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CANO - Au Nord de Notre Vie CD (album) cover



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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!

While the debut had scored some attention in French-speaking Canada, Cano decided to bring up Rachel Paiement's delicious voice more upfront. Her voice timbre is halfway between Haslam (Renaissance) or Christina (Curved air) and Monique Fauteux (Harmonium) or Christiane Robichaux (Contraction). While still remaining a primarily folk spirit, this album is slightly rockier (and sometimes more fusion) than the debut. Needless to say this album struck the same chord in this writer's soul (and his pack of friends also) and provided a healthy alternative (or counterbalance) to our hard rock leanings (Zep, Priest, Rush) and calmer nights around the campfire when the parents had not unknowingly left us the houses to organize our wild house-parties.

Again as the French title hints, the album is again centered around their Acadian roots, the rough Northern climates and their sheer generous (and hippy) idealism. The artwork is again representative of the (sometimes hostile) nature around them, also. Opening track is a visit to an old Amerindian spirit of the river (Che-Zeebe), and Rachel's superb aerial voice is a pure joy, while the group is developing a great prog rock behind her. With a worthy (but unremarkable dure to the great surrounding tracks) Automne gone by, we find the 11-min mini-suite A La Poursuite Du Nord (from which suite the album title is taken from) and anyone living in mid-Canada, cannot help but experiencing chills down their spine. Rachel's voice with Kendel's piano reminds us the greatest moments of Renaissance (Haslam and Tout), but the track soon evolves in much more than the British group ever had to offer (remember we are dealing with an octet in Cano) into a wild soul-search of the spirit of the north. In New Orleans, this would be equivalent to emotive blues sung by cotton-field workers. Kohut's violin, never very fast (preferring every slow meander it can possibly find) while staying concise, is reminding of JL Ponty's albums of the same years.

The B side of the album starts with the stunning 12-min Mon Pays, which could almost be regarded as an updated version of Gilles Vigneault's timeless anthemic Mon Pays (C'est L' Hiver). After a delicious debut and a more fusion-like follow-up, the middle section almost stops to have the bass sing out with the birds and it slowly brings the track to an almost jazz-rock feeling (again, strangely, Renaissance springs up to mind but the first version of it with Cennamo on bass) with a delicious multi solo section and without warning popping back into the track into a superb finale. Another updated timeless classic is the nursery rhyme Frère Jacques in a stunning rearrangement! Du grand art , Monsieur! Such an album could not close away on anything else than a stunning instrumental, resuming the spirit of the album, and believe this writer, this is one hell of an exit. This 6-min is as delightful as a sunset over a lake in the mid-north, a brew in your hand and the partner in the other.

A stunning but grossly overlooked album (only yelling for the proghead's attention to repair this huge and blatant injustice), clearly Cano had come of age, and their next step would be to start gaining more attention of the English part of Canada with their following Eclipse (which never got a Cd release as did none of their later albums. This album ranks among the very best of the country in the late-70's and there was solid competition. Warmly recommended, especially if you long for Canada.

(About that time for holidays, Hugues ;-)

Report this review (#79200)
Posted Wednesday, May 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Recently I started to explore a bit more the Canadian progressive scene and therefore I ordered a few of those hard to grab old vinyls from MANEIGE, AQUARELLE and as well this one here. Unfortunately I've got to say CANO's was the least fascinating of this threesome to me. Certainly it's a complete differente style from the one of those jazz-rock bands hailing from Quebec. But usually my preferred taste is not restricted to jazz and there are as well many prog folk bands I can appreciate. After I read in their biography that they sound quite similar to HARMONIUM and RENAISSANCE I was not that surprised anymore that their music does not appeal too much to me because those don't belong to my favorites either. Their songs are (at least on the first side of this record) mostly just too light-weighted to fit my high demands I've to say. Even for the long suite with 11 minutes running time I would not run miles for. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to say that it's actually bad. For sure the musicianship is brilliant and I've got to put a high note as well for the wide range of used instruments. Above all the songs on side A are just nice,pleasant and beautiful and certainly will appeal to any fan of Harmonium or Renaissance.

My initially rather negative impressive changed considerably when listening to the first song on side B "Mon pays" which is together with the last one "Spirit of the north" the only interesting one with really haunting violin play and a nice versability bringing even a slight touch of jazz into their music. These two great compositions are divided from each other by a version of the well-known french traditional "Frère Jacques" which is nice but... (see above). The vocal performance, especially the one by the female singer sounds very attractive to me by the way.

Finally as a summary I can say that AU NORD DE NOTRE VIE is a pleasant and certainly good prog folk album offering two excellent songs. But since the rest is rather to be neglected by someone who is usually listening to more sophisticated kind of music I can't see a necessity to rate it with 4 stars and hence label it as an excellent addition to any prog collection.

Report this review (#83000)
Posted Friday, July 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Cano is one of the good Canadian folk rock bands which arrived in the 1970s. Harmonium, Buffy Saint Mary, Neil Young and Buffalo Springfield were others in this scene.

Style wise, Cano is a blend of early Harmonium, Maneige and Renaissance. The female vocals are excellent. So is the very Maneige like jazzy fusion stuff which pops up now and then. The Harmonium bits is due to the symphonic prog vibe that sometimes pops up during this album. But everything here is based on a laid back folk rock mood. There is a lot more pure music, symphonic and jazzy music, here than on an average prog folk album.

This is the strength of this album. The solo runs on piano and the musicality of the whole album. That and the quality of the songs. There is no outstanding tracks on this album and that is my gripe with it. But this album is a great listen throughout and really captivating. If you love the great Harmonium album Si On Avait Besoin D'Une Cinquième Saison, you will also like this album. The difference is that Cano has better vocals.

File this album alongside the other great Canadian prog rock albums and do thoroughly enjoy it as I have done.

4 stars

Report this review (#300059)
Posted Wednesday, September 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars This would have to be THE essential prog. folk album from the Canadian scene. Everything is perfect - the mix, the atmosphere, the imagery. I hear Ponty-like colourings in the violin department. The grand piano work of Michel Kendel is superb as is the fender rhodes. This album would not only appeal to prog.folk fans, but also jazz/rock fans in the ECM vein. This music creates that Metheny-like atmosphere and Eberhard Weber(Colours of Chloe). Fans of Joni Mitchell's jazz/pop would really enjoy this. Rachel Paiement's vocals don't quite hit the high register a la Annie Haslam, but that's not what the music requires. The french vocals are neutral and not particularly Quebecois...more of a franco-Ontarien tone (after all, CANO is based in Sudbury). Even if you don't understand french, the vocals will not be a problem. The long players "Mon Pays" and "Ã? la poursuite du nord" are the highlights but never overstay their welcome. Fans of Curved Air, Renaissance, Joni Mitchell, Pat Metheny, Harmonium and the Quebec prog.rock scene would enjoy this. When CANO stretches out on the long players, I'm reminded of a fusion between Maneige and Harmonium...and some Octobre. The acoustic guitar work is stellar. This is a personal masterpiece in my books, but a 4 - 4.5 star rating would be appropriate here as it is for the select few on this website. But heck, I'm giving it a 5 star rating as I am pretty sure this is a grower and will become a personal favourite of many listeners willing to give CANO some ears. Every citizen of Canada should make "Au Nord de Notre Vie" an essential part of their music collection, even if they are not a fan of prog.rock, jazz or folk. It's that essential!
Report this review (#376916)
Posted Sunday, January 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is another Franco-Ontarian progressive folk collective, releasing albums around the same time in the late 1970s as Lougarou/Garolou. Cano was based in Sudbury, and is much larger, with a more fluid line-up. Their songs are quieter and longer with more of a distinct folk edge. This is their second album, and largely considered their best. Other than two longer songs (the 'A la Poursuite du Nord' suite, and 'Mon Pays') the songs are regular-length. Rachel Paiement's vocals stand out as a defining feature (good) of their sound, as well as Wasyl Kohut's violins (acoustic and electric), while the vocals by the male singers generally do not make much of impression. Acoustic guitar and piano are the main other instruments, with a few synthesizers and electric guitars occasionally present. The last song, 'Spirit of the North' (written by Kohut) was one of their concert show-stoppers. On the whole this is a very listenable and enjoyable album. However, it does not quite (in my opinion) live up to their first album. The compositions on this one are mixed, and some of the tunes (now that I have listened to this for over 20 years) I just have to skip over (such as 'Automne' and 'La Premiere Fois'). The best tunes are the two long ones, but even those have mixed musicality. Even 'Spirit of the North' I find has worn on me after multiple listens - while it checks all the boxes for what one might expect from progressive folk, somehow there is not enough weight to it - it is more like an extended solo than a composition with real staying power. On balance, I give this 7.2 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which corresponds to 3 PA stars.
Report this review (#1693941)
Posted Friday, February 17, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars There are some excellent choices to introduce prog folk to a person who is available to know it. The first White Willow effort, french Wurtemberg, three or four Basque prog works, and of course Jethro Tull, among others. But I have this feeling that it's better to get started on this genre with some specific albums, and the first I'd pick would be this one. Let me tell you why.

First, it has an unquestionable symphonic rock vein among two of the 7 tracks, which helps to appeal to the subgenre that the majority of the prog rock fans love. Second, the composition of the lyrics is very coherent to the term 'folk'. Exploring some native and local aspects of Canada's culture and history. Third, the instrumentation is superb, and doesn't stay back when the singers (all divine, specially Rachel, which has plenty of space this time) are performing. There's a cliche about prog folk that is usually used to declare this subgenre's rejection: that it gives to much space to vocals and little dedication to instrumental. Au nord de notre vie proves this cliche can be true on other prog folk works, but not in this one. By the way, there are some tracks totally instrumental. Fourth, the use of acoustic instruments, that is common on prog folk, in this interplay makes a very creative, fresh and surprising interpretation of traditional tunes. Fifth and one of the characteristics that really captivates me in prog rock - the vocal harmonies are outstanding. Lyrics, sang in french, display musicality on first place and interpretation, dramaticity on second, IMO the option that delivers the best french chant. The female vocals could find the way to sing and also execute some very beautiful vocal effects. Another great effort on this topic are the passages when two or more musicians are singing together or as a duet. Besides, the chorus arrangements are just in the right place and mood, always.

Other features about this opus reinforce my analysis about its brilliance. The diversity of instruments, the production and edition very tight to combine these multiple contributions.

The booklet has its own charm, making something simple but very wise: besides the lyrics in french is its translation to english, Unfortunately, it may be hard to get access to this, because the CD nowadays is hard to find (lucky me I bought it several years ago).

Almost perfect! 4,6 to side A, and 5 to side B, on a 5 star scale.

Report this review (#2856114)
Posted Saturday, December 3, 2022 | Review Permalink

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