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Ange - Par les Fils de Mandrin CD (album) cover

PAR LES FILS DE MANDRIN

Ange

 

Symphonic Prog

3.40 | 93 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A colorful journey

Another quality release by the French legends, this is another concept album dealing with a roving band of characters on a journey of some sort. The back cover is more revealing showing the throngs behind their leader driving a cosmic horse and buggy. The sound on this album is more folksy and melodic perhaps though retaining the mellotron and electric guitars for the most part. I've read a person or two call it their best album but I can't agree with that.

The title track opens the album with some bird noises and gently building keyboards until the band kicks in about one minute later. A chunky guitar riff and sets the stage for the entrance of the master of ceremonies, the fabulous Christian Decamps, who once again will be taking you on a mini-theatrical journey. His voice is the best kind of musical chameleon, able to act out different characters, go high, go low, rant, rave, and drool as the material calls for. He's the very definition of an engaging charismatic frontman who likes to push people's buttons. He doesn't appeal to everyone for exactly those reasons but if you accept his style you're in for a real treat each time. "Au Café du Colibre" begins with a quirky, fun keyboard part that continues throughout the track giving it a light, festive vibe. The drums and bass are excellent at accentuating each point with a real punch. Narratives which I can't understand (in French of course) are constant and English speakers simply have to kick back and enjoy the descriptive style of Decamps' vocal, after some time you begin to understand some things despite the language gap. He's that expressive. "Ainsi s'en ira la pluie" starts quietly with soft vocals over mellotron. Half way through is a very nice section of volume controlled guitar painting a peaceful background, this track is very mellow and moody. Finally 4 ˝ minutes we get a sweet electric lead that ushers in the exuberant ending. Brezovar plays guitar very well but rarely does he take a solo for as long as I'd like him to. "Autour du Feu" begins with acoustic and tambourine, then quiet vocals. It is a soft folk music track that briefly gets foot-stompin at the end. "Saltimbanques" is a delightful melody that will invade your head and never let you go, another quirky, proggy folk song. Flute and harpsichord are featured prominently and along with Decamps lively vocal make this a standout Ange track. The music stops and the track ends with a voice speaking and more bird sounds (which Ange love apparently.) "Des Yeux Coleur D'enfants" is one part hard rock sound with the big guitars and the other parts mellow keys and vocals alternatively. "Atlantis" is a very quiet atmospheric piece, with spacey synth blurbs, some singing, vocal narration, and light guitar work. The last minute is given to a fine electric guitar solo but again length is a problem, it begins to fade after 40 seconds. The album's highlight is the 3-part closer "Hymme a la Vie" opening with acoustic and excellent vocals. Keyboards fill in the background and mood is a hopeful one. In the middle section the pace picks up a bit with strummed acoustic and drums and what sounds like recorder perhaps? The vocals again feature nice arrangements and a well timed electric solo give it some spunk. The finale gets heavier still with the deep bass and electric much louder as Decamps pleads over the music in a wail. A big drum roll signals the dramatic end followed by a final quiet note.

"By the Sons of Mandrin" is a pretty good album in their canon but for me doesn't approach "Au-dela Du Delire" in sheer beauty. It's a mostly laid back affair that has a few punches but mostly plays it down a bit. Decamps is not as obnoxious here as on other albums (and that's not a dig, I like him edgy) so in that sense this might be an easier album for Ange newbies dipping their toes. I like it but of the Ange I've heard I notice more clearly with this one the relative lack of instrumental length and aggressiveness. The vocals are awesome but the music stays too much in the background and when solos do arise they are just too short, frustratingly so for those who love a bit of expansion. So I'm stuck around 3 ˝ stars again not quite able to give them 4 this time. But I still recommend this easily to Ange fans and fans of classic French prog. Despite my reservations there is still much to enjoy. The Philips issue CD I have is again woefully inadequate, without notes or lyrics.

Finnforest | 3/5 |

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