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Harmonium - Si On Avait Besoin D'Une Cinquième Saison CD (album) cover

SI ON AVAIT BESOIN D'UNE CINQUIÈME SAISON

Harmonium

 

Symphonic Prog

4.39 | 910 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Fitzcarraldo
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars From the first bars of this concept album you know that it's going to be something special.

Let me get a couple of inconsequential things out of the way first: (a) it's not Progressive Rock; (b) in my opinion, apart from the last track the music is not particularly 'progressive'. Right, now let's talk about the music.

Five tracks, five seasons: 'Vert' (green) = spring; 'Dixie' = summer; 'Depuis L'Automne' (since the autumn) = autumn (fall); 'En Pleine Face' (on full face) = winter; Histoires Sans Paroles (stories without words) = the fifth season ("Si On Avait Besoin D'Une Cinquième Saison" means "if one needed a fifth season"). This is why this album is also known as "Les Cinq Saisons" (the five seasons).

Fiori, singing in accented Quebec French, has a gorgeous voice, full of emotion. That, plus the exceedingly good writing, arrangements and musicianship, makes the music delightful. And it's hard to credit, but there are no drums on this album (well, 2 seconds of bass drum according to the sleeve notes!). I suppose one could categorize the music as accessible, highly melodious, laidback music with folk influences and a tinge of the 1960s mainstream. Electric piano (gorgeous), Mellotron and synthesizer are used, but in rather an understated way. To me, "Les Cinq Saisons" doesn't sound as dated as, and is better than, the group's next release "L'Heptade".

The mood of the first four tracks matches well the seasons: 'Vert' is light, breezy and hopeful; 'Dixie' -- a Charleston, by the way -- is pure, joyous fun; 'Depuis L'Automne' is broody and melancholic; 'En Pleine Face' is, to me, just achingly, moist eyes, sad ("C'est moi que est tombé en pleine face" just gets me every time).

The whole thing is accessible, particularly the first four tracks and, of those, 'Dixie' and 'En Pleine Face' in particular.

It's difficult to single out a favourite track when they're all so good, but I suppose my favourites are 'Dixie' and 'En Pleine Face'. The former is such a joyous Charleston romp with honky-tonk piano (a grand, but sounding a bit like an overstrung upright). The latter has a sadness to it that I find touching; I love the arrangement, the Gallic-sounding accordion and the Ondes Martinet. No, hang on; perhaps I like 'Vert' and 'Depuis L'Automne' better. Err.

Progressive Rock fans tend to single out the long instrumental 'fifth season' "Histoires Sans Paroles", and I like this very much too, but it does not touch me quite as deeply, although the lovely instrumentation (including haunting Mellotron), vocalisations by Judy Richard, changes in mood and tempo do indeed make "Histoires Sans Paroles" a delight. But I'm splitting hairs: all the tracks are truly excellent.

The piano is the business, the electronic keyboards tasteful, the acoustic guitar, mandolin and dulcimer sublime, the woodwind melodic and understated, the singing and harmonies gorgeous. It's difficult to single out instruments and players when it all melds beautifully, thanks in no small part to Fiori's and Normandeau's top-notch writing (music and lyrics).

Apparently the lyrics have meanings within meanings, alluding to the Quebec separatist movement in the 1970s, the group's experiences at the time, the city of Montreal and goodness knows what else. Fiori's handwritten sleeve notes talk about "Montréal" as if she were a woman, an allegory I suppose. His notes on the fifth season start off: "Pendant que Montréal dormait, le printemps se glissa lentement dans son lit." (While Montreal slept, spring slipped slowly into its bed.) and end with the same words, in other words a cycle. And here is my only gripe with the CD: the format does not do the booklet justice. The artwork by Louis-Pierre Bougíe is bizarre and I would have liked to study it at its full size rather than on a 'postage stamp'. The aforementioned handwritten sleeve notes by Fiori are legible, but would have been much easier to read had they been bigger. The details about the music and album on the inner cover of the booklet are minuscule but just about readable. What a shame that this has been squeezed down to fit the CD format. Perhaps Polydor should have printed it on a large fold-up colour sheet of the type one sees in some CDs.

For the first time, I think, I have trouble rating an album because of the text associated with the star rating system on this site. Putting aside the text, this is a no-brainer 5-star album. But the text associated with 5 stars on this site is "Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music". Trouble is, as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I don't think the music on this album is particularly progressive, last track excepting. Well, I'm going to have to turn a blind eye in this case, 'cause 5 stars it has to be. It seems the large majority of Progressive Rock fans think the same way about this aesthetic music, which possibly proves that your average Progressive Rock fan is a big girl's blouse at heart. Anyway, do yourself a favour and buy this album.

Fitzcarraldo | 5/5 |

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