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Harmonium - Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.35 | 1349 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I recently came across a copy of this on vinyl in pristine condition at my favorite record store. I had purchased it on CD many years ago as a young progressive rock rookie and had been completely enamored by it then. So, at a price that suggested the store probably didn't know what they had, I picked up this album and excitedly gave it a spin for the first time in years.

My goodness, how I have missed this exquisite francophone masterwork.

Si on Avait besoin d'une Cinquième Saison is Harmonium's 2nd of three albums and while not their most ambitious, certainly their most accomplished. Translating to "If We Had Need of a Fifth Season" (just let that paint a picture for you for a second), the album is a concept work featuring five compositions, each representing a season, with the final track representing the imaginary Fifth Season. Like many classic symphonic works of the day, this album makes use of a myriad of music performed on a variety of instruments with effortless coalescence. The difference here is the unique flavor that this Montreal group is able to bring to the fray. Mandolin, grand pianos, mellotron and synthesizers, piccolo and zither harp along with the standard rock outfit of instruments paints each season with care, personality and precision while managing to keep the overall tone of the album upbeat to the point of being soothing.

Vert opens with a perfect introduction of how the music of the album is going to treat you, Soft flutes build with vocals that eventually become soaring. I also recommend translating the lyrics for this one because the music with the accompanying imagery of the opening of flowers "who are remembering their colors" is nothing short of spectacular. Dixie is unmistakable as Summer's track. It's jangling and fun guitars join with more soothing vocals that lead into a bouncy, intricate trade off in extended soloing between multiple instruments that join in conclusion to one of progressive rock's most upbeat songs. It's here that, in tandem with the first track, the band finishes working with musical themes presented on their debut album and wet the palate for the symphonic that is about to come.

Starting with Depuis L'Automne the band expands their sound into something lush and consuming. The delicate vocal intro builds into mellotron spiced harmonies with the rest of the players coming in gradually and organically building this soft and intricately structured suite. The lush sounds continue onto side two with En Pleine Face, a song that captures the essence of a cold winter while still maintaining the warm atmosphere that permeates on the album.

But it's Histoires Sans Paroles that really steals the show here. Representative of the fifth season, this 17-minute epic builds with the band's unique francophone flavor supported by flute and mellotron, mixing melancholy with trance-inducing instrumentals. Cinematic passages towards the end of the song providing a contrast between the otherwise utopian themes with something a little more realistic and dark that gives the album a thematic edge above and beyond "this is a happy album". It gives the audience somewhere to think and reflect, to be grateful for the happiness without pushing too far into depressing territory. It is a symphonic-instrumental masterpiece, reaching levels that contemporaries like Yes were able to attain.

I was shocked when I drifted past PA to check out my decade-old review of the album, only to discover that I never actually reviewed it. This is an absolutely essential piece of the progressive rock canon. If you see it, get it, especially if you can find it on vinyl. The artwork and the full gatefold are just as lush as the music within. Stream it if you want a taste before you dive in headlong, but by all means, give this album some of your time and attention. If symphonic prog is your thing and you don't already know this album from cover to cover, listen to this as soon as you can.

Queen By-Tor | 5/5 |


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