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Garolou - Garolou CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.65 | 15 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
4 stars The late 1970s represented a singular moment in French Canada, particularly the province of Quebec. A government had been elected whose primary purpose was to achieve independent nation status for the province, and a population long suppressed by both the Catholic Church and the English business elite was feeling its oats. The half decade period leading up to and subsequent to the 1976 election victory was also a windfall for the arts. Since we are discussing music here, it was also the golden era for Quebecois popular music, particularly that which unearthed its rich roots and only fortified them in the process. I consider GAROLOU to have been in the forefront of this stampede, even if their two founders were from Ontario, and I'm certainly not alone, for their enthusiastic if unlikely blend of traditional folk music and symphonic progressive rock went gold for this, their second self-titled album (although each had a different name).

The album kicks off with the moody and potent "Aux Illinois", with its theme of lust and deceit. The quiet first verse is accompanied by simple electric piano with a slight jazzy feel, but raucous rhythm guitars quickly join in and turns this into perhaps the heaviest cut on the disc, and one of its best. This juxtaposition of Celtic and rock and roll styles is handled with panache. The most popular track on FM radio was "La complainte du marechal Biron", and its suspenseful tale of the king's right hand man who came to Paris to "play with the queen" continues the theme of lovers and friends turning against each other. Musically this is also a gem, with fine acoustic guitar throughout and string synths, which seemed to be Garolou's keyboard of choice, but not overdone. The band switches to the more blatantly historical for "Le Depart pour les etats", a touching tale of Canadian working families seeking employment and prosperity in the USA during the early Industrial Revolution only to be taken down a notch and become third class citizens. It features a superb lead guitar solo in the break.

Many other highlights include a breakneck version of "Alouette" which bears little resemblance to the cutesy rhyme that all Quebeckers know, Francophone and Anglophone alike, "Wing Tra La", a beautiful a capella number, and of course the overtly progressive 10 minute excursion that is "Germaine", with every device and excess of late 1970s progressive rock in one endearing package, and where the string cheese, I mean synthesizers, come closest to melting all over our heroic lovers. Still, it's an ambitious and highly realized work thanks to the band's melodic instincts and the Lalonde brothers' theatrical background.

I cannot possibly be objective about this indulgence that encapsulates my teenage love affair with home grown, old fashioned, and yet thoroughly contemporary rock, but I wouldn't throw you to the werewolves. This is a priceless snapshot of a time and place that are both gone forever.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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