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Maneige - Les Porches CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.26 | 235 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review 30, Les Porches, Maneige, 1975

StarStarStarStarStarHeart The delights of this album are at heart surprisingly simple ones. Maneige have drawn no artificial musical lines in writing and performing this and clearly had enormous fun in doing so. Add to that that all of them are great musicians, capable of both improvisation and planned playing, as well as having two extremely talented composers in flautist/pianist Alain Bergeron and clarinet/guitar/piano player JÚrome Langlois. The classical, avant-garde, jazz and rock elements are all fused into two masterly suites. Les Porches De Notre Dame itself is in my indeterminately long list of 'all-time-favourite-song-ever-except-for-the-other-ones-on-the-list'. This masterpiece is crafted by both a host of musicians and a host of guest musicians, so I usually have very little idea who is playing. I may thus avoid my usual tactic of 'throw in a band member's name so it seems like I know what I'm talking about' in this review. Extremely highly recommended to anyone who can take a dose of classical or jazz ideas in their high quality prog, and should at least be tried.

Gentle clarinet and flute, accompanied by some of the percussion characteristic of Vincent Langlois and Gilles Schetagne throughout the album, begins the gorgeous Les Porches. The two instruments gently tease each other to prepare for the tingling glass-like percussion and a slight, gradual escalation, with a tad of accompanying bass or perhaps oboe.

After the gentle romance of this overture, the piano sets in, cold and clear, intelligently moving, backed up by a rather menacing hum. A high, chilly flute plays a number of beautiful melodies, while stretching percussion, marimbas included, only enhances this crystalline feel.

The second section of the suite is begun by avant-garde cowbell-clanging, and has a rather more homely, yet still delicate feel, with a clarinet being most prominently featured.

The third section of the suite is again full of piano and glockenspiel, as well as a throbbing bass and warm tubular bells. An almost bird-cry-like effect gives rise to a gorgeous section with multiple pianos and the same rich percussion sound throughout. Rather warmer, and the lush clarinet and flute provide the feel of a day dawning, and sun streaming in through the stain glass windows of a Parisian church. An equally cheerful section leads us up to the crashing gong and the piano solo.

I don't know my classical music well enough to describe the piano solo in a way that will be of any meaningful help to a serious musician, but I know that this solo is one of the most moving moments of music I have ever heard, with a warmth, beauty and a sense of loss and nostalgia that gets me on every listen.

Following the beautiful conclusion of this, Les Porches proper sets in with a gorgeous mellotron-like background sound, piano, amazing vocals with appropriate lyrical ideas from guest Raoul Duguay, snatches of rock drumming that carefully foreshadows the full explosion of the piece, some stunning bass solos and several beautiful piano parts. A clarinet brings the piece back from the vocals, and suddenly the best conclusion of all time begins, with a warm, heart-felt masterfully polyphonic combination of everyone involved. Electric guitar sears through the eardrums, saxes swirl, conveying the full light of the day, the drumming is life in its purest form. Additions from piano appear from nowhere, the bass runs around dissolutely, but connected to the rest. The guitar and sax launch out on their own, contributing solos finer and more vibrant than anything from Howe or Hackett. It brings itself to a natural conclusion, in a fairly bluesy style. The perfect musical interpretation of life and of the day.

The lively La Grosse Torche, a basically classical composition, with an enormous versatility of ideas on piano, flute, percussion and a string quartet handled perfectly and emotively in the space of only a minute and a half. The only way you could continue the album from Les Porches without disappointing.

Les Aventures De Saxinette Et Clarophone is also extremely interesting, versatile and continually a plain joy to listen to. It is divided whimsically into three chapters, two of which are split into two adventures.

From the strange get-go with its combination of freely used percussion and a slightly precursor to the bass that will hold together the first episode, Chaiptre I is distinctly eclectic, with a tapping, lively feel. A barrage of drums, including marimba, prepares for soulful, and surprisingly edgy saxophone-clarinet interplay. A warm bass part changes the thoughts to a darker, more pensive mood to conclude the episode with a cliffhanger, presumably.

The second episode kicks off with something instantly punchy but alien to my ears and added glockenspiel or something of a similar nature as well as a soulful, dark, foreboding piano, a great drumming part prepares for the piece's full explosion into first scorching sax and then building up into a superb polyphonic section, complete with electrics. The glockenspiel and percussion lead up gently, with the anarchic piano accompanying, to another of my favourite guitar solos ever, this time with a rather more bluesy edge (presumably from guest Denis Lapierre). A warm clarinet concludes the first chapter.

The second chapter begins with a snarling clarinet, more percussion everywhere, and the sax and the clarinet exchange thoughts and ideas. This is very much a theme throughout the rest of the piece, including more avant-garde percussion ideas and something that sounds like a spoken conversation, utterly hectic in nature on the second episode of this chapter with a rather eery, haunting atmosphere caused by the screeching duo. Suspense waiting for our instrumental heroes to confront the villain, whose arrival is signaled with a crash.

The third and final chapter of our story is begun with a bass theme and (yes, you guessed it!) bizarre percussion, and a brief exchange of taunts leads to the final confrontation, with a brief engagement resulting in the inevitable victory of the triumphant clarinet and saxophone. It shimmers gently out, rebellious, yet heroic.

Chromo abruptly tells us that we haven't yet reached the end of the album, even if the sheer amount of great music we have heard might give us that impression. A constant bass riff dances throughout the album, and, more than ever, we get the impression that the band is just having fun with a full workout, drums, flutes and clarinet playfully spotlighting themselves. Although the bass remains pretty constant throughout, everyone gets the opportunity to throw in an idea at any point. A rather mechanical bass-and-accompanying bits-and-bobs duo gives both suspense and a cheerful atmosphere at different times, and the skill and brevity with which they move from dark moods to very uplifting ones can only be admired. A surprisingly good end for the album.

The album as a whole needed a bit of listening time to expand and grow on me until it reached its current level of consistent delighting, so I suggest not writing it off if at first you're less amazed than this fawning review suggests you should be. A full five stars, and absolutely perfect. Also, I think the sound quality's stellar on the remaster, even if I don't know what I'm talking about, and haven't heard the original.

How many albums do you know that can express not only an insightful understanding of the day and life's essence itself, but also convey a fictional, free-to-interpretation comic-book, without a single word, and do so with so little distinction between the borders of jazz, classical and rock music? Its description as fusion is the only one possible, but inadequate to express exactly what the album is, and even if Chromo doesn't grip you (I feel that it's not really representative of the album's majestic longer pieces), I am certain that something from the two longer pieces will. Five stars.

Buy this album

Rating: Five Stars

Favourite Track: Les Porches De Notre Dame

TGM: Orb | 5/5 |


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