Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Harmonium - Harmonium CD (album) cover

HARMONIUM

Harmonium

 

Prog Folk

3.66 | 238 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

siLLy puPPy
4 stars HARMONIUM was one of Quebec's top progressive rock bands in the 70s. Started by lead vocalist / guitarist Serge Fiori and Michel Normandeau on vocals and guitar, the duo who met in 1972 decided to form a band after meeting bassist Louis Valois in 1973. Starting out as a folk rock band that sang in their native French language it didn't take too long to find airplay on a local radio station and immediately found a hit with the song "Pour Un Instant" which propelled their self-titled album which came out in 1974 in the limelight and instant success at least on a local Canadian level.

While better known for the much more progressive albums like "Si On Avait Besoin D'une Cinquieme Saison" which blended their folky stylistic approach with the benefit of sophisticated symphonic prog, this debut is by far the band's album most steeped in traditional folk flavors with the simple instrumentation of acoustic guitar, bass and only an occasional trace of drums and flugelhorn. Also an uncredited piano player joins in but for the most part this is truly a folk album with only minor aspects of rock music at all.

All tracks are sung in French which gives it an interesting ethnic vibe since the music itself sounds more like typical American folk rock with some tracks reminding me of Chile's Sui Generis but is probably most similar to another folk band called Beau Dommage. The band was quite popular in small clubs and cafes which led to this all acoustic debut album. While basically a trio of two guitars and a bass, drummer Réjean Émond joins in on about half the tracks. Like most folk music of the era, the lyrics deal with social issues and craft an emotional display of chord progressions accompanied by passionate vocals. Some even claim a Fairport Convention similarity but personally HARMONIUM was a bit more earnest in its delivery, at least at this stage.

While "Pour Un Instant" became a big hit and remains the band's most successful single, the rest of the album is actually more interesting with tracks like "Vielles courroies" and "Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjour à la vie" crafting much more adventurous harmonic interplay. While French often doesn't make the best folk rock linguistic experience, band leader Serge Fiori delivers a passionate display of vocal expressions and amazingly adapts the French lyrical flow to a more English sounding style of folk music without missing a beat. The tunes are generally mid-tempo and intently catchy and probably perfect for French speakers to sing along to which is why the album has remained their most popular in Quebec while the more progressive albums that followed have become most revered in larger circles.

This album is also interesting in that the first track is called HARMONIUM on an album of the same name from the band of the same name. After this the trio would expand into a quintet with the addition of Serge Locat on keyboards and Pierre Daigneault on flutes and clarinets. Don't expect a prog behemoth on this debut but rather a nice pleasant album of catchy melodic folk tunes sung in French with nice song structures and less developed ideas than what came after. Still after and is said and done, as a folk rock album, the HARMONIUM debut more than holds its own against the wealth of British and American folk that emerged throughout the 60s and 70s only the French connection gives this one an interesting ethnic edge that artists like Bob Dylan clearly lacked. Oh, and way cool colorful album cover art. Really stands out.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this HARMONIUM review

Social review comments () BETA







Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.