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Carpe Diem - Cueille le Jour CD (album) cover

CUEILLE LE JOUR

Carpe Diem

 

Eclectic Prog

3.85 | 51 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Carpe Diem's jewel, an essential French title

Carpe Diem's second album after the impressive debut "En Regardant Passer Le Temps" finds the band continuing with the "space fusion" sound, one of highly skilled compositions and perfectionist tendencies. While the first album had three tracks around 10 minutes long, here Carpe ups the ante with a juicy sidelong epic at over 21 minutes. Which album is the better one is clearly debatable. More on that later. Carpe Diem found their debut album well received and spent a good chunk of 1976 touring France in its support. In the summer the band moved from their rehearsal space in Nice to drummer Farault's barn in the country where they began to work on the compositions for their second album. Christian would begin by offering up the melodies and the others would construct and work their parts into the piece. With the good sales of the first album and their growing reputation the band was booked into Azurville Studios in Antibes. They were given 10 days this time to record the album and worked with incredibly diligence to produce such amazing stuff. The album was released in March of 1977 and did reasonably well but failed to break them in a big way. Later in the year after more gigs guitarist Abbenanti left the band wishing a more normal existence. They replaced him and soldiered on with more gigs and plans for a third release. But as the familiar story goes, punk was rising and the band became disillusioned with the lack of possibilities and promotion. Tragic really, because this was a band at the top of their game in every way and their 3rd album would have been stunning I would wager. But let's dissect this fabulous gem just a bit.

The five-part side long "Couleurs" suite is a masterpiece of French prog that is more impressive than anything on the debut. The first two minutes hint at a different approach with melodies that are the sound equivalent of birds climbing and diving through the air, followed by some hand clapping to signal the festivities at hand. Slowly the band comes to life and in the next several minutes I swear the influence is not the oft mentioned Gong or VDGG, but rather Oldfield. The sophistication and measured approach of the first album meets with more passion in this piece which is when things can get truly exciting to me. The rhythm and bass are as tight as ever but there is just a bit more color in the explorations of the guitars, sax, and keyboards. After 13 minutes there is an excellent break with a big keyboard wash followed by some fittingly smooth vocals, then it suddenly picks up and we get some very jubilant leads. It is impossible to cover the 21 minutes of twists and turns here and that's really the point. There is lots happening throughout this piece and it is quality and interesting. Love it. The shorter pieces of side two begin are "Naissance" which begins with subtle guitar tones over mellotron. Abbenanti plays some acoustic here and the bass has a bold Chris Squire feel to it. "Le Miracle de la Saint-Gaston" begins with flute and softly picked guitar. This one has nice dreamy vocals and again the singing is more about another texture, it's very peaceful and laid back. That's also the overall flavor here, one of Carpe's mellowest tracks with lots of melancholy. "Laure" has the coolest opening with the guitar work modified to an effect that is like bubbles-check it out. Bubbly also describes the rest of the track which takes an upbeat mood with flute, panned chunky chords in one part and nice electric leads in another. "Tramontane" slips back into a fusioney feel with saxophone and some intense drumming and lead guitar at times. "Divertimento" starts with just piano which is really fresh after all of the intensity, soon accompanied by lovely sax playing. Wisely the band stays away and this track becomes a piano/sax duet that is a fitting last recorded moment for Carpe Diem. The piano parts had to be recorded in but 15 minutes because the heat in the studio was causing the piano to go out of tune. The shorter tracks of side 2 suffer from not having the time to unwind and develop which one becomes enamored with after hearing the longer tracks on the two albums. What I do is sort of let them melt into one long suite in my mind, just pretend they are strung together and it works better. Hearing where this group was at makes me almost cry to think they actually recorded demos for the third album but never completed it.

Progweed's Greg Northrup notes "the trademark Carpe Diem sound is here in spades. Guitar-led flights of fancy, cosmic synthesizers, fluid woodwinds along with an incredible degree of compositional and harmonic sophistication.As should be expected, the musicianship is monstrous, the playing is tight and energetic, and the melodies veer from gorgeous to haunting.While unavoidably outshined and made less essential by Carpe Diem's magnificent debut album, Cueille le Jour nonetheless holds its own. Without presenting anything astoundingly different, or better, than anything off of En Regardent..., fans of that album will certainly find Cueille le Jour a satisfying complement." [Greg Northrup]

I disagree big time with Greg and others that the debut is better. To my ears Cueille Le Jour is the more enjoyable of their two albums and I give it 4 solid stars, perhaps 4 ½ if I'm in a good mood. The long Couleurs track is an amazing slab of symphonic prowess that holds its own against other side long epics, it has a comparable feel and importance to something like Hergest Ridge or Ommadawn. It seems less rigid and stifled than the first album to me which is why I like it a bit more. The sound feels more dynamic and spacious perhaps the result of better recording conditions or their increased experience. In any case it is essential to French prog fans and highly recommended to all symphonic, space, and fusion prog fans. The Musea CD release featured good sound quality, a detailed band history and nice photos. This is an outstanding piece of prog and a great introduction to the non-Ange part of the French scene for any newbie. You will enjoy!

Finnforest | 4/5 |

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