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French TV - The Violence Of Amateurs CD (album) cover

THE VIOLENCE OF AMATEURS

French TV

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.14 | 62 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Despite the explicit allusions in the album title, "The Violence of Amateurs" is a work of maturity and complete cohesion in the impressive French TV catalogue. The sort of musical maturity that the band had started accomplishing from the "Virtue In Futility" album onwards meets its total fruition in this fifth studio effort. The time of this album was a period in which the band was reduced to the duo of founding member Mike Sary and guitarist/keyboardist Dean Zigoris plus a host of talented guests that happen to be supporting them at the moment. The completion of a kaleidoscopic tracklist such as this, full of agile moods and enriched with a clever variety makes this album an absolute masterpiece of avant-prog for the last two decades. It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since its release: it's like an old album by a truly veteran group. 'The Kokonino Stomp' kicks off the album with exhilarating flying colors, providing an exciting sequence of motifs in a "big band" framework that screams craziness and genius at the same time. The RIO and Zappa elements are abundant all throughout this progressive roller coaster: it includes a circus section with a Dadaist banjo, a be-bop portion with Charleston piano and a cartoonish tribal percussion/chorale. Enjoy with humor, but don't let the humor block your ears off the abundant musical genius invested in this piece. Next comes another extroverted track, 'The Secret Life of Walter Riddle', whose humorous introductory motif might work as background music for a comic sketch. Then, the main body is set on a lively rocking pace wrapped in a colorful instrumentation that features some brass and synth fanfares. There is also room for an amazing guitar solo that finds Zigoris stating a solid hybrid of Holdsworth and Frith in a hard rock mood (go figure!); there is also some room for a sick sax solo displayed on a jazzy swing. The piece ends on a Ventures-like note. After these 12 minutes of prog joy, come the 8 ¾ minutes of 'The Odessa Steps Sequence', the cover of a Volaré track - in fact, this band's drummer is one of the special guests for French TV here. For this one, the French TV commune explores its lyrical side (not as common, but consistent anyway). The first 4 ½ minutes are focused on an eerie mixture of symphonic magic and jazzy textures, stating a framework of contemplative subtlety for the complex melodic development. After that, the piece shifts toward sources of pomposity, like a "Wakemanized" ELP. Afterwards, a more neurotic motif settles in, featuring what arguably is the most explosive guitar solo in the album. 'Mail Order Quarks' brings the most moving melodies to the fore, bringing an ethereal atmosphere that may sound related to Shadowfax, HTM and However's softer facet. Abundantly acoustic, the guitar and soprano sax weave a soaring development of dreamy moods. A second motif kicks in to introduce a mesmerizing set of exotic fusion ambiences; gradually, these ambiences grow to become more intense, with spacey synth ornaments interfering among the flute flourishes while the rhythm section gets reasonably louder. Once this exquisite climax ends at the 7 minute mark, the track goes back to its softer realms in order to prepare the path for the closing reprise. How lovely this piece is!, lovely in the finest tradition of prog, as a piece of refined tapestry, pristine sensitivity and polished skill. This track is a definitive cornerstone of Franch TV, just like the album is a highlight in the current USA prog scene. 'Tiger Tea' follows in a return to the band's extravagant side - the joyful exhibition of Latin jazz colors on a samba- meet-rumba tempo glows in its frivolous insanity. The Dadaistic approach to these merry colors reminds me a bit of Rascal Reporters and 90s Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. There is also a duel of guitar and piano that sounds like Irakere revamping a 80s KC jam (go figure!). By the 4 minute mark, the piece is totally rooted on an apparently chaotic eclecticism that indeed is nothing but a display of intelligent complexity. The last motifs tend toward the serene side of things: there is one of them featuring soft jazzy guitar and Focus-like flute lines, a lovely portion in its own terms; the final section is based on an atmosphere of soft jazz-rock that becomes quite anti-climatic. in an effective manner, pleasant as it is ironic. Almost every French TV album includes a cover, and "The Violence of Amateurs" is no exception - Sary, Zigoris and their momentary guests indulge in a robust version of Zamla Mammaz Manna's 'Joosan Lost' ('The Fate'), surpassing the Nektar and VdGG covers that had a place in previous releases. This album is a masterpiece, no doubt in my mind about it.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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