" contained parts that were early examples of chamber rock. The clarinet, sax and flute played anguished, syncopated notes somewhere between jazz, modern classical (Bartok, Stravinsky, etc.) and even gipsy music with Vander attempting to outdo them all with his complex percussion and drums played with a (rock) vengeance. Bass player Moze had a difficult job, as he was supposed to be the stabilizing factor in this inferno!
The resourceful Hungarian Jeff Seffer was a key element in the birth of "zeuhl" rock. He was familiar with both gipsy music and the barbarian elements in some of Stravinsky's and particularly Bartok's works. 1001 Centigrades was the starting point for Seffer's next project Zao and, among several others, the Belgian group Univers Zero (whose leader Daniel Denis was indeed a member of Magma, as second drum player, for a week or two in 1972).
If Magma made such ingenious and unique music, why haven't they been met with universal acclaim in the rock press? This is not surprising given the overwhelming intensity, the blue notes, the incomprehensible language and the whole science fiction plot. The group may be accused for 'its cruelty, its dishonesty, its uselessness, its vulgarity and its lack of humility', which was the prophetic judgement on humanity as printed on a Magma cover. In more than one way, Magma is the rock equivalent of Richard Wagner with similarly dangerous implications.
Their former bass player Laurent Thibault founded the record company Thélème in 1971 and suggested to Christian Vander that Magma should attempt to make a more accessible album. The result was the project Univeria Zekt, originally the name of a Magma support organisation. Also Lionel Ledissez from Ergo Sum had a cameo role on one track (as co-composer and vocalist). Arguably, The Unnamables (released in January 1972) trod the backward path from Magma's debut album to a more commercial jazz-rock, if one excludes some excellent Vander compositions on side two.
1972 was a year of instability for Magma that saw the departure of Francis Moze (joining Gong), Jeff Seffer and Francois Cahen (the two of them creating Zao). Teddy Lasry also left Magma, but participated on their next album. Before that, Giorgio Gomelsky was engaged as Magma's manager. He encouraged Christian Vander to take full artistic control over Magma and work with assorted chosen musicians. The remaining members Vander, Blasquiz and Lasry were reinforced by Jean-Luc Manderlier (a Belgian previously a member of Arkham almong with Daniel Denis), René Garber, Claude Olmos (ex-Alan Jack Civilization, Alice and Coeur Magique), Jannik Top (ex-Troc) and Stella Vander on vocals.
Magma's third album Mekanïk Destruktîw Kommandöh (1973) was the first to be internationally distributed (by A&M in the USA and UK). With an acquired fondness for female choral voices and rhythmically pulsating keyboard ostinatos this brought Vander's broad visions closer to Carl Orff's Carmina Burana than John Coltrane. With Claude Olmos, electric guitars also reappeared on what may be Magma's definitive work, continuously running for 40 minutes ranging from the bombastic to the enchanting. Köhntarkösz (1974) was again closer to jazz with new keyboards players Gérard Bikialo and Michel Graillier and the English guitarist Brian Godding (ex-Blossom Toes). Probably Godding was recommended by Giorgio Gomelsky who had managed his old group. Not as epic or demanding as its predecessor, the album was nevertheless excellent with the bass player Jannick Top literally in top form. The two-part title track fills the majority of the album.
In October 1974, Magma played their last concert for a while in the small formation of Vander, Top, Blasquiz and Bikialo. On 9 February 1975 a new line-up including Vander, Blasquiz, Bernard Paganotti (replacing Top), Gabriel Federow (guitar), Didier Lockwood (the up and coming electric violin virtuoso), Jean-Pol Asseline (keyboards) and Benoit Widemann (second keyboards) made their stage debut. Recordings from Taverne De L'Olympia, Paris, in June 1975,' were used for a double live album. Far from superfluous (as a great deal of live albums tend to be), this gives a new twist to the whole "Kohntark" and older material.
1976's Udü Wüdü was a surprise, as much of the material was not written by Vander, but by the recurring Yannick Top. For a while, there were plans to make Magma a "Vander-Top" collaboration, but eventually this didn't happen. Bernard Paganotti and Patrick Gauthier left Magma in the Summer of 1976 to develop their own compositions in the group Weidorje, named after the best track on Udü Wüdü (recorded before they left). Other tracks are more stylistically diverse, the result of Vander's search for new musical directions, sometimes adding the latest synthesizer fashions (and rhythm computer on the title track). Top's bass performance, qualifying for the title "the French Jaco Pastorius" , was highlighted on his 18-minute "De Futura", although neither this nor the album as a whole was entirely successful.
After the contract with Phonogram had expired after Köhntarkösz, Magma had weary negotiations with other major labels. In a moment of relief, Inedits (1977) was released on the independent Tapioca label. A kind of "official bootleg", this comprised 6 previously unreleased tracks recorded live (with poor technical quality) from 1971 to 1976. It was a release mostly aimed at the "Univeria Zekt" (the Magma term for "fans"). The last Magma album of the decade was Attahk (1978), released after a period of inactivity. In many ways, this was their best since the Mekanik days. Laurent Thibault ensured a technically superb production, Klaus Blasquiz and female backing vocalists were more frequently used and the melodies were easily recognisable. The soul element in Magma's music gained strength (also Otis Redding was among Vander's heroes), and this tendency was exaggerated in a more commercial way on several later albums that alienated the old fans, particularly the horrible Merci. Before that, Retrospektiw Vol. 1 & 2 summed up Magma's seventies career with "Theus Hamtaahk" (not previously released) and "Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh, the 1st and 3rd movements of Vander's magnum opus "Theus Hamtaahk", performed live in Paris at Olympia, June 1980. In case you wonder, the 2nd movement was called "Wurdah Itah" and released as Vander's solo album Tristan et Iseult (1974), the soundtrack to a movie by Yves Lagrande. All this material is excellent and probably composed in 1972/3. Retrospektiw Vol. 3 on the other side represented the more "modem" sound, as captured on "Retrovision", and is less interesting. Magma was without doubt the most important and well-known group from the French progressive movement of the seventies and encouraged countless other bands to explore the boundaries between rock, jazz and classical music. This particular school of "zeuhl" rock is as instantly recognisable as Magma's music itself. No Magma fan should be without the equally thrilling records by Univers Zero and Art Zoyd.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1983):
|1||UNIVERIA ZEKT (2LP)||1970||PHILIPS 6395 001/2|
|2||MAGMA 2||1971||PHILIPS 6397 031|
|2||1001 CENTIGRADES||1971||PHILIPS 9101 286|
|3||MEKANÏK DESTRUKTÏW KOMMANDÖH||1973||VERTIGO 6499 729|
|4||KÖHNTARKÖSZ||1974||VERTIGO AML 68260|
|6||ÜDÜ WÜDÜ||1976||RCA FPL1 7332|
|7||INÉDITS||1977||TAPIOCA TP 10.001|
|9||RETROSPECTIVE VOL. 3||1981||RCA PL 37481|
|10||RETROSPECTIVE VOL. 1 & 2||1981||RCA PL 37497|
|B1||FIESTA IN DRUMS||1973||PALM 003|
|B2||TRISTAN ET ISEULT||1974||BARCLAY 80.528|
|.||RICHARD RAUX & HAMSA||1975||FIESTA 360.068|
His albums are comparable to Vangelis and Mike Oldfield, being instrumental "picture music" evoking flights over exotic landscapes. Not surprisingly, Michel Magne has made several movie soundtracks, some of them also committed to vinyl. La Terre and L'eau were from a never finished (as far as I know) quadrology based on the antique lore about the four elements.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|1||TOUT LE MONDE IL EST BEAU||1973 BARCLAY 80.460 U|
|2||MOSHÉ-MOUSE CRUCIFIXION||1975||SONOPRESSE 679 632|
|2||LA TERRE||1978||EGG 90.187|
Formed as Maajun, they started as a radical political rock group as a vehicle for agitative lyrics (spoken or sung). They may be seen as the French equivalent of Floh De Cologne or Henry Cow and actually sound much like a cross between these groups, adding their curious reworkings of traditional songs. The modification of their name into Mahjun also marked a change towards more accessible music, now more in line with Mothers Of Invention, Zappa's later jazz-rock efforts and the British group, East Of Eden. The eponymous 1973 album is generally agreed to be their finest work and is recommended. Lefebvre's violin work is excellent on all three albums, though.
|1||VIVRE LA MORT DU VIEUX MONDE||1971||VOGUE SLVX 545|
|2||MAHJUN||1973||SARAVAH SH 10.040|
|3||FILS Á COLIN-MAILLARD||1974||SARAVAH SH 10.047|
|4||HAPPY FRENCH BAND||1977||GRATTE CIEL 2005|
|A1||MUSIQUES FRANCAISE ET AMERICAINE DE LA MEME EPOQUE||1976||CEZAME 1023|
|A2||COCAINE BLUES||1978||FLEAU 7001|
Under the leadership of Michel Bulteau, this "group" played anarchic free-rock that could be quite disturbing at times. With/When (1971) came out in a totally black fold-out cover. Smooth Sick Lights (1976) contained recordings made one afternoon in 1972. Both albums are rubbish in my opinion, sounding musically incompetent as if they had just picked up their instruments for the first time.
|1||WITH/WHEN||1971||FUTURA RED 02|
|2||SMOOTH SICK LIGHTS||1976||PÔLE 0013|
The first concept album Jean Pierre Masierra ever made. He is later known for projects such as Horrific Child and Visitors. This early album featured many of the same musicians, including André Ceccarelli and Jean-Claude Chavanat.
|1||MALEDICTUS SOUND||1968||SEM 001|
Malicorne were the Fairport Convention of French folk-rock when it comes to the renewal of traditional material from their homeland (but also Canadian and other material). On the other hand, Malicorne were able to maintain a stable line-up and sound throughout the seventies. The early Malicorne albums are faithful to French folklore with only sparse use of electric instruments, vaguely similar to Steeleye Span's first album. Gabriel and Marie Yacoub had previously played with Alan Stivell and Pierre De Grenoble. Gabriel's nasal voice was well fitted to the old material, giving it a kind of timeless feel (but Marie and the other members also did lead vocals on certain tracks). Gradually Malicorne used more percussion and vital rhythms, but they always remained closer to folk than rock. If you enjoy such music you can't go wrong purchasing any of these excellent albums. L'Extraordinaire Tour de France (not a live album) and En Public á Montreal (but this is) have greatest variety in the arrangements and thus the widest appeal.
|1||MALICORNE 1||1974||HEXAGONE 883.002|
|2||MALICORNE 2||1975||HEXAGONE 883.004|
|4||MALICORNE 4||1977||HEXAGONE 883.015|
|6||L'EXTRAORDINAIRE TOUR DE FRANCE||1978||BALLON NOIR 13.006|
|7||EN PUBLIC Á MONTREAL||1979||BALLON NOIR 13.010|
|8||LE BESTIAIRE||1979||BALLON NOIR 13.012|
|A1||PIERRE DE GRENOBLE||1973||BARCLAY 920.429|
|B1||FONDS DE TIROIR 1967||1979||BALLON NOIR 13.011|
|C1||TRAD. ARR.||1978||BALLON NOIR 13.004|
Their album was released in the early eighties but still contained excellent traditional folk songs!
|1||MALUZERNE||1981||CHANT DU MONDE LXX 74757|
Manset is a singer, poet, composer and orchestrator with a most honourable status among French artists. He is the archetypical French poet with a perfectionist attitude towards both words and music. Consequently, Manset was a real trendsetter in the seventies with La Mort D'Orion (1970) widely regarded as a milestone of French "rock" (not really an adequate term but "a poem cycle set to nicely orchestrated popular music in a long running and characteristically French musical tradition" seems far too cumbersome). You need at least this album of Manset to understand the French scenario of the seventies (even if you don't comprehend the language). His very first album from 1968 was very different from all later efforts, comprising short pop melodies with strong hints of psychedelia and experimental music. Definitely a charming period piece.
|1||GÉRARD HANSET||1968||ODEON SLOX 340.784|
|2||LA MORT D'ORION||1970||PATHÉ 2C064 12268|
|3||LONG, LONG CHEMIN||1972||PATHÉ 2C062 12342|
|4||Y'A UNE ROUTE||1975||PATHÉ 2C062 13038|
|5||RIEN À RACONTER||1976||PATHÉ 2C070 14281|
|6||2870||1978||PATHÉ 2C068 14482|
|7||ROYAUME DE SIAM||1979||PATHÉ 2C068 14721|
Something of a cult figure in France, Albert Marcoeur is virtually unknown elsewhere. He is a very idiosyncratic artist, creating a musical universe where only his own rules are in force. One could say that he is the French Captain Beefheart, Henry Cow, Area or Frank Zappa, with complex music, sometimes humourous, at other times very serious. We are confronted by Marcoeur - the musical chameleon, always changing his patterns, so we never know exactly where to find him. The music is demanding and very inventive. Highly recommended for the adventurous listener. Try Album A Colorier (1976) for a starter.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|1||ALBERT MARCOEUR||1974||WEA 40.546|
|2||ALBUM A COLORIER||1976||WEA 50.215|
|3||ARMES ET CYCLES||1979||PHILIPS 9101 210|
A female folk singer from Britanny with a good voice but rather conventional songs.
|1||FEMME DE SABLE ET D'EAU||1978||CHANT DU MONDE|
On Le Monde En Etages (recorded in 1969 but apparently not released until 1970), Alain Markusfeld clearly hadn't yet decided whether to be a poet in the style of Gerard Manset or a creamy late sixties guitar hero (favouring understatement rather than guitar onslaught). The result is highly rewarding, combining poetic rock (reflective French lyrics) with a powerful, late psychedelic edge. Surely this deserves more attention from heavy progressive collectors who fancy, say, Omega Plus combined with the approach of Pete Brown. Le Son Tombé Du Ciel marked a significant change of direction, focusing more on Markusfeld's instrumental abilities as a guitar player. It was produced by Laurent Thibault at Strawberry and Chateau D'Herouville. The 9-minute title track was a slow jazz-rocker with ethnic / psychedelic overtones and strange electric guitar parts. Other parts of the album ranged from the rural, acoustic Theleme" to the frantic "Jubal" with distorted vocals (almost predating the sound of Nyl). The album is very short (at just 27 minutes in total) but still quite rewarding. Both these albums, released on Barclay, are very difficult to find nowadays. His later albums on Egg contain an interesting fusion of guitar-based jazz-rock and ethnic music (both Arabic and from the Far East). This might be compared to Steve Tibbets and Mike Oldfield (minus his symphonic leanings). The tracks are strong on melodies and have lots of virtuoso acoustic guitar and rapid, hand-beaten percussion. When Alain picks up his electric guitar, the result is more conventional jazz-rock. He is a talented musician, always playfully manoeuvring between different musical genres.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|1||LE MONDE EN ETAGES||1970||BARCLAY XBLY 920 179|
|2||LE SON TOMBÉ DU CIEL||1971||BARCLAY XBLY 920 327|
|3||LE DÉSERT NOIR||1977||EGG 900 528|
|4||PLATOCK||1978||EGG 900 556|
|5||CONTEMPORUS||1979||EGG 900 581|
Along with Triangle and Systeme Crapoutchik, this group were among the earliest to use their native language in rock. Unusually enough their first album was recorded live and included fine renditions of their early singles. This music is embryonic progressive rock, being an amalgam of influences ranging from Traffic (second album), Soft Machine (first album), Family, Blood, Sweat & Tears, The Beatles and Procol Harum, with some hints of jazz, soul and classical music. Basically on offer are great compositions within the traditional song format (remember this is only 1969), occasionally with the novelty feature of flourishing bugle fanfares. Many later groups learned a lot from this album and indeed Martin Circus' theatrical live performances. Pisani reveals himself to be an excellent soloist on many instruments, Borowski and Dietsch being second and third in the instrumental hierarchy. Two years later it was time for Acte II by a revamped Martin Circus. This was their major work and a lot of care went into the arrangements of the songs. Arguably, this was a French parallel to the Canterbury-sound (or vice versa), using elements from jazz to create intelligent rock not hampered by excessive improvisation. Both albums are recommended for those wishing to understand French rock history.
|1||EN DIRECT DU ROCK'N'ROLL CIRCUS||1969||VOGUE SLVX 428|
|2||ACTE II||1971||VOGUE SLVX 595|
|3||ACTE III||1974||VOGUE LDY 28014|
|4||ROCK'N'ROLL CIRCUS||1977||VOGUE LDY 20294|
This acoustic guitar duo made an album of repetitive music, based on influences like Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Phillip Glass.
|1||GUITARS DERIVE||1976||SHANDAR 83516|
This was a non de plume for Dashiell Hedayat (whose real name was Jack-Alain Leger in fact). For more detail please look at his entry.
|1||LA DEVANTURE DES IVRESSES||1969||ARION 30-T-079|
On Come Fly With Me, the group played progressive rock with strong classical overtones, in the tradition of Genesis, Sandrose and Earth & Fire. There are strange phasing effects (courtesy of producer Philippe Besombres) and unusually soul-tinged English vox (not unlike Aretha Franklin). The album should appeal to lovers of symphonic music looking for a more adventurous sound.
Yesterlife contained more mainstream progressive rock which I judge to be too commercial and unimaginative (though some other reviewers like it).
|1||COME FLY WITH ME||1976||PÔLE 0011|
A group with a lush symphonic sound, almost like a cross between King Crimson, Genesis and Moody Blues, although with distinct French undercurrents (as pioneered by Ange).
Their first album is the best one, and the second the rarest.
|1||ET APRÉS||1976||EURODISC 913 084|
|2||L'ECUME DES JOURS||1979||PHILIPS 9101 265|
A group playing medieval folk with traditional instruments. They often contracted large suites out of isolated small pieces (usually dating from the 14* to the 16th Centuries). Les Menestriers might have little to do with the seventies rock scene, but will serve as excellent background material for those seriously interested in folk-rock and its origins (and the music is really beautiful!).
|2||IL ETAIT UNE FILETTE||1972||CAVALIER|
|4||VIVE HENRI IV||1973||CAVALIER|
|5||CHANSON LEGERE A ENTENDRE||1974||CAVALIER|
|6||HAS TU POINT VU||1975||CAVALIER|
|7||MANDRIN||1976||CHAND DU MONDE|
A multi-instrumentalist playing soft music in a similar manner to Vangelis and H. J. Roedelius (although with more use of guitars).
|2||MUSIC FROM FRANCE||1979||POLYDOR 2393 228|
A group playing melodic progressive rock with a lush character reminiscent of early Genesis, Moody Blues, Cressida, Rare Bird and Fruupp. Still Metabolisme have their own distinctive character and used French lyrics. The five long tracks have convincing melodies, pleasant vocal harmonies and good use of the dynamic range. Among the better bands from the second half of the seventies and clearly Metabolisme were victims of the changing fashions of the time.
|1||TEMPUS FUGIT||1977||CRYPTO ZAL 6413|
The album was centered around recitations of poems by Gilles Elbaz, Guy Demaysoncel, Jacques Brel and Arhur Rimbaud. The backing consisted of guitars, organ, synthesizer, percussion, bass and drums.
|1||LE BATEAU IVRE||1979||FLVM 3005|
An album of free-jazz with elements of African ethnic music.
|1||GLUCOSE CONFECTIONNERA||1971||FUTURA GER 28|
Quiet folk-rock sometimes recalling Gryphon. Also featuring the famous Dan Ar Bras.
|1||SPICE OF LIFE||197?||PRIVATE PRESS|
"Rock theatre" was a very popular medium of entertainment among French audiences in the seventies. It is well known that Peter Gabriel's electrifying performances with Genesis had a huge impact in this respect, but Ange too was a group with an unique vision and their own original ideas.
This group from Orleans belonged to the French 'rock theatre school', as initiated by Ange. Possibly Mona Lisa was the most artistically successful among the early pioneers (they formed as early as 1970).
L'Escapade (recorded at Citadel Studios in October 1974) was a competent debut album, but marred by a rather thin and tinny sound. It was produced by the guitarist from Ange, Jean-Michel Brezovar (being his first attempt at such a job). Musically this only hinted at things to come, with obvious Genesis influences throughout, particularly on the Hackett-style guitar parts. Other features were an uncommon organ sound and Dominique Le Guennec's passionate (sometimes even disturbing) vocals and flute. Overall, the album sounds only half formed and a bit unfocused, as if their ideas were not recorded on the tape the way they were intended.
Not satisfied with their debut album, Mona Lisa recorded Grimaces at Azurville Studios in September 1975, aided by Jean-Pierre Massiera and Bernard Belan. Their sound had now matured considerably with much more variation in the use of instruments, higher intensity and more memorable musical themes. The vocalist had now developed a very distinctive, loud and expressive style. Listening to the songs it's easy to imagine Le Guennec acting in some outrageous costume (like he did in their popular live performances). The album is full of musical highlights, such as "Le Jardin Des Illusions" and "Accroche-Toi Et Suis-Moi". It's easy to assume they were influenced by Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, released the previous year.
Even so, Mona Lisa were capable of improving on a very good album. Their third one was their masterpiece, equalling the best works of Ange and Genesis on the title track (a suite of three pieces filling the whole of side two). This was due to carefully constructed compositions and a more accessible sound. The group worked on the album for several months with Massiera and Belan engineering. Recommended listening.
|2||GRIMACES||1975||ARCANE 913 050|
|3||LE PETIT VIOLON DE MR. GREGOIRE||1977||CRYPTO ZAC 6402|
|4||AVANT QU'IL NE SOIT TROP GARD||1978||CRYPTO ZAL 6440|
|5||VERS DEMAIN||1979||CRYPTO ZAL 6483|
A quiet folk album released on the highly collectable Ballon Noir label. Please see the Malicorne entry.
|1||FONDS DE TIROIR 1967||1979||BALLON NOIR BAL 13011|
This folk-rock trio from Brittany played their own rural songs, clearly influenced by Crosby, Stills & Nash and the like. The material is as cosy and warm as camp fire music with some beautiful moments but also a few uninteresting efforts. The tracks have either English or French lyrics. Dan Ar Bras (as he later preferred to be called) later become Alan Stivell's guitarist, before he made some commendable solo albums.
|1||STATIONS||1973||THÉLÈME 6332 751|
A bunch of American hippies who spent their recording career in France playing music totally in line with the European scene. Great Wall Of China is a great album, a period piece of nonconformist hippie folklore influenced by the creative zenith (1967-69) of Incredible String Band and Dr. Strangely Strange. However, the use of cello and fragments of classical music gave Mormos their own character.
The Magic Spell Of Mother's Wraith (1972) saw the group reduced to a quartet of Williams, Cuomo, Mansfield and Delman. Their naivety had disappeared, resulting in much less interesting good time camp fire music (picking up elements from acoustic jazz, folk, bluegrass, country and gospel). An instrumental configuration of acoustic guitar, clarinet, piano and harmonica was now favoured.
|1||GREAT WALL OF CHINA||1971||CBS 64430|
|2||THE MAGIC SPELL OF MOTHER'S WRATH||1972||CBS 64979|
|A1||CA DOIT ETRE BIEN||1971||CBS 64558|
|B1||MAITRO THE TRUFFLE MAN||1974||SARAVAH|
A little known group who played experimental jazz-rock, influenced by the more experimental Canterbury sounds and early 20th Century classical music (as reincarnated in "zeuhl" rock) with a bit of Faust thrown in. The 9 tracks veer from the violent to the sombre, from the dadaistic to the psychedelic and from complex ensemble playing to soft duets for cello and acoustic guitar. The music has a rich variety of moods and never pushed too far towards the atrocious. In short, a very good album worthy of much more attention. The band is also rumoured to have recorded an album in 1976 that remains unreleased.
The British guitar player Ian Jelfs had previously played in Circus along with Mel Collins of King Crimson fame. M.O.T.U.S. are one of those French groups strongly influenced by the British progressive scene (along with Total Issue and Alice), and featured English lyrics sung by Jelfs. If you can imagine something between early Caravan and Traffic, this group come quite close! This should appeal to those who like the combination of powerful organ and guitar plus well-written songs. Ian Jelfs later played in the second line-up of Alice.
|1||MACHINE OF THE UNIVERSAL SPACE||1972||CONNECTION 69.562|
This guitar player made an album almost exclusively made by multi-tracking his electric guitar . At times it comes close to Manuel Göttsching's well-known Inventions For Electric Guitar, although it is less repetitive and cosmic. Moulinie's style also picks up a trick or two from Gong's Steve Hillage and Daevid Allen, with its frequent use of glissando.
|1||CHRYSALIDE||1978||CRYPTO ZAL 6441|
Despite their short career, Moving Gelatine Plates (MGP) are one of the definitive French groups, born as a result of the student riots of May 1968 and adapting their name from a novel by Steinbeck. The first album (recorded in March 1970) also had its share of revolutionary content, being a perfect fusion of Soft Machine's dadaistic peak (Volume II), the playful Zappa (of We're Only In It For The Money and Uncle Meat) with even a bit of powerful hallucinogenics (and subsequent neurosis) resembling the earliest Amon Düül II and Gong. Their compositions were jigsaws of countless melodical themes others would have based their entire output on. Electric guitars and organ were augmented by sax, flute and trumpets with some studio effects and prerecorded tapes thrown in. Capturing a sound revolution in 37 minutes makes this nothing short of a classic album among the ten best from France. Not content with this, MGP created 450 themes for The World Of Genius Hans, recorded in Paris in December 1971. Sharing the eclectic nature of their first, this is yet more retrospective and calculated, glancing back at the glorious days of 1968-69 with hindsight. Sadly, the underground music scene had almost disappeared when the record was released in 1972, exchanging delirious visions for delusion. This lack of commercial success left MGP starving and eventually forced several members to sell off their gear. A sad end to a great band! Only Thibault remained relatively active, forming a new band named Moving. Their music was more accessible (using vocals frequently and more closely resembling the mid-seventies melodic Canterbury sound, and only occasionally hinting at the adventurous music of the past.
|1||MOVING GELATINE PLATES||1971||CBS 64399|
|2||THE WORLD OF GENIUS HANS||1972 CBS 64146|
Despite the Italian name, this trio probably wasn't Italian but French. They made free music in a style quite similar to the German group Limbus 4. On offer are nonsensical groans and chants, weird spoken messages, rambling percussion and noisy electronics resembling defective FM radios. If these albums have any importance in the history of popular music, then it is because they mark the first time anyone could do what he (or she) liked for 35 minutes and still get away with it, due to the open-mindedness (some would say mindlessness) of the era. The two pieces included on Leave The City are entitled "Message" and "Cosmic Communion", if you catch the drift. This is preferable to MTV and might do wonders for your next home party (if the guests include philosophy students and Martians). Charlatans or men of genius - the listener decides himself. Certainly very interesting for fans of the uncom-promising avant-garde.
|2||THE SOUND POOL||1969||BYG 529 327|
|3||LEAVE THE CITY||1970||BYG 529 335|
A little known, but reputedly excellent jazz-rock album in a style reminiscent of Spheroe, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever. The singer had previously played with Ergo Sum.
|1||LE VENT DE L'ESPRIT SOUFFLE OÙ IL VEUT||1978||IPG 270.002|
This group could be seen as a fusion of the groups Ergo Sum and Cruciferius (adding the drummer Clement Bailly from Tryptique). Like these bands, Nemo used English lyrics and played dynamic jazz-rock with some hints of "zeuhl" rock in the throbbing bass lines. In other places the cool funky electric piano and ethnic hand percussion are not unlike 70's Santana. Nemo emphasized rock melodies, though, offering a couple of gems among the 8 tracks. These range from the straight-forward hippie-rock of "Straight Man" to the reflective instrumental "Grandeur Et Misere Du Perou". Not among the really top albums but still worth investigation due to excellent musicianship.
|1||NEMO||1973||SONOPRESSE AG 35702|
An overlooked group from Moselle that deserve greater attention. They were originally (in 1975) known as Neo-Hysterics but soon shortened their name. Unable to attract major labels, Neo recorded and released their album on their own (1,000 copies were pressed). Their music was an interesting and dynamic mixture of symphonic rock and jazz-rock. Some parts recalled Camel, combining as it does string ensembles and vigorous electric guitar. They showed a lot of talent but passed by unnoticed in the days of new wave.
|1||NEO||1980||PRODISC STRASBOURG PS 380 110|
The Nyl album consists of unpolished, powerful and exciting, guitar-oriented material. It's similar to the German heavy psychedelic space-rock of Amon Düül II, Ash Ra Tempel and Guru Guru, although more disciplined and melodic. The duo was augmented by several well-known musicians from Magma, Ame Son, Schizo and Pop Instrumental de France. All of it is excellent stuff and quite unusual in style for a French group. Recently Legend Music has released a CD of live and rehearsal tapes by Nyl's predecessors Cheval Fou with the bass player Stephan Rossine. These recordings are in a more pronounced psychedelic vein, strongly influenced by Amon Düül II and Pink Floyd's interstellar explorations. This would be an essential purchase if only the technical quality was better. It's still worth hearing for fans of the aforementioned groups.
|A1||CHEVAL FOU (1970-75)||1994||LEGEND LM 9004|
|A2||NIL LIVE/STUDIO||1994||LEGEND LM 9003|
Originally a quintet, this group had shrunk down to a trio by the time of their rare album Premiére Vision De L'Etrange. It consisted of four instrumental tracks with pseudo-intellectual titles such as "M2C" (8:30) and "Cycles Cosmiques" (9:30). The music sounds a bit uncomfortable with puzzling developments played with all the warmth of a Saturnian Summer. Apparently this was played live in a studio, mostly on synthesizer, bass and drums only (causing a weary sigh after 35 minutes). Perhaps it could be compared to Egg's Ian Stewart making inauspicious and morbid sounds with Crimson's John Wetton and Bill Bruford. Although the instrumentation is different, this music is also similar in some ways to Lagger Blues Machine and Univers Zero. Obviously a noteworthy album for those who salute intellectual coldness.
|1||PREMIÈRE VISION DE L'ÉTRANGE||1978||CALYPSIA CAL 78010|
Their album of loud hard rock has recently been hyped on the collector's market but contains nothing really worthwhile. For completists only.
|1||GOD'S CLOWN||1977||CRYPTO ZAL 6416|
This trio led by Claude Engel made a legendary album . Just 1,000 copies were pressed in 1969. Side one had 5 short songs with English lyrics, ranging from heavy progressive blues-rock to largely acoustic songs (comparable to Cream and Blind Faith). Claude Engel's voice is also quite similar to Jack Bruce's. The other side had a long live track named "Voyelles", based on a poem by Arthur Rimbaud, including a recitation. This is the primal scream of "zeuhl" rock, in a very raw and rudimentary form that quite a few will interpret as vaguely planned three man jamming. Overall the album is undoubtedly historical, but not entirely satisfying for all that.
|1||HOW TO KISS THE SKY||1969||PITCH 3001|
This is the work of another poet. On Lettre D'Ocre he is helped by several prestigious musicians from Speed Limit and Magma. Together they create a dark and anguished atmosphere in which the spoken word dominates. These albums are not recommended.
|1||LETTRE D'OCRE (2LP)||1977||UNITELEDIS 19.776|
|2||ANTILOPE I||1979||SPALAX 8.6812|
A little known group in the tradition of Ange and Mona Lisa, but with slight "zeuhl" elements from Magma and Weidorje. Their concept album L'Homme-Voilier (1979) was superbly produced by Laurent Thibault
Their album consists of easily accessible melodic symphonic rock inspired by Genesis, Yes and Camel. It is one of the better efforts in a field full of competition, largely due to good vocals. Short on originality, but still quite attractive.
|1||OPEN AIR||1977||AUVIDIS AV 4161|
Virtually no one has heard of this group, which included Gilbert Artman, Jacques Berrocal and Magma-members. This is improvised free-jazz, and you may take that as a warning or invitation! There is a slight possibility that parts of this material were re-released on CD recently as previously unreleased early Lard Free material.
|1||FETE DE POLITIQUE HEBDO||1972||EXPRESSION SPONTANEE ES 42|
This group was formed by Michel Bonnecarrere after he left Zoo. Both albums by Ophiucus are fine pop-rock albums rooted in the sixties tradition of short tracks with quite good tunes. However, you will still recognise this instantly as an early seventies offering with lush and rural atmospheres overall (sometimes close to folk-rock a la Ilous & Decuyper). The quality ranges from average to excellent with quite a few gems packed with expressive vocals, acoustic guitars and some tasteful string arrangements. There are even glimpses of psychedelic and progressive rock. Overall, this is certainly worth hearing.
|2||SALADE CHINOISE||1973||BARCLAY 80.495|
A group with a rather "traditional" French approach to progressive and symphonic rock, obviously inspired by Ange, Atoll and Mona Lisa. Their only album included mid-length songs with French lyrics, guitars, synthesizer and flute. The most interesting parts have slightiy baroque folk elements in the style of Ripaille (though not as good). The group entered the scene a few years too late and consequently failed to establish a significant reputation.
|1||LA NATURE VIT, L'HOMME LUI CRITIQUE||1979||OXYGENE OXY 025|
The well-known rock critic (in France that is) Hervé Picart made this album under the artist name Ose, helped by his mentors Richard Pinhas and Francois Auger. Understandably, the result is sophisticated electronic music, which was more accessible than Heldon (probably due to additional influences from Tangerine Dream). Picart should have made more albums of this pulsating and slowly developing music. In my opinion this is in the same class as Pinhas's best solo album Iceland.
An obscure poet with an equally obscure album of eccentric rantings accompanied by some wild electric guitars.
Pantincruel played mildly experimental jazz-rock inspired by Albert Marcoeur and Etron Fou Le Loublan.
ALBUM (UP TO 1980):
|1||J'Y RETOURNE IMMÉDIATEMENT||1979||CC 79.148|
Parrenin was is one of the most respected French folk-singers, who equalled the status of Sandy Denny or Mandy Morton in Great Britain. Together with her husband Phil Fromont, she made several albums under different names, which can be a bit confusing. There might be even more albums than those listed.
The early albums, such as Le Maumariée (1975, label says 1974), feature only traditional instruments and it's difficult to tell the difference between their original compositions and the traditional adaptations. Chateau Dans Les Nuages (1976) sounds more exotic and allows Parrenin's voice to excel over a rich array of stringed instruments (including some Arabian ones). Her main instrument is the vielle a roue, an antique relative of the violin.
Maison Rose (1977) is a revelation of a folk album with songs of incredible beauty and innovative arrangements, it features traditional instruments you've hardly ever heard before and sometimes touches of the avant-garde. This is far from the conventional "chanteuse" album - several tracks had unique introspective and meditative characters. Above all this, Parrenin is a very expressive singer with a good voice. Play this album directly after some other randomly chosen female folk album and you will soon notice the difference! This is one of the best!.
ALBUM (WITHOUT A PROPER ARTIST CREDIT):
|1||CHANTS À RÉPONDRE ET À DANSER||1974||CHANT DU MONDE|
|2||LA MAUMARIÉE||1975||SONOPRESSE 36600|
|3||BALLADES ET CHANSONS TRADITIONELLES FRANÇAISES||1975||CHANT DU MONDE|
|4||BELLE TON AMOUR ME MENE||1976||CHANT DU MONDE 74641|
|5||CHÂTEAU DANS LES NUAGES||1976||CEZAME CEZ 1016|
|6||MAISON ROSE||1977||BALLON NOIR 13001|
|7||MUSIQUE D'AUVERGNE||1979||CEZAME CEZ 1007|
Their two albums were quite different: Pataphonie was a crotchety venture into avant-garde territory with two remarkably quiet (but highly dissonant) pieces of spontaneousness. The much rarer Le Matin Blanc was a fine jazz-rock album halfway between the Canterbury-sound and the "zeuhl" fascination for classical music at the turn of this Century.
|2||LE MATIN BLANC||1979||FÉERIMUSIC 178|
This is pedestrian instrumental jazz-rock with a strong percussive backing, giving it a Latin American feel. Apart from that, it isn't far away from the good-natured Canterbury jazz-rock sound. It is a nice album for background listening.
|1||OVERTURES||1978||COBRA COB 37.016|
This vocalist had once been in Tac Poum Systeme, a group best known for their two legendary singles and a good contribution to the "Groovy Pop Session" compilation. The privately released Puzzle album came in a black/white cover and is of interest mainly to completists only. The female vocals are in the folk/chanteuse style, although the arrangements were quite symphonic in the style of Ange and Mona Lisa.
|1||FERNANDO PENA & PUZZLE||197?||CENTAUR 20698|
The group came from Belfort in the East of France. Ruez and Roy had previously played together in The Wolfs (along with Claude Demet) and Octopus (along with Alain Chagnot, an early Ange member). Menetrier had played in Les Incredules with Daniel Haas. Only months after Pentacle's formation, in July 1974, they secured a contract with Arcane. La Clef Des Songes (1975) was produced by Ange leader Christian Decamps. Although Ange was undoubtedly a strong influence, the music of Pentacle was less theatrical and more poetic. The keyboards are dominant with particularly good use being made of the Moog synthesizer. None of the six tracks were outstanding but all are certainly worth a spin. Disillusioned by the music business, Pentacle broke up in 1976.
|1||LA CLEF DES SONGES||1975||ARCANE 913001|
Some of you might be familar with Yochk'o Seffer's albums with Zao. His own group Perception was vaguely similar but far more improvised and wild! The first two albums are very rare - Perception & Friends (1972) probably had a printing of only 300 copies with a handmade cover. Mestari (1974) was a live album recorded in November 1973.
|1||PERCEPTION||1971||FUTURA GER 019|
|2||PERCEPTION & FRIENDS||1972||ADMI 01|
|3||MESTARI||1974||CHANT DU MONDE 74555|
This musician always sought a synthesis between classical music, jazz and popular music. Under the name Aleph he released two singles in 1970, neither of which were really convincing. Pop Instrumental De France stressed jazz and popular music ingredients. The material had a kind of lounge room feel - easy going stuff, but by no means bad. In addition to his own compositions, the album contained a good version of Zappa's "Mr. Green Genes" (an organ version, in contrast to Ponty's electric violin version on his album King Kong). His self-titled album was more serious jazz in the style of Rhesus O and Soft Machine. Here he was helped by very competent musicians: Teddy Lasry (of Magma, Creative Pop), Bernard Lubat (of Creative Pop) and Michel Guyot. The live album was different again. Here Petitgerard conducted some of his classical compositions for orchestra and choir, and it is of limited interest.
|1||POP INSTRUMENTAL DE FRANCE||1971||VOGUE 17.002|
|2||LAURENT PETITGERARD||1972||LOUIS ALBERTI 140500|
|3||ENREGISTREMENT PUBLIC 12 OCTOBRE 1975||1975||LOUIS ALBERTI LA 17003|
This was the precursor to Malicorne and the album contains nice adaptations of traditional folk songs.
|1||PIERRE DE GRENOBLE||1973||BARCLAY 920.429|
Pinhas, the leader of Heldon, also made several solo albums as a result of a deal with Cobra. They usually contain electronic music of a less brutal nature than Heldon. Rhizosphere contained sequencer-ridden tracks that sound remarkably dated these days. They are probably only interesting to his hardcore fans and those studying the evolution of electronic music and the limitations of Revox home recording.
Chronolyse was recorded earlier, but released as his second solo album in 1978. Half of it was recorded live on a Moog synthesizer, indicating its intimate nature. The other half was recorded with the other Heldon members, making it vaguely more interesting. Richard Pinhas obviously put a bit more energy into Iceland (1979), as it marked the end of Heldon and the true start of his solo career.
At the start of the eighties Pinhas attempted to record an album of wider appeal [East West), but with mixed results.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1982):
|1||RHIZOSPHERE||1977||COBRA COB 37.005|
|2||CHRONOLYSE||1978||COBRA COB 37.015|
|3||ICELAND||1980||POLYDOR 2393 254|
|4||EAST WEST||1980||CBS 84787|
|5||L'ETHIQUE||1982||PULSE 006 (UK)|
This group played eccentric jazz-rock, sometimes comparable to Etron Fou Leloublan.
|1||PUT DU JOUR||1977||SPEEDBALL 1.002|
An obscure early minor label release whose content is self-explanatory.
|1||HARD ROCK'N'ROLL LIVE||1970||CARABINE|
Pôle was the project name for abstract, minimalistic ambient sounds. Kotrill was almost exclusively a collection of sparse electro-acoustic sounds in very slow loops, with some added noises and bird whistles. It is not far removed from the group Cluster in 1973, only in slow motion.
Inside The Dream contained wobbling guitar, a repetitive backing and a brief, lazily sung segment on side one's title track and only ARP 2600 synthesizer on side two.
|2||INSIDE THE DREAM||1975||PÔLE 0002|
An early attempt to make a concept album, merging orchestral music with avant-garde and psychedelics. The highlight of the album was "Aurore Cosmic" that opened calmly with sitar and tablas but ended in a wild psychedelia jam. The music was created by William Sheller and Francois Wertheimer.
Please see the entry for Laurent Petitgerard.
|1||POP INSTRUMENTALE DE FRANCE||1971||VOGUE|
Popp's album is a top rarity with a rather strange story. Popp was apparently a classical composer who suddenly wanted to make a "pop-album" (no pun intended!). He assembled some of the best session musicians in France at the time, including Jean-Pierre Alarcen. The result was a nice period piece, comparable to Eden Rose, Maledictus Sound and Sandrose.
|1||LE COEUR EN FETE||1969||DISC AZ|
Potemkine were one of the most sophisticated jazz-rock bands in France in the mid-seventies. On Foetus they used a similar approach to Zao on their first album, but with electric violin substituted for saxophone. The mood was more relaxed than anguished. Their later albums were similar in the use of the softer "zeuhl" elements. Nicolas II had a stronger rhythmical flavour than their previous effort.
These albums are fine examples of French melodic instrumental jazz-rock played in a small ensemble and recommended if you enjoy Zao.
|3||NICOLAS II||1978||PHAETON 7801|
France's premier symphonic space rock band first appeared with the track "Pulsar" on Groovy Pop Session in 1972. At that time their raw-edged style was somewhat derivative of vintage Ange and Pink Floyd. Three years later, Pulsar had developed their own style, characterized by slow tempos, very low bass notes, economic drumming (much like Nick Mason), strangely distorted lead guitars, multiple (almost orchestral) synthesizer textures, softly plodding flutes (close to Mel Collins) and sparse vocals (sometimes spoken). The debut album's five tracks radiate romantic, futuristic, majestic and relaxed atmospheres. Like other bands (Eloy and Wallenstein), Pulsar had found their own version of space rock, adding both symphonic, electronic and psychedelic elements. The first album might be a bit too soporific for some. Others might dislike the limited dynamic range of the vocalist, who did not always in sing perfect tune.
The Strands Of The Future (1976) followed in a similar vein, reaching new heights on the 20-minute title track, boosted by multiple mellotrons and sensitive, larger musical structures (as in classical symphonic music). The healthy French sales of Pulsar's second album (40,000 copies) were only beaten by Ange at the time, inevitably leading to a contract with a major company on the look out for profit, in this case CBS. Pulsar thus gained the opportunity to record in the state-of-the-art Aquarius studio in Geneva. This brought more focus to small details and much better acoustic recordings.
Halloween (1977) clearly stands out as Pulsar's masterpiece with its sense of wholeness, serenity and grandeur (continuously running through each side), yet with much more variety from minute to minute than their previous efforts. Their soft lyricism and elegance reached towards Genesis territory this time. Their music was also more "earthly" than before. This is one of the best French symphonic records (along with Laurent Thibault's album). However, CBS feared becoming unfashionable and made a horrifying and completely misguided decision to drop promotional activities. Pulsar consequently was reduced to a low-key affair with no further realistic ambitions. Their later output (post 1980) has been disappointing in comparison.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1981):
|1||POLLEN||1975||KINGDOM KY 28031|
|2||THE STRANDS OF THE FUTURE||1976||KINGDOM KA 20226|
|4||BIENVUE||1981||THEATRE CS 811|
An obscure French-Swiss group who played music somewhere between Lard Free and Piblokto!
Fronted by a talented North-African guitar player, Rahmann made an album of energetic instrumental jazz-rock with strong ethnic (Arabian) and "zeuhl" influences. It was recorded at Studio Ramses, guaranteeing superb sound quality. A recommended album (which is among my favourite French jazz-rock albums along with Weidorje, Didier Lockwood's Jazz-rock and several efforts by Zao). It was recorded between 1977-78, but not released until 1979 as record labels were lukewarm about this rather advanced music.
The brothers Mahmamad and Mecheraf jammed with the Lockwood brothers in a rehearsal room in Ivry shared with Magma (1972-74).
|1||RAHMANN||1979||POLYDOR 2393 252|
"Red noise" really sums it up - this is radical free-rock including toilet flushes, frenzied saxophones, fragments of stage performances, mysterious phone calls, spontaneuous guitars and a jazzy rhythm section. The interconnection of many short tracks on side one is clearly indebted to The Mothers' We're Only In It For The Money. You shouldn't bother too much about this record, which is of mostly historical interest. Original copies are very very rare and will set you back thousands of Francs.
|1||SARCELLES-LOCHÈRES||1971||FUTURA RED 01|
Alain Renaud had sporadically played guitar with Heldon, but few traces of this are evident on his solo albums. The first is his best with quite a lot of inspired guitar solos, while Out Of Time included a more lyrical approach.
|2||OUT OF TIME||1976||DISJUNCTA 000.010|
|3||BACK AND IN AGAIN||1979||CARRERE 67936|
Monier and Asseline were the creative force behind this jazz-rock outfit. They recorded serious instrumental music in the tradition of Soft Machine's Third, but were also inspired by jazz legends, such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis. They predated the refined instrumental style of Zao and several other French jazz-rock outfits.
|1||RHESUS O||1971||EPIC 64560|
Catherine Ribeiro was among the best known female vocalists in France. Her albums are quite radical, including elements from improvised rock, progressive rock and folk, but also continuing the chanteuse-tradition of Piaf and others. Ribeiro's singing is powerful (threatening to blow up the microphone any moment), but sometimes a little over the top. Her range reaches the low register, just as Nico or Inga Rumpf. Moullet's guitars and home-made stringed instruments provide a good contrast to Ribeiro's voice. An artist this unique and indiosyncratic can't be appreciated by the hordes. It's also almost impossible to judge her music - comparisons just won't do! A good album to start with is Paix from 1972.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|1||C. RIBEIRO + 2 BIS||1969||FESTIVAL FLDX 487|
|2||NO. 2||1970||FESTIVAL FLX 531|
|3||AME DEBOUT||1972||PHILIPS 6332 017|
|4||PAIX||1972||PHILIPS 6325 019|
|5||LE RAT DEBILE ET L'HOMME DES CHAMPS||1974||PHILIPS 9101 003|
|6||(LIBERTES?)||1975||PHILIPS 9101 501|
|7||LE TEMPS DE L'AUTRE||1977||PHILIPS 9101 155|
|8||LE BLUES DE PIAF||1977||PHILIPS 9101 156|
|9||JACQUERIES||1978||PHILIPS 9101 201|
|10||PASSIONS||1979||PHILIPS 9101 270|
|11||LA DÉBOUSSOLE||1980||PHILIPS 6313 096|
A hard rock offering. Just 500 copies were pressed of an album containing the usual guitar and organ battles. Seen offered for about 250 ECU.
|1||CHRISTERLLE OU LA DÉCOUVERTE DU MAL||1979||PRIVATE PRESS|
There are three outstanding gems on the highly collectable Ballon Noir-label, the "solo" albums of Emmanuelle Parrenin and Laurent Thibault and the fantastic Ripaille album. This is simply one of the best combinations of lush symphonic rock and folk-rock ever made! Similar to the music of Gryphon, Fruupp and Gentle Giant, this is just as personal. Ripaille's music sounds surprisingly unpretentious, perhaps on account of their great melodic talent. Medieval elements blend well alongside jangly electric guitars, sound effects and hovering synthesizers. The relatively short tracks display great variety and lots of invention. Little could be improved here! Another great album in quite a similar direction was released by Troisieme Rive in 1978. A second album was completed in 1980, but Ballon Noir had financial problems as the major labels didn't bother about this music.
|1||LA VIEILLE QUE L'ON BRÛLA||1977||BALLON NOIR 13.003|
He was previously the violin player of Zoo. On his solo albums he is commited to the archetypical French violin-fronted instrumental jazz-rock, made famous by gifted players such as Jean-Luc Ponty, Didier Lockwood and David Rose. Ripoche's second album was a collaboration with the multi-instrumentalist André Demay. A couple of the tracks were influenced by Indian traditional music. Consequently, this album is more adventurous than its predecessor.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|2||CONTES MUSICAUX||1977||ATLANTIC 50.350|
One of the French mega-rarities, released on the same label as Zartong. The content is deranged psychedelic underground with strong guitars, studio effects and vocals in English. The album has been the subject of much hype among record dealers recently. ALBUM:
|1||ROB JO STAR BAND||197?||DOM D3001U|
Soft (and rather lightweight) progressive rock that might interest some readers.
|1||LA VALISE DE RÊVES||1974||EMI PATHÉ|
Please see the Pôle entry.
This guy made a pleasant album of mainly synthesizer-based instrumental music reminiscent of Vangelis and Torgue. Should be checked out by those into this genre!
This concept album has attained much interest among collectors over recent years. While some parts have medieval folk mixed with modern textures, others are dominated by spoken vocals. You shouldn't acquire this record unless you understand French. The music alone can't justify its expensive price tag. Try Ripaille instead!
|1||SAGA DE RAGNAR LODBROCK||1979||SOURIS|
Alarcen, Garella and Jullien had previously played together in Eden Rose, whose album was a showcase for magnificent interplay between organ and electric guitar. This style was the backbone for Sandrose too, but with dramatic female vocals added in the style of Julian's Treatment, Earth & Fire and Circus 2000. Alarcen had now become a prolific composer, with a range from symphonic rock overtures ("Underground Session") to gripping songs ("Vision"). His guitar work (ranging from the incredibly fast to subtle strumming) was augmented by Garella's orchestral textures on organ and mellotron (sometimes recalling the British group Spring). "Old Dom Is Dead" was first released as "Mea Culpa - vocal / instrumental" on a single by Claude Puterflam in 1970 (under the pseudonym Lenis Chorea).
This is a great album for all but those who find Podwojny's vocals a bit too melodramatic, recalling horrible memories of Shirley Bassey. Some people even consider it a milestone of French rock.
|1||SANDROSE||1972||POLYDOR 2393 030|
This band emerged from the Bretany folk milieu in the wake of Alan Stivell. They made an obscure album, which also contained a large poster.
His early albums listed here contain a mix between electronic avant-garde and free-rock, with some excursions into more conventional jazz-rock. Lejeune's contributions on the first album are also interesting, but three pop tracks by Beetz are certainly not.
Anticycle II was written for magnetic tapes and percussion. Schwarz went on to cut more albums in the early eighties, focusing on electronic experimental music.
|1||DES MUSIQUES, DEN SONS||1972||JSL 074|
|2||ANTICYCLE II||1973||CHANT DU MONDE 74551|
An obscure quartet, who played hippie folk with English lyrics. These buskers made happy music in the tradition of Heron and Ora (and even McCartney's acoustic material) full of haunting melodies and period charm. Some may look down on this rather simple music, but I love this album. Don't miss it if you like the British underground folk scene!
Seffer's solo albums clearly fell into the jazz category, but deserve mention because they are adventurous, particularly those recorded with a string quartet named Neffesh Music (the first two albums listed). No lounge jazz here, but highly demanding music that should be discovered by more people.
|1||MAGYAR-IÔ||1976||CHANT DU MONDE 74604|
A guitar player who attempted to imitate Jimi Hendrix on an album of limited interest.
This group played relaxing traditional folk, mostly material from the medieval ages. Their albums will satisfy anyone wanting to fill their living rooms with bards and minstrels. They contain nice female and male vocals with varied instrumental arrangements.
|1||LE MANUSCRIT DE BAYEUX||1978||PLURIEL 3312|
|2||CHANSONS DE NORMANDIE||1979||PLURIEL 3318|
From the Futura label you would expect free rock, which is spot on this time. More exhausting music in the style of Red Noise and Mahogany Brain. Worst of all you have to pay a lot for it as well - should have been the other way round, really! Still, if you would pay me that much to make mayhem, just call me and I'll make a hell of a noise in your living room.
|1||ESSAIS||1971||FUTURA SON 02|
This might be interesting for some readers as it contains (badly produced) guitar-based hard-rock bordering on heavy progressive. Still the group was influenced by early Ange. The group recorded other album(s), but I have no details about them.
|1||4 MARS||1975||VENDÉMIAIRE VDES 020|
This composer had previously participated on the first French rock opera Popera Cosmic in 1970/71. His own work Lux Aeterna is yet another ambitious attempt to combine classical music with art rock. This is largely successful, with grand orchestra and Latin chanting combined with moog synthesizers, electric guitar and a rock rhythm section. A great album that should have a general appeal - recommended!
|1||LUX AETERNA||1972||CBS 65030|
Shylock were one of the best French groups in the second half of the seventies. They played powerful and vigorous symphonic rock. Gialorgues was an instrumental blend of Genesis (the electric guitar of Hackett and synthesizers of Banks), Yes (the extended musical structures) and, to a lesser extent, King Crimson (the inventive percussion work of Muir). Their taste for elegant melodies and convincing technical ability place them above almost everyone else in this field and on the same level as Schicke, Führs & Fröhling. The album was first released by the group on their own label but when they signed to CBS a new edition was printed.
Ilé de Fiévre (Island Of Fever) was recorded in a much better studio (at Aquarius Studio in Geneva, Switzerland). The freshness of their first album was overshadowed by the perfectionist production of the second (making them even more similar to SFF). The title track was magnificent, but the remaining pieces didn't fit too well as a single entity. Still this is a great album. CBS then suggested the band should commercialize their sound, as Ilé de Fiévre sold less than Gialorgues. This didn't work out too well and finally led to Shylock's demise. They were the victim of changing fashions, as no one at that time realised that progressive rock is really as timeless as the blues.
|2||ILÉ DE FIÉVRE||1978||CBS 82862|
Apparently a suite dealing with the lunar landing, released on the BYG Actuel series. Alan Silva played with his "Celestial Communication Orchestra", featuring Bernard Vitet, Grachan Moncur III, Archie Shepp, Anthony Braxton, Kenneth Terroade, Dave Burrell, Leroy Jenkins, Beb Guérin, Malachi Favors and Claude Delcloo.
|1||LUNA SURFACE||1969||BYG 529.312|
Recorded in the Schizo studio by Richard Pinhas and Alain Renaud in March 1975, this is a little curiousity on Heldon's Disjuncta label. A couple of tracks are influenced by the ethnic music of Africa, featuring lots of hand-beaten percussion, improvised wordless falsetto vocals, acoustic guitar and an underlying, jazzy do-it-yourself hippie spirit. "Derriére La Mer Et Fantasy" entered stranger realms with heavily echoed electric guitar, percussion, voice and flute. An unusual album for completists.
|1||FICTION MUSICALE||1975||DISJUNCTA 000.008|
Skornik made one of those late sixties period "beat, poetry and anarchy" artifacts, which merged the fresh influences from Gerard Manset's aesthetic first album with the more turbulent emotions of Melmoth and Bananamoon. His slightly psychedelic mixture is quite entertaining. The lyrics are sung in both French and English.
|1||QU'EST CE QUE LE DREAM||1969||PATHÉ|
This group were very young at the time and obviously great fans of Genesis and Yes. With only very basic equipment (two Revox A77 used for the tape recordings) they still made an impressive album. It has attracted the interest of collectors ever since, as only 300 copies were pressed. The music is better than most in this genre recorded after 1976, but perhaps lacks its own personality. However, it is interesting to hear this symphonic garage rock, adding a raw edge and much enthusiasm to a genre some only associate with megabuck productions and inflated egos.
A folk band from Bretagne from the same milieu as Tri Yann and Alan Stivell.
|1||BAL BRETON||1973||ARFOLK SB 308|
|2||AR SONERIEN DU||1974||ARFOLK SB 323|
A group attempting to explore the boundaries between free jazz and ethnic music, similar to Third Ear Band.
|1||PURF||1972||CAVALIER CVR MG 650|
Another obscure folk group with fragile melodies and beautiful female vocals. Some even insist that Sourdeline are better than Malicorne!
|1||LA REINE BLANCHE||1976||DISCOVALE WM-03|
|2||JEANNE D'AYME||1977||DISCOVALE WM-22|
This duo of space-rock merchants made several recordings from 1975-77 that were included on Paradoxe (1978). Their music is quite noisy, disjointed and experimental, like early Guru Guru meeting Ash Ra Tempel and Gong. This is to be expected when you consider that John Livengood had contributed to the Red Noise album and Ivan Coaquette had been a member of Musica Eletronnica Viva. Although acclaimed by several other writers, Spacecraft seem to lack purpose, drifting away to a random destination.
A group created by Yochk'o ('Jeff') Seffer after he had left Zao. Speed Limit play typical mid-seventies forceful jazz-rock that can be quite demanding at times; it features impetuous improvisations from Seffer in strange scales and metres. This is rather dry and academic music that will not interest the casual listener.
|1||SPEED LIMIT||1975||CHANT DU MONDE 74575|
|2||SPEED LIMIT (II)||1976||RCA FPL1 0101|
|A1||SUNFLOWER||1978||TREMA 310 047|
Typical instrumental jazz-rock from the seventies with the emphasis on electric piano and electric guitar with a Latin touch. It is comparable to a jazzy Santana, several Spanish fusion groups or even Return To Forever and Brand X. The musicianship is excellent, dominated by Gérard Maimome's keyboards and compositions. Top of the heap are "Black Hill Samba" and "Chattanooga" (on their first album), both clocking in at 12 minutes. This is a good example of French jazz-rock undeterred by the "zeuhl" movement.
|1||SPHEROE||1977||COBRA COB 37.006|
|2||PRIMADONNA||1978||COBRA COB 37.018|
Although Step Ahead recorded a couple of years into the 80's, this album still deserves to be mentioned as it is the best French symphonic album from this decade. Step Ahead follow closely on the heels of Yes, with similar high-pitched vocals, but adding more macho-guitars. This is midway between kitsch and a masterpiece.
|1||STEP AHEAD||1982||RCA PL 37604|
Thanks to Alan Stivell, Breton folk music has become widely known outside France. The music is close to the Celtic folklore from the British Isles - with fiddle, flute, Celtic harp, bagpipes and mandolin to the fore. His Fontana albums from 1972-74 are classics of this genre, and also featured some of the most respected of folk musicians, such as Gabriel and Marie Yacoub (pre-Malicome), Dan Ar Bras (with a prolific solo career) and Rene Werneer (pre-Ys). These albums are easy to find and still cheap. Among later albums, Symphonie Celtique is a highly accomplished work.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|1||REFLETS||1970||FONTANA 6312 011|
|2||RENAISSANCE DE LA HARPE CELTIQUE||1972||FONTANA 6325 302|
|3||A L'OLYMPIA||1972||FONTANA 6399 005|
|4||CHEMINS DE TERRE||1973||FONTANA 6325 304|
|5||E LANGONNED||1974||FONTANA 6325 332|
|6||A DUBLIN||1975||KELTIA III 9101 850|
|7||TREMAN INIS||1976||KELTIA III 9101 851|
|8||'RAOK DILESTRA||1977||KELTIA III 9101 852|
|9||UN DEWEZ'H BARZH'GER||1978||KELTIA III 82823|
|10||3RD LIVE||1979||KELTIA III 83505|
|11||SYMPHONIE CELTIQUE||1980||KELTIA III 88487|
A jazz-rock band fronted by a flute player which sounds like an attempt to cash in on the contemporary success of this genre (for example Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago).
|1||POP MUSIC||1970||AFA NEC 20745|
Their album's musical focus was somewhere between instrumental fusion (Chute Libre, Benoit Widemann) and lyrical progressive rock (Orion, Ophiucus). Some of the musicians later played in Falstaff.
Mowray was from England and Watson from the USA, but their eponymous album was recorded and released in France. The duo started working together in England but eventually relocated to France, busking in the metropolian underground stations to earn their living. The album contained eight melancholic songs comparable to acts such as The Mormos, Nick Drake, Fuchsia, Perry Leopold, Mayfly and Forest. A few tracks have electric guitar, bass, drums and studio effects, bringing the package closer to psychedelia. Irving Mowrey wrote all the tracks and was certainly a talented singer and songwriter. He was later involved with Bachdenkel, but didn't play on any of their albums.
|1||SUBWAY||1971||EPIC EPC 64541 (F)|
Their album was released as late as 1983, but it contained interesting "zeuhl" rock.
|1||POURQUOI ES-TU SI MECHANT?||1983||RCA PL 37657|
Just like the Andre Popp album, this is a top rarity featuring Jean-Pierre Alarcen and other Systeme Crapoutchik members. There are understandable similarities to Eden Rose, one of Alarcen's other projects. Pleasant instrumentais with electric guitar, organ and other keyboards. However, there are many similar albums and Supra Pop doesn't particularly stand out in the genre.
|1||SUPRA POP IMPRESSIONS||1970||EP 2000|
A jazz-rock group formed by Didier Lockwood and Truong, the ex-drummer of Zao. The eponymous Surya album was supposed to be released on RCA in 1977, but the label turned it down due to lack of "commercial potential". The more open-minded Tapioca label then agreed to release it, but soon had to suspend their activities for financial reasons! The album finally appeared on a small label in 1980. The content is technically very competent jazz-rock consistent with the reputation of the Lockwood brothers and company.
|1||SURYA||1980||CORNELIA COR 4310|
A fusion ensemble that included Jean-Yves Rigaud (previously a member of Zao) on violin. Serious stuff from an aptly named ensemble!
|1||S.R.E.L. (LAMBI)||1975||MOSHÉ-NAIM 12.007|
An album of middle-of-the-road funky jazz-rock, very typical for the mid/late 70's. Some will enjoy it, although I find it rather boring.
|1||SYNTHESIS||1976||ARC ZAL 2005|
This group was formed in early 1967 by Gérard Kawczynski and Christian Padovan as a vehicle for their self-penned songs. In 1968 and 1969 they released 4 singles, 2 EPs and 1 LP, establishing Systeme Crapoutchik as being among the best bands in the classical sixties pop tradition. They were strongly influenced by mid-period Beatles and with similarities to The Hollies and Procol Harum. In 1969, Jean Pierre Alarcen quit to join Eden Rose, while the others made two more singles in 1970. The double album Flop was a compilation of almost everything Systeme Crapoutchik had recorded. It included tracks from their first album and singles as well as some unreleased material (mostly alternate versions). This is recommended and features some very memorable and inventive songs with a strong sunny sixties feeling (although not delving deeply into the psychedelic). All their lyrics were written by Claude Puterflam, the boss of Flamophone. In 1974 the group reformed (minus Alarcen), but released a duller album which was inferior to their label mates Ilous & Decuyper, but better than Crosby, Stills & Nash.
|1||AUSSI LOIN QUE JE ME SOUVIENNE||1969||FLAMOPHONE FL 3.301|
|2||FLOP||1970||FLAMOPHONE FL 330.2|
|3||LE SYSTEME CRAPOUTCHIK||1975||FLAMOPHONE FL2933103|
Tai Phong were merchants of archetypical late 70's symphonic rock, following on the heels of Barclay James Harvest and Yes. Some will find their three albums too full of Yes clichés, others might dislike the strained vocal yells, but others will enjoy the rich melodic content. What I miss is some personality and distance from the British symphonic rock scene. As reflected by their name, Tai Phong were based around two Japanese immigrants.
|1||TAI PHONG||1975||WARNER 56.125|
|3||LAST FLIGHT||1979||WARNER 56.740|
On their first album, Tangerine developed a hybrid between French and American folk-rock. They seem unaffected by the demise of the hippie dream, as this is good-natured, rural folk-rock with nice vocal harmonies, acoustic guitars and flute. The title track was a French version of the track "Sandman", written by Dewey Bunnell for America's first album (1971). The female vocals of Valéry Btesh are particularly enchanting and not far behind Emmanuelle Parrenin or Sandy Denny. This album radiates the sheltered warmth of an endless indian summer. Mémoire (1976) was recorded after the departure of Btesh. It lacked some of the excitement of its predecessor, but was still a competent effort, more closely related to American roots and folk-rock.
|1||DE L'AUTRE CÔTE DE LA FORÉT||1975||ARCANE 913 029|
|2||MÉMOIRE||1976||CRYPTO ZAC 6400|
|A1||RÊVES CRISTAL||1977||CRYPTO ZAL 6414|
Another of those pleasant folk groups in the style of Malicorne. Some insist this is one of the very best French folk-rock records - all I can say is the competition is stiff!
|1||TARENTULE||1978||ARFOLK SB 365|
One of the many "chanteuses" of French rock, Mama Bea is a marginal case for inclusion here. She is just as ardent as Catherine Ribeiro and the others. Check out La Folle first.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|1||JE CHERCHE UN PAYS||1972||SFP 14004|
|2||LA FOLLE (2LP)||1977||ISADORA ISL 9010|
|3||FAUDRAIT RALLUMER LA LUMIÉRE DANCE CE FOUTU COMPARTIMENT||1977||RCA 37126|
|4||POUR UN BÉBÉ ROBOT||1978||RCA 37203|
|6||LE CHAOS||1979||RCA 37322|
Though not released until 1981 (in a pressing of 1,000 copies), their album was recorded in 1978 and is typical late seventies instrumental progressive rock. The opening track ("Le Temps") highlights the violin and, though not far removed from Zao (with whom Tilleman. played for a while), is closer to rock. This is contrasted by "Conte En Vert" and "Anne-Michaële", delightful lush and poetic instrumentais fronted by mellotrons (comparable to the British group Spring). This is one of the better albums of this genre and can be appreciated by any who enjoy the instrumental Camel, King Crimson and Genesis. Monerri had previously played in Chico Magnetic Band.
|1||TERPANDRE||1981||DIONYSOS DI 3003|
This former member of Total Issue also made some jazz-rock albums. There are also Turkish influences in the rhythms as evidenced by the use of oud (a stringed instrument used in middle eastern music).
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|1||AMIR||1976||EURODISC 913 082|
|2||VARECH||1978||EURODISC 913 087|
|3||A CORDES ET À CRIS||1979||JMS 06|
Thibault will always be well remembered as the first bass player of Magma and the creator of the regretably short-lived label Theleme. Still his most valuable gift to the future was his solo album, which ranks among the ten best French records ever. Its four tracks have an incredibly sophisticated production in which every single note and sound have been placed painstakingly into a symphonic jigsaw. The album starts in a dreamy mood with Amanda Parsons' (known from Hatfield & The North) angelic, wordless vocals, backed by strings, guitar and bass, later to be joined by percussion and lush keyboards (no synthesizers were used). Several musical themes are explored, before reaching for more raucious heights in the song. Elsewhere, there is an Indian song (performed by ex-Ergo Sum member Lionel Ledissez who had been living in Mexico) and an Arabian song, concluding with "the Voice of Reason" itself (this has something to do with the album's concept). There are also contributions from various animals, natural sounds, flame throwers and machine guns. Laurent Thibault combines these odd elements into an integrated work, using them as "ordinary orchestral instruments" in his exotic score. This record goes far beyond Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, which sounds trite in comparison. The only downside is that the album only lasts for 32 minutes. Nevertheless, it is brilliant, fresh and innovative throughout.
|1||MAIS ON NE PEUT PAS REVER TOUT LE TEMPS||1979||BALLON NOIR 13.009|
Weird psych-folk from South France featuring electric and acoustic guitars, piano, synthesizer and vocals.
Quite an original composer and singer who uses percussive, low-pitched vocals and his own blend of jazz-rock, ethnic and "zeuhl" elements.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|1||LES CHANTS DU COEUR||1977||MOSHÉ-NAÏM 10.030|
|2||INNOCENCE||1979||ARGILE ARG 2001|
A keyboard player who may have made several instrumental albums based on trivial melodic themes, not too far removed from Vangelis, Jarre and Roedelius. These would be well suited for TV documentaries and background listening.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|1||SOUVERNIRS DES CITES CREPUSCULAIRES||1976||SONART 7012|
|2||COMPARTIMENT FUCHSIA||1978||SPALAX FP 86811|
|3||LE PRINCE APATRIDE||1980||SPALAX SPX 6824|
Guitar player Michou Libretti came from Martin Circus, while most of the others came from the jazz circuit. The end result was a melodic brand of progressive rock, dominated by Aldo Romano's pleasant songs. The Swiss vocalist Jean-Pierre Huser co-composed 3 tracks, but has quit Total Issue before this album was recorded. There is variety in the use of instruments with the guitars marginally dominant, particularly on the extended tracks "La Porte Ouverte" and "Rustique". The album contains both French and English lyrics. A recommended album which should be easily accessible for those into the British progressive scene (from Pete Brown to Traffic and Jethro Tull).
|1||TOTAL ISSUE||1971||UNITED ARTISTS UAS 29174|
Quiet folk-rock in the same tradition as Malicorne but with more elaborate arrangements. Beautiful and well-played!
|1||L'INSTANT QUI TOURNE||1976||PRIVATE PRESS|
This was a French pseudo-psych exploitation LP with the usual attack of nonchalant fuzz guitars, Hammond organs and even flute. Almost never offered for sale.
|1||TRAFIC POP||1972||PRIVATE PRESS|
This band played dynamic heavy blues-rock hidden away on two labels best known for completely different music! The first album was dedicated to Inga Rumpf of the German group Atlantis. Both albums had lyrics in English sung by a competent vocalist. They remind me of The Faces with Rod Stewart, or Mott The Hoople.
|1||LIVING FOR THE ROCK'N'ROLL||1976||PÔLE 0012|
|2||SAME PLAYERS SHOOT AGAIN||1977||COBRA COB 37.009|
These albums contain good instrumental jazz-rock comparable to Brand X, Nova and the later albums by Area. The American born violin player David Rose steals the show on Opus Progressiveressif and Couleurs Naturelles with his stunning violin work! The last of these is usually considered to be their strongest effort. Here the group display a fast and energetic fusion with lots of committment. Unlike a few other ensembles, their compositions never get over-ambitious or too academic.
Perathoner's solo album is exactly that: solo piano pieces composed by himself and Erik Satie.
|1||PRIGLACIT||1975||RCA FPL 10089|
|2||OPUS PROGRESSIVERESSIF||1976||RCA FPL 10130|
|3||COULEURS NATURELLES||1977||RCA PL 37020|
|A1||IMPRESSIONNISME||1978||GRATTE CIEL 2010|
Some of the members of Travelling had previously played with Introversion, who released a single in 1970. Travelling's album, released on the legendary Futura label, is superb, being similar to late 60's Soft Machine (their Second), with Hasselmann's voice reminiscent of Robert Wyatt. Hasselmann's organ work is also very impressive, literally travelling through strange and spacious environments. Much of it sounds quite improvised, particularly the long passages of "Voici La Nuit Tombée" (18:00). One has the feeling that Hasselmann's playing has more soul and is less academic than Mike Ratiedge's. This kind of sincerity explains the success of the album. The other side had shorter tracks with more emphasis on vocals. This is probably among the ten best French albums. Hassellmann later made some more symphonic instrumental music with Daniel Haas, previously a member of the group Ange.
|1||VOICI LA NIUT TOMBÉE||1973||FUTURA RED 06|
A quintet who played theatrical, melodic progressive rock similar to Atoll and Ange, but on a lower recording budget and with more loud guitars (like 70's Pink Floyd). A decent album - mainly of interest for fans of symphonic rock, although not really essential. Some critics give it greater acclaim, though.
|1||REFLETS||1978||PRIVATE PRESS SDC 5|
An obscure female trio from Bretany who played acoustic folk material with guitars, harp, flute and percussion. Reputedly a rather good album.
|1||JE SUIS LA FILLE BRUNE||1979||VELIA|
A group of limited interest who played characteristic 70's melodic rock with some traces of soft progressive rock similar to Barclay James Harvest and Ten CC.
|1||TREPONEM PAL||1977||GRATTE CIEL 2004|
This folk group used material from the British Isles in addition to their national cultural heritage. The mood of their music was mostly more "jolly" than Malicorne, but could also be introspective. Like Malicorne, their early albums are mostly traditional, gradually becoming more varied with elements from progressive rock. Early Tri Yann albums will appeal to those who enjoy the folk players on the Transatlantic label (Sweeney's Men, John Renbourn, The Johnstons, etc), The JSD Band and Amazing Blondel, while later albums might appeal to fans of Gryphon. Possibly their finest album was La Decouverte Ou L'Ignorance (1976), a perfect marriage between medieval folk and 70's progressive rock with tremendous vocal arrangements and some careful orchestration.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|3||LES PRISONS DE NANTES||1974||KELENN|
|4||DIX ANS DIX FILLES||1973||KELENN 6332 626|
|5||SUITE GALLAISE||1974||MARZELLE 6325700|
|6||LA DECOUVERTE OU L'IGNORANCE||1976||MARZELLE 9286197|
|7||URBA||1978||MARZELLE 9199 917|
Triangle were one of the first French rock bands and achieved considerable commercial success with their albums and singles. Their first album had similarities to the debut of their colleagues Martin Circus, although it was lighter in texture with the usual rock instrumentation, sometimes supple-mented by flute or sax. Some of the songs had English lyrics, recalling Traffic, Spooky Tooth and Procol Harum circa 1968/69. There is some good instrumental work in the direction of progressive rock, but generally the album sounds a bit dated. It's a nice nostalgia trip into the better kind of late sixties pop-rock.
Triangle's next album was more of a mixed bag, veering from innovative ideas on "Récréation" (an unlikely cross between jazz-rock and psychedelia) to commoner heavy pop-rock (recalling The Move's Shazam) on "Le Retour". Sadly the overall impression was marred by some very banal pop tracks (big selling singles such as "Viens Avec Nous") and choral vocal arrangements dangerously close to The Les Humphries Singers. Several famous musicians contributed as sessionmen, among them Jean-Michel Jarre, François Cahen and George Locatelli.
Homonymie (1973) was a more consistent effort divided between power pop-rock and some orchestrated ballads. They should have developed their jazz-rock abilities instead of this trite material. Triangle's musical promise was never fulfilled, as they opted for commercial success (encouraged by their record company) in their lifetime.
|2||TRIANGLE II||1972||PATHÉ 2C062-11836|
A short-lived group formed by flute player Michel Edelin. Some members later played with Chérèze, who recorded one album for CBS in 1980.
|t||ON N'A PAS FINI D'AVOR TOUT VU||1971||FUTURA RED 03|
A short-lived group who played energetic jazz-rock with a funky, busy rhythm section and good vocals. Ligertwood had previously played with Oblivion Express.
|1||TROC||1973||CY 3002 U|
A classic album of poetic folk-rock similar in style to Ripaille. Most tracks had bass, drums and electric guitar, but the result was still unusually delicate and tasteful. Fragments of baroque melodies (often played in canon) alternate with freshly written ones. The album reveals a deep musical knowledge and a great ability to combine academic and non-academic musical forms. In my view, their music is more valid than that of well-known groups such as Malicorne (who were OK but lacked imagination).
|1||BANLIEUES||1978||IRIS TR 1010|
A little known early French progressive pop album with a melodic approach and useful organ/guitar developments, comparable to Gracious and Czar, although with French lyrics. The musicians are not credited on the cover, but Jean Schulteis was the leader of the group.
|1||LE MUTANT||1970||PHILIPS 6311 065|
To paraphrase The Residents, this was Magma's "commercial album" - an attempt to make their musical vision more accessible to a wider audience. The reason for this was a request from Laurent Thibault of Thélème records (and their previous bass player). On one track (which sounds like a juicier Blood, Sweat & Tears) Magma was reunited with Zabu, their original vocalist. Another track was sung by Lionel Ledissez, the vocalist of Ergo Sum. These "easy-going" tracks were written by Lasry, Cahen, Zabu and Ledissez. Christian Vander's three compositions (featuring Klaus Blasquiz' eccentric lead vocals on "Ündïa") naturally sound more like Magma - circa their first album. Indispensable for all "zeuhl" lovers, others should first buy the ordinary Magma albums.
|1||THE UNNAMABLES||1972||THÉLÈME 6332 501|
The work of Gilbert Artman, previously the leader of Lard Free. The curious collector should approach Urban Sax with care, as Urban Sax 1 contains the mutilated sounds of 16 saxophone players with Artman adding electronic noises and effects. I think these two side-long excursions into the urban sanatorium for the incurable saxodelics are rather irrelevant in retrospect. Urban Sax 2 had an "expanded" concept, with 25 saxophone players and a choir added. Strange and monotonous atmospheres, yes, but is it worth listening to?
|1||URBAN SAX 1||1977||COBRA COB 37.004|
|2||URBAN SAX 2||1978||COBRA COB 37.017|
Vanay had a solid background from studying classical music, but decided to make some "rock" albums. Galaxies (1974) contained dreamy, poetic (even romantic) soft progressive rock in the tradition of Iris and Cressida. She later became Laurent Thibault's wife.
|2||MAGIC'S SHOW||1974||SFP 55.009|
|3||GATEWAY||1975||GALLOWAY 600 572|
|A1||LE VAGABOND DE L'HISTOIRE||197?||SFP 4035|
A poet whose music created a puzzling sound somewhere between Igor Wakhevitch and Emmanuel Booz.
|1||L'ENFANT ASSASIN DES MOUCHES||1972||SUZELLE|
The group was formed in 1967 and played as support act for Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience and Manfred Mann in Germany, the Netherlands and in Scandinavia that year. Their debut single "Spicks And Specks" was released in Denmark only (on Triola). At least two singles were released in France before 1970, containing savage heavy blues-rock.
Nador (1970) was possibly the heaviest rock LP made in France to date! Their style was like a cross between Free and the first Led Zeppelin album, with Marc Todaly's eminent guitars always to the fore. All tracks were originals with English lyrics, quite different from their contemporaries Martin Circus and Triangle.
|2||TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT||1972||EMI PATHÉ|
|3||MOROCCAN ROLL / CAFÉ DE PARIS||?|
A very rare folk-rock private pressing made in Belgium. This was quite well done with music comparable to Malicorne and Avaric plus an impressive gatefold cover.
|1||LA FOLIE DE MALATAVERNE||1979||PRIVATE PRESS|
Verto was the project of guitarist and engineer Jean-Pierre Graset. His first album was released on the highly collectable Pôle-label, and fitted well into their profile with experiments based on manipulated guitars with different rhythmic textures (close to fusion on a couple of tracks), sometimes recalling Heldon, although with its own personality. The group Potemkine (who also released their first album on Pôle) provided backing on one track. However, it's the long track "Strato" (18:00) that is outstanding, with the use of glissando or bowed, echoing electric guitar, creating undulating shimmering sounds close to experimental Tangerine Dream and Gong. Reel 19.36 (1978) was recorded with the help of several well-known musicians, among them Benoit Widemann (ex-Magma). This was almost krautrock made in France, with playful use of tape loops ("19/36"), burning lead guitars treated with effects ("Comme La Folie"), energetic fusion with space-rock lead guitar a la Ashra ("15 Pour Moi"). There was also dadaistic humour ("Danse A Cabanes"), and (on side two) more uniformly wigged-out electronics like a cross between Cluster and Heldon ("Reel", "C'Est Loope" and "Carton Acidule"). This is a forgotten gem of French experimental rock which hopefully will be available on CD someday. The original LP is very hard to locate.
|1||KRIG / VOLUBILIS||1976||PÔLE 0009|
|2||RÉEL 19.36||1978||FLEAU 7004|
This guy originally played in the radical free-rock group Red Noise. By the time of Bruits Et Temps Analogues he seemed to have calmed down, making a strange instrumental conglomerate of jazz-rock, Balinese music, experimental tape loops and electronic music. Perhaps the album is too diverse for its own good, and fails to achieve an identity of its own. Perhaps this is one for fans of more whimsical kraut-rock.
|1||BRUITS ET TEMPS ANALOGUES||1978||EGG 900.541|
The music for this album was actually written by Christian Decamps of Ange, while Vincent himself wrote the lyrics. It is light symphonic rock akin to Ange with the help of many musicians who were recording for Crypto at this time.
|1||LETTRE AU PASSÉ||1977||CRYPTO ZAL 6412|
This was a concept album about alien abduction, masterminded by Jean-Pierre Massiera with a host of well-known session musicians. It is in line with Massiera's other concept albums (Atlantide, Horrific Child and Human Egg). It also brings back some horrible memories of overblown 70's rock operas, starting off with a seriously cliché-ridden "Dies Irae" with badly performed choral voices and macho guitars, as if Vanilla Fudge had suddenly decided to make a rock opera inspired by Tommy. It doesn't improve much later on either - luckily this album only lasts for 29 minutes. Apologies to those who enjoy this album (there ARE some people paying thousands of Francs for original copies), but I think this is mostiy rubbish and possibly the most overrated album of French rock. These sentiments also applies to Massiera's next project Horrific Child.
|1||VISITORS||1974||DECC A 278 049|
This group from Lyon was a quintet when they made a private release in 1975. This is understandably very difficult to find nowadays (but in a similar style to their second album).
Les Cycles de Thanatos (1979) is a magnificent instrumental album related to the works of Hatfield & The North and National Health, but also Zappa's ensemble music, Art Zoyd and Magma. Its three long tracks express a well developed taste for refined melodies (stated by keyboards and woodwinds), beautiful chord progressions, playful rhythms and multiple percussive textures. The title track is marvellous! You won't find many better albums within this genre than this gem!
|2||LES CYCLES DE THANATOS||1979||FLVM 3008|
A rather unconventional group, both in their line-up and overall sound. They were founded by Freddy Brua in 1973. Wapassou's first album was dominated by his eerie organ sounds, the violin of Jacques Lichti (struggling in the intonation) and the feeble vocal contributions of Karin Nickerl. They didn't use bass or drums. The most accomplished piece was "Trip", which featured four guests in what sounds like a hilarious jam session featuring sitar, tablas and drums that was a lot of fun! Obviously edited from a longer session, it has some barely audible cuts. Overall, an interesting album that just didn't succeed.
Messe en Ré mineur (1976) was a vast improvement on which their sound came into its own with a consistent instrumentation of farfisa organ, synthesizer, acoustic or electric guitar, violin and high-pitched, wordless chanting. This ethereal and spacey music has some similarities to Catharsis (their organ sound), the German Popol Vuh (the meditative aspect), the softer parts of Amon Düül II (with weird guitars and Renate Knaup's vocals) and Italian Opus Avantra (their strong connection to classical music), but it is as idiosyncrastic as all of these. The "Mass in C minor" goes over two record sides through different dreamlike and associative phases, without really concluding. This kind of stationary music is related in its form to the German "kosmische musik", but has an added element of late 19th Century French romance.
Naturally, Wapassou stuck close to this formula on their two subsequent albums. Salammbô (1977), the musical description of a novel by Gustave Flaubert, featured another female singer and the famous record producer Jean-Pierre Massiera in a cameo spoken role. Equalling the quality of its predecessor there was also a more melodic content hidden in Wapassou's soundpool this time. Ludwig (1979) revealed itself on the sleeve to be the last part of a triology, representing life (Messe en Ré Mineur), death (Salammbô) and eternity (Ludwig). Its content was more influenced by classical chamber music and suggested that they were now passed their creative zenith. Later albums have confirmed this and Wapassou are best remembered for their excellent opening triology.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|1||WAPASSOU||1974||PRODISC PS 37342|
|2||MESSE EN RÉ MINEUR||1976||CRYPTO ZAC 6401|
|3||SALAMMBÔ||1977||CRYPTO ZAL 6437|
|4||LUDWIG - UN ROI POUR L'ETERNITE||1979||CRYPTO ZAL 6477|
|5||GÉNUINE||1980||STERNE STE 26.512|
Igor Wakhevitch was a pupil of Olivier Messiaen, one of the most important French composers of the 20th Century. Along with Olivier Greif, Guy Skornik and William Sheller, Wakhevitch became known for his mixture of 20th Century classical music (including musique concrete) and popular music. His approach to music was highly intellectual (some would say academic) and philosophical, involving serious examination of religion, belief systems, spirit and the universe.
His first album, Logos - Rituel Sonore (1970), featured the "pop" group Triangle, a choir and magnetic tapes. It was music to a ballet by N. Schmucki performed at Festival d'Avignon.
Dr. Faust (1971) conjured up an even more austere and sinister atmosphere of evil. Disturbing orchestral music is followed by psychedelic guitars and spoken voices. Triangle again provided the rock group backing on this effort. Hathor (1973) was a "liturgie du souffle pour la resurrection des morts" and consequently another scary effort. Much of the music sounds like a black version of Vangelis, as lots of synthetic textures and tribal percussion are used. His collaborators on this album were organ player Michel Estellet-Brun, L'ensemble Polyphonique, Guy Boyer and the group Pachacamac.
Les Fous D'Or (1975) was even more experimental than the previous effort with large helpings of modern avant-garde and totally warped sprechgesang. In contrast, Let's Start (1979) was his most accessible album comprising largely serene electronic music. In 1987 Wakhevitch wrote an opera with Salvador Dali (released as a limited edition 3 LP box set with libretto and as a double CD).
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|2||DR. FAUST||1971||PATHÉ 2C072-11537|
|4||LES FOUS D'OR||1975||EMI 2C066-13083|
|6||LET'S START||1979||EMI 2C068-14770|
This group was formed in 1976 by ex-Magma members Bernard Paganotti and Patrick Gauthier. Kirt Rust had previously played on the first album by the Lockwood brothers. The resulting album is hugely impressive, containing only three long "zeuhl" rock instrumentais. Paganotti's "Elohim's Voyage" was a showcase for brooding fuzz-bass and hypnotic rhythms, with wordless vocals, keyboards, sax and trumpet creating the melodies, often in unison. The album overall rivals the power and convinction of Magma themselves, it's a "zeuhl" rock classic for sure!
The group found it hard to survive in the changing climate of the late 70's and were forced to disband. Most of its members reappeared on Jean-Philippe Goude's excellent album Drones.
|1||WEIDORJE||1978||COBRA COB 37.014|
René Werneer had previously played in Alan Stivell's backing group and with his own short-lived outfit named Ys. His solo albums continued to blend traditional and popular elements in a tasteful manner, choosing old Celtic folk tunes for medieval folk-rock treatments. This approach was similar to Gryphon fused with Fairport Convention (but by no means a copy of these groups). Both these albums are minor masterpieces.
|1||L'HABIT DE PLUMES||1978||PHILIPS 9101 162|
|2||ECOUTEZ TOUS, PAUVRES ET RICHES||1979||PHILIPS 9101 192|
One of the underground legends of France, his refined and carefully constructed concept albums are filled with good melodies comparable to early Ange and Alice. As one would expect for a French late 70's album, Fermez Les Yeux is more symphonic in the style of Mona Lisa.
|2||FERMEZ LES YEUX||1977||PHILIPS 9101 133|
|A1||POPERA COSMIC||19??||CBS 76381|
Best known for his stint with Magma, Benoît Widemann has also made solo albums consisting of pleasant instrumental jazz-rock similar to several other French artists. The principal instruments are various keyboards (lots of electric piano), some electric guitar and outstanding bass parts.
|1||STRESS||1977||BALLON NOIR 13.002|
|2||TSUNAMI||1979||BALLON NOIR 13.014|
This quartet struggled to survive in the late seventies, playing unfashionable instrumental progressive rock similar to Camel and Ange at their height. Wendling and Labroche are like Bardens and Latimer with their fine melodies and musical dialogues. Personally I don't care too much for this, but Wlud offer fair entertainment for symphonic rock fans.
Their album contained delightful instrumentais comparable to a more medieval Focus (imagine the start of their "Hamburger Concerto" lasting for 40 minutes) with frequent use of the ancient psaltery and flutes.
|1||ROCK FANTASIA OPUS 9||1980||STERNE STE 26511|
The group Ys was formed by several ex-members of Alan Stivell's backing group, which meant they were accomplished folk musicians. Madame La Frontiére (1976) must be considered among the best French folk records of the seventies. The tracks are played with much dexterity, almost like a heavier Steeleye Span where violin reels are superimposed by drums, bass and electric guitar. The group wrote the majority of the material themselves. When Rene Werneer left to start his solo career, the others engaged Patrick Molard and became Keris. Their album was softer and more modern in sound (including some synthesizers), but it was still a clever mixture of traditional and popular elements. Both albums were engineered by Laurent Thibault at Chateau d'Herrouville, a guarantee of excellent sound quality.
ALBUM AS YS:
|1||MADAME LA FRONTIÉRE||1976||PHILIPS 9101 056|
|2||AVEL VOR||1977||PHILIPS 9101 150|
Another one of the "chanteurs", a singer reciting his poems to discreet music. You might enjoy his records if your knowledge of the French language is greater than mine. Revenance is the most interesting on purely musical grounds. This ranges from psychedelic folk (with space whispers provided by Danou, his girlfriend I assume) to heavy progressive rock with massive guitars (courtersy of Larry Martin).
|1||LONGUE NAISSANCE||1975||SARAVAH 10.052|
|2||REVENANCE||1977||ISADORA ISA 9008|
Lucien Zabuski was Magma's vocalist prior to their first album and with Zorgones before that. Even so, his own preference was for blues-rock, as indicated by his own two albums. You can easily mistake them for an Anglo-American artist attempting the faux pas of filling the gap between a bluesy Captain Beefheart and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Workman-like rather than inspired, the albums feature some of the most respected musicians of French rock.
|1||MY COFFIN'S READY||1972||THÉLÈME 6332.750|
|2||ZABU & CO||1976||SONOPRESSE ST69.643|
A poet/singer in the tradition of Gérard Manset and several others. His albums might interest some readers due to the involvement of several well-known musicians.
|1||PROMESSES D'ATLANTIDES VOL. 1: LA NIUT DES CIGALES||1973||PATHÉ 2C066-12299|
|2||PROMESSES D'ATLANTIDES VOL 2: LE VOL D'ICARE||1974||PATHÉ 2C064-12729|
|3||PROMESSES D'ATLANTIDES VOL 3: INUTILE||1977||PATHÉ 2C068-14489|
Zanov was one of the French pioneers of electronic music, following a far less commercial route than Jarre. His two Polydor albums are minor classics within this genre, entirely made up by synthesizers and sequencers with a nod to the Berlin school (Schulze circa "Timewind" and the purely electronic parts of Ashra's "New Age Of Earth"). The later albums are less interesting, though.
|1||GREEN RAY||1977||POLYDOR 2393 151|
|2||MOEBIUS 256-301||1978||POLYDOR 2473 078|
|3||IN COURSE OF TIME||1982||POLARIS SOL 8202|
Zao were formed by two members of Magma, François Cahen and Yochk'o Seffer, in order to develop their own writing. At this time (1972), Christian Vander was gaining full control of every step the group took. The first Zao line-up consisted of very talented jazz-rock musicians. Perhaps it is right to say that Cahen and Seffer brought along some ideas vaguely similar to Magma's second album, but gave them a more traditional jazz-rock treatment with lots of electric piano, violin and sax. This permitted room for solo variations, adding a turbulent rhythm section and the expressive nightclub howling of Mauricia Platon. The result is top class French jazz-rock, a human version of "zeuhl" rock maintaining its energy, but not its manic aggression. Incredibly enough, Zao maintained this very high artistic standard for their 3 subsequent albums. Without Platon, Zao recorded Osiris, a more understated and atmospheric album with more dynamic arrangements, allowing the music to breathe more. After Jean-Yves Rigaud had left the group (in Autumn 1974) Zao collaborated with the female string quartet Quatuor Margand for their most ambitious record Shekina, almost fusing Coltrane with Bartok. Seffer would later explore this direction further on some of his solo albums.
His last album with Zao was Kawana, a triumphant return to good old jazz-rock, benefiting from the work of a highly talented young violin player, Didier Lockwood. François Cahen assembled a completely new line-up for Typhareth, which marked a downward trend, though still a good album.
Everyone with even a faintest interest in jazz-rock should check out Zao's first four albums - they were among the best!
|1||Z=ZL||1973||VERTIGO 6499 738|
|3||SHEKINA||1975||RCA FLP1 0097|
|4||KAWANA||1977||RCA FLP1 0178|
|5||TYPHAETH||1977||RCA PL 37121|
The group originated from Armenia but recorded their album in France. It is a top rarity fetching hundreds of Euros on the collector's market. The Eastern elements in their music (the violin, santour and wailing vocals) are exciting and shouldn't have been combined with synthesizers and a backbone of disco drums.
|1||ZARTONG||1979||DOM 50 001|
This was a project of Bernard Szjaner (who in the early eighties recorded two more albums under his own name) that included several well-known musicians, including Swinburne (Bachdenkel), Blasquiz (Magma), Raghel (Spacecraft) and Bailly (Nemo). Zed played anguished and disturbing music dominated by synthesizers and hypnotic rhythms, vaguely resembling the industrial paranoia of Heldon-albums circa 1976-78.
ALBUM AS ZED:
|1||VISIONS OF DUNE||1979||IRC 003|
|2||SOME DEATHS TAKE FOREVER||1980||EMI PATHÉ 2C070-14863|
|3||SUPERFICIAL MUSIC||1981||IRC 008|
A duo operating in that area where neo-classical music meets experimental new age rock. Instrumental electro-acoustic quasi-absurd creations written with an idiosyncratic sense of humour.
|1||BARRICADES III||1976||ISADORA ISA 9002|
|2||TRAITÉ DE MÉCANIQUE POPULAIRE||1979||SCOPA INV. 10.002|
|A1||LA PERVERSITA||1980||SCOPA INV. 10.005|
Not to be confused with Zao, this bunch made three mediocre albums of brass-blues and jazz, sometimes bordering on easy listening, although occasionally a hint of their real potential came through. Their style was somewhere between Chicago and Family, with Ian Bellamy comparable to Roger Chapman. Their two violin players catch the ear, sharing the limelight with organ, brass and electric guitar.
Zoo's first album had too many tedious instrumentais, but / Shall Be Free was better overall. However, Hard Times, Good Times didn't continue this positive trend. André and Michel Hervé later started ZOU (Zon Orchestra Unlimited) with their brothers Joël and Stephan, playing a mixture of funky jazz-rock, pop, progressive and soul.
|2||I SHALL BE FREE||1970||RIVIERA 521.147|
|3||HARD TIMES, GOOD TIMES||1971||BARCLAY 521.200|
|A1||ZOU||1975||POLYDOR 2393 103|
|B2||CONTES MUSICAUX||1977||ATLANTIC 50350|
|.||FESTIVAL DE ST. LAMBERT||1974||ABM|
|.||GROOVY POP SESSION||1972||PHILIPS 6332 044|
|.||LA MAREE NOIRE||1978||BALLON NOIR BAL 13005|
|.||LE PRINTEMPS DE BOURGES||1978||RCA PL 37187|
|.||MUSIC IS MY HONEY||1973||THÉLÈME 6332 752|