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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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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Not that anyone else should care, but I figured it's about time I caught up with this gem: the highest ranked album here at Progarchives that I've never heard, and from a band I was completely unfamiliar with.

The popularity of Harmonium apparently never extended to the west coast of California, where I cut my Prog Rock teeth at exactly the same time the band was reaching its creative zenith with this album. But they must have at least made it to the French Quarter of New Orleans, judging here by the song "Dixie". The combination of Québécois folk and Dixieland jazz may sound a little contrived on paper, but it works where it matters most: between the headphones, becoming just another unlikely but effective stylistic juxtaposition in the fertile musical landscape of the 1970s.

And after hearing the band's self-titled 1974 debut, it's clear they raised the aesthetic stakes for their sophomore album, from the peerless craftsmanship of their folk-rock origins to the pure artistry of whatever-it-is we define as Progressive Rock. To an Anglophile like me there's an echo of the same energy driving the better Canterbury bands, but expressed here with more upbeat, unplugged enthusiasm, better suited to the odd array of instruments: accordion, clarinet, zither harp, lots of acoustic guitars, and so forth.

You might hear the occasional spoon or washboard too (again, in the song "Dixie"), but elsewhere they manage to generate considerable symphonic grandeur for a group without a drummer (they do employ a Mellotron, and with dramatic flair). This is especially true in the joyful, rising chorus of "Depuis L'Automne", and throughout the 17-plus minute "Histoires Sans Paroles": a pastoral epic which borrows a sound similar to early Genesis and elevates it to a level the boys at Charterhouse could only imagine a half decade earlier. And all of it with vocal harmonies so gorgeous that you might suspect the cop out of studio auto-tuning if the album had been recorded today.

In retrospect, if I had come of age somewhere closer to the Canadian Maritime Provinces instead of a continent away on the Pacific coast of northern California, I likely would be awarding the album the coveted fifth star of an undisputed classic. It might earn that honor yet, after a few more spins. Don't be like me and deprive yourself of music this good for half a lifetime.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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