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Pollen - Pollen CD (album) cover

POLLEN

Pollen

 

Symphonic Prog

4.10 | 156 ratings

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VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review Nº 176

"Pollen" is the eponymous debut album of the Canadian progressive rock group Pollen and was released in 1976. In 1972, Tom Rivest and Lemoyne decided to form a progressive rock group. The band's name came by chance when, in the kitchen of the house where they lived together, the musicians spotted a jar of flower pollen. In 1973, Pollen gave their first live performance at Cégep, Maisonneuve. The group's concerts featured sophisticated light shows, visual elements and scenic effects of rare beauty. In 1974, Pollen made the tour of Québec with Gentle Giant. During 1975, Pollen continued performing to sell out shows at several venues like Cinéma Outremont, L'Évêché and Café Campus.

In 1976, Pollen released their self titled debut album, containing some of the best and most impressive progressive rock music in North America. One can say that Pollen was one of Québec's biggest progressive acts in the mid 70's, with Harmonium and Maneige. But their music is more purely rooted in the symphonic genre than their countrymen, whose music is more folk-oriented, Harmonium, or more fusion, Maneige. The band married tight musicianship and dazzling special effects and could be perceived as Québec's most symphonic contribution to the world of progressive rock. The album was launched during a show at the Grand Théatre de Québec where Pollen shared the headline act with Caravan.

Pollen split-up in 1976. So, "Pollen" is the only living testament under the Pollen's name, and represents one of the brightest jewels in the Québecois progressive crown. When I'm saying that "Pollen" is the only album of the band is really true. However, Tom Rivest released in 1979 his solo eponymous debut and only album with his band mates Lemoyne and Lemay. For some reason, Pollen never managed to release a second album, but the story somehow continued with the release of that solo album because some songs were already written for the second band's album.

The line up on the album is Jacques Tom Rivest (lead vocals, bass, acoustic guitar and keyboards), Richard Lemoyne (electric and acoustic guitar, keyboards and bass), Claude Lemay (backing vocals, keyboards, flute, vibraphone and bass) and Sylvain Coutu (drums, vibraphone and percussion).

"Pollen" has six tracks. The first track "Vieux Corps De Vie D'Ange" immediately sets the tone for the album and represents an excellent example of the unique musical style of Pollen. The track offers up a very dramatic mixture of pomp and symphonic filled with gorgeous keyboard excursions and extremely dramatic vocals from Rivest. This is really a great opener for the album. The second track "L'Étoile" follows and veers the album into a mellower direction. It opens with flute before the acoustic guitar and of the arriving of vocals. A mellow and pleasant sound is the result. This is a very interesting piece which demonstrates the band's ability to write more radio-friendly numbers. The third track "L'Indien" is another ballad that features acoustic guitar and nice vocals. Rivest does manages to put his own stamp on this one and his melancholic crooning and acoustic guitar is achingly poignant throughout the number. This is another excellent track that maintains the high quality level of the album. The fourth track "Tout L'Temps" is a quirky up-tempo number built on a jazz-like drum beat and swirling keyboards. The band once again shows a penchant for being able to write pop pieces with symphonic flair. The song ends on a particularly high note with some very tasty keyboards. The fifth track "Vivre La Mort" is one of the highlights of the album. The musical framework of the piece is built upon some powerful drumming and theatrical keyboard chords as the track builds to a crescendo. Halfway, through the number, we get a taste of Pollen's truly symphonic nature. Guitars and keys coalesce as the song builds up a head of steam before pushing the listener over the top in a fine display of tight musicianship. The sixth track "La Femme Ailée" is the epic of the album. It begins with some gentle guitar passages and delicate vocals. Slowly, the track builds in intensity until explodes in grandiose fashion. The closing 6 minutes represents its finest moment. Complex tempo changes and superlative instrumental prowess are the order of the day. Somber church organ cedes to powerful drum fills and moog madness and some excellent lead guitar before returning to the track's main theme. It closes the album in a grand style.

Conclusion: Hopefully, I've been able to express that Pollen, especially with the final long track, is one of the best symphonic progressive rock acts of the 70's, out of Europe. It can be reported with no failures and for friends of the 70's, a full recommendation can be given. Thus they offered in the French speaking Canadian province of Quebec one of the best progressive rock albums and one of the best introductions to Québec's prosperous progressive rock scene of the mid late of the 70's. This is the kind of albums that deserve to be rescued from the shades of the 70's recording industry and taken into every good progressive music collection. For lovers of the classic progressive rock of the 70's, this album should definitely be for them, especially for those who like the French strain of the genre. So, enjoy it, really.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |

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