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OCTOBRE 1972-1989


Crossover Prog

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4 stars Incomprehensibly, the music of pioneer Quebec folk-prog band Octobre has been ignored completely by three supposedly " definitive " works on Canadian music. Not once is the band mentioned in Heart Of Gold : 30 Years Of Canadian Popular Music, The Encyclopedia Of Canadian Rock Pop & Folk Music and glaringly omitted from The Encyclopedia Of Music In Canada from The University Of Toronto Press which manages to mention everyone from Mitsou to Glenn Gould. One even has to search high and low in literature dedicated specifically to Québecois rock to unearth any murmurs about this enormously talented French Canadian band.

With the exception of two of their six albums, "L`autoroute des rêves" and "Live- chants dans la nuit", being briefly released by Sony music on CD in the early `90s (with "Live - Chants dans la nuit" cut down in running time, thus elliminating a brilliant instrumental showpiece entitled Brazilia), their music was left to the mercy of time. Appropriately, in October of 1995 the Québec label Audiogram in association with band leader Pierre Flynn released this superb 2 CD set which encompasses the band`s entire 7 year recording career quite remarkably. Although the band ceased to exist for all intents and puposes in 1980 after the release of the album "Clandestins" they continued to perform up until 1982 and re-united for a concert at The Montréal International Jazz Festival in 1989 with 4 of these tracks being heard at the conclusion of disc 2.

Flynn did a bit of manoevering in order to give a proper overview of the band which is presented chronologically by album. As a result the instrumental piece Baptême de l'air was chopped down to a one minute twenty four excerpt and nothing from the "L'autoroute des rêves" was included. However,this is remedied with two tracks from that album being heard here in live reworked forms from the album "Live-chants dans la nuit" which are actually better than the studio cuts.

To complete this excellent musical synopsis of the band a French language lyric book is provided which also features comentaries from the band as well as photos which brings me to my only qualm with this otherwise sterling package. Although Octobre had more of a local appeal as far as their romantic and intelectual musings went their music was world class and the French only booklet leaves the prospective non-francophone listener with a posthumous interest in the band somewhat out in the cold. So a French-English dictionary is required if you want the whole picture.

Rehensibly abandoned by Canadian music guides and histories Octobre`s less ostenatious folk oriented progressive rock is comparable to anything that was being churned out by early seventies UK prog scene. This reasonably priced anthology, Octobre 1973-1989, is definitely recomended for die-hards who want to delve even deeper into the abyss of that by-gone golden era of prog.

Report this review (#123813)
Posted Tuesday, May 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars My explorations of French Canadian prog of the seventies brought me around to Octobre; however, the only album I could find on CD was this compilation. As I understand it, only their fourth album, "L'Autoroute des rêves" was ever released on CD. As far as compilations go, though, this double disc is pretty good. It includes six of the eight tracks on the original debut in 1973, eight of the nine tracks from the second album "Nouvelles Terres" of 1974, seven of the eight tracks on the third album "Survivance", only two songs from the fourth album mentioned above and probably only two because the album was available on CD, and seven of the nine tracks on their fifth and final studio release "Clandestins" in 1980. There are four live tracks as well, recorded at a one-off live performance in 1989. So with this compilation you are nearly getting all of the songs from four of their five studio albums which were never released on CD. That's a pretty sweet deal, especially since I picked up this double disc for about $15!

Octobre were a bit of an odd ball prog band. Most Québec bands I have in my collection are closer to jazz rock fusion with a strong classical background or they emerged from the heavy psychedelic rock of the early seventies. These bands, especially the former, put most emphasis on music and less on lyrics with some bands like Maneige and Sloche being almost entirely instrumental. In the case of Octobre, pianist/vocalist Pierre Flynn wrote songs reflecting the social political climate of Québec in the day when Francophone pride was fiercer than ever and the separatist movement was very strong. Given the subject matter one would think that heavy metal or punk would be better subgenres for expressing Flynn's feelings and observations. Certainly not prog. Add to that Flynn's beautiful classical piano passages and his voice which at times goes French chanson style and the jazzy nature of the rest of the band and you might be wondering why progressive rock for these lyrics. Well, that is if you can understand the lyrics. My French reading skills are barely passable with a dictionary and my listening skills are much worse. I have to take the word of another reviewer regarding the lyrics.

When I first got this double disc, I found the amount of music a little overwhelming and one of the first things I did was to arrange the songs on a playlist in the order that they appear on their original albums. This way I know at least what album I am listening to. As it turns out, the songs were all arranged chronologically anyway just not in the exact same order as they appeared originally. Listening to all the songs this way helped me break down the different musical periods from album to album and formulate a clearer opinion of how I perceived the band had changed over the course of their five studio releases.

The six tracks from the self-titled debut are very much song oriented and not so long. The music is very good early seventies rock with the classical and jazz elements taking a backseat to the importance of the sung parts. From the first listen, the song that caught my attention here was "Les vivants". There's a beautiful keyboard intro with what I'll guess is a tricky time signature. The song then becomes more gentle and "normal" but features a rockin' guitar solo in the middle interspersed with more keyboards.

"Nouvelles Terres" sees the progressive music element coming more to the forefront. The songs are still mostly geared towards the song structure and lyrics but the complexity of the music (meter and tempo changes, stylistic changes, etc. within a single song) has stepped up. "Les Nouvelles Terres", "Violence" and "Génération" feature some great progressive music sections and "La Passe du Grand Flambeau" is an exciting instrumental where the band can really show of their talent.

Their third album "Survivance" must have been Octobre's best. Tracks like "Tendre Torture", "La valse à onze temps" (Waltz in Eleven Time), and "L'Oiseau Rouge" see the band developing their progressive abilities further. The instrumental "Baptême de l'air" was short enough on the original album but it's truncated here to a mere 1:46, a pity really as it is also an excellent bit of work.

The fourth album "L'Autoroute des rêves" can only be appreciated in two songs here, but my impression is that by now the band had moved past the more progressive rock approach of the second and third albums and had returned to focusing more on songs. However, this notion really strikes home for me with the fifth album "Clandestins" of 1980. Though the music is still very good and even excellent, it sounds more pop rock than prog and I feel like I am listening to someone else's music and not something from my collection. Still, I noticed that even when I felt like the songs had returned to being more mainstream, there would be pleasantly surprising parts regularly cropping up.

The live songs are good and certainly I understand the desire to include them here as part of the band's closure. I, however, would have preferred more studio tracks, perhaps more from the fourth album. Nevertheless, I can't complain as I got an impressive collection of music that covers most of the band's recording career.

One point to make is that the CD booklet is all in French. Albums reissued in the ProgQuebec series come with a brief history in both French and English. But other Francophone albums like this one tend to have a bio in French only. If you want to read more in English, you can find a decent bio on the ProgQuebec web site.

Overall, if you don't mind albums in non-English or you can speak French, the music here is mostly fun to listen to. Not your typical seventies rock band and not your typical prog band either, Octobre were wonderfully talented and wrote a lot of great songs nonetheless.

Report this review (#1553958)
Posted Thursday, April 21, 2016 | Review Permalink

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