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5 stars One of the many hidden gems in the French Progressive scene, Geoffroy is a great album by a talented band that never got the recognitnion they deserved. Written during the nights after stressful working days, it is a great testimony to what the love for music can achieve. It was not the work of young kids giving their first steps, but of mature people with everyday lifes and everyday cares for work and family. A sextet of amateur musicians related by friendship and family, Emeraude wanted to create the album as a legacy for their children. And although the album had a very limited pressing, we are fortunate enough that their kids weren't the only ones to get to hear it.

So what is this Geoffroy and why did collectors of prog-rock over the last 25 years worked hard to dig it up? Well, it is hard to pin down just one reason. The album may sound a bit dated, and the production might not be crystal (although it is quite good, considering the time and the means). Composition and playing do have an amateurish feel to it. But perhaps it is that honesty and, let's say, purity, that makes it such an irresistible piece of music. It is also hard to name just one style present on this album - you get to hear a bit of folk, a bit of space-rock, and some symphonic. Some say, and I agree, that the best way to classify it, if one must do so, is space-folk.

The album is made up of 5 songs, two long, two short and a medium-sized one, which is the first track. Boule de Plume kicks-off the space-folk extravaganza - starting off with a piano opening, it is soon complemented by acoustic guitar and keyboards. Vocals follow, sung by 8 year-old Yann Baud. We get a first glimpse of electric guitar and the spacey feel of the album, clearly influenced by Pink Floyd circa Wish You Were Here, just before the song ends in an atmospheric note. The second track, Pluie is a small but delightfully played acoustic guitar duet, taking us into the Middle Ages. The third song is the first epic, a composition sung in English named Viking. It features a greater display of keyboard work, quite similar to Richard's Wright's playing, but also reminiscent of Ange and Genesis. The tracks jump between slower and faster paced sections and sung bits and instrumental passages. Acoustic guitar adds a nice touch before a second sung section, that is complemented by a piano build-up before another faster paced section, dominated by the keyboard passages but also complemented by electric guitar this time. The same formula is repeated throughout the song, with several slow-downs before sudden build-ups, as the story of a great viking raid and journey unfolds. However, this repetition is not in any way dull, quite the oposite. The title track and greater gem of the album, Geoffroy is a near 17-minute epic. It is opened by a lovely medieval-like acoustic guitar intro, before we begin hearing Gilles Baud, this time in his native French (which suits him best than the English used on Viking). Slowly, the keyboards fade-in, progressivly gaining a bigger presence, as the drums also appear. The track follows this structure in a slow pace for a while, just before the electric guitar solo kicks in, in a very floydian tone. The song then appears to restart on the third and a half minute. The sequence is similar, however it takes a different course, and on the between the 7th and 9th minutes we begin making a musical time leap from the earthly Middle Ages to futuristic outer space, a feeling much due to the keyboards that complement the acoustic guitar driven section. Another floydian guitar solo begins then. The song's slow pace continues, but you notice a slight build-up led by the guitars (electric an acoustic) and the keyboards. These take the lead from the guitars on the 13th minute, and provide a great, moving finale after the last sung passage. Duo is another small acoustic piece, in the vein of Pluie, that ends the album beautifully on a medieval note, a sonority that characterized much of the album.

Is it a masterpiece? No. Is it original? Only if you can find originality in the mix of completely different styles. It is simply a magic piece, a beautiful set of gorgeous songs, a proof that good music comes naturally to those who set their minds to it, even if their abilities and resources are lacking. A fantastic album recomended for fans of bands like Gryphon, Malicorne, Ange, Genesis, Eloy and especially Pink Floyd.

Report this review (#156414)
Posted Sunday, December 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Another magical lost gem.

The coolest thing about our Archives here is its ability to surprise us and delight us with jewels that are so far below the radar you would never have unearthed them otherwise. Emeraude's "Geoffroy" is just such a gem, something I expected very little from, that has turned out to be just magical. This is like walking through the gates of your local Renaissance Festival, music that will take you into the art that you see on the excellent cover. The story of Emeraude is not one of rags to riches, rock stars, or hipsters. Rather, at an unlikely moment in the Prog timeline you have a group of friends and relatives who came together to make an artistic document for their own pleasure. These were not worldly musicians in a band but regular people working on their hobby in their spare free time after work. What they came up with is an album I'll always treasure. This is simple, pleasurable music for you enjoyment: it is not groundbreaking, and there are no Fripp/Bruford moments of complex wizardry. Simple, rather mellow, dreamy, medieval-flavored fantasy folk-rock is how I would describe Emeraude. I would recommend this album to fans of other quality below-the-radar gems like Pentacle (hi John!), Rousseau, Willowglass, Era di Acquario, Faveravola and Pererin, not because they sound like these groups necessarily but in relation to the spirit and quality. I think it would also appeal to fans of Floyd, Novalis, and Reale Acadamia.

Our delightful journey begins with "Boule de Plume's" solo piano playing a wistful melody leading to acoustic guitar and bass. The music is simple but indescribably beautiful here. Soon, a child's voice begins a narration over the music in French (vocals are in both English and French.) Then we get our first shot of the lead guitar, which is weepy, drenched in a Floydian haziness, with casually played notes bent just right to hit the pleasure centers, and no speed or shred in sight. It falls away leaving the piano and synth surrounding you like fog. "Pluie" is a short acoustic guitar solo that is very nice. Next comes the first long track, "Viking" which is 12 minutes long. It begins with male narration in English. The gent has a fairly heavy French accent that will distract those of you who can't handle any non-perfect-English vocal challenges. No problem to me. The track then picks up to a folk rock pace with synths, guitars, bass, and drumming that is reasonably good. Piano comes back and joins the bass/drums, and the track drifts along at a medium pace with occasional narration. After the halfway point things get more rocking with some electric guitar and as the piece progresses there is nice interplay, and then wind sounds at the end getting louder and louder. Next comes the album's centerpiece at 16 ˝ minutes long. "Geoffroy" is the highlight for me as the vocalist switches to French where he is obviously more comfortable. He is accompanied in these early verses by acoustic strumming, wonderfully effective at evoking the fantasy imagery. Synths, drums, and bass join. At 3 minutes the electric leads drop, very slow and Floydish again. An acoustic bridge. At this point the composition deliberately changes to passages that are seemingly directionless, blowing in the wind if you will. What I love here is that you begin to relax and go with it, accepting that this journey is one of patience and mystery, as a journey should be. You sort of get hypnotized by the acoustic and slow drum/bass pace until that lead guitar pops in and out providing very measured drama. Nothing extraordinary happens nor should it-it is the scenery on the journey rather than the destination that is the whole point. Another short acoustic solo piece concludes the journey as you arrive at that castle on the cover. Yup. I loved it.

Buyer beware! This music is not for adrenalin junkies and fireworks hounds. It is not for those seeking sonic perfection or groundbreaking progressive music. This is for people who enjoy reading Tolkien and admiring the long, thoughtful way he describes the surroundings of Middle Earth. How he takes a page to describe the black smoke drifting across a meadow in the distance. This music if for people who like second tier bands, who appreciate hobby musicians toiling in the basement on their own personal magnum opus, with all the love and sweat involved in such a pursuit. You are going to hear some mistakes, some amateur moments, and songs they assumed would most likely be heard by their family, friends, and some French audiences. This is a very intimate record that never attempts to wow you or shake simply arrives at your door a shy stranger and exudes beautiful sounds for 35 minutes before it vanishes again into the night. An excellent album that goes straight to my special shelf of "magic" music.

Report this review (#158686)
Posted Tuesday, January 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars This is yet another one-off recording from a group of mostly amateur (or at least not full-time professional) musicians. That’s one of the wonderful things about music these days – just about anyone with the will to can make a record. Okay, maybe some people shouldn’t, but in this case the result is another semi-legendary album among the progressive music archives that gets to be ‘discovered’ anew every time a collector stumbles across it.

One of the most interesting things about this album is the timing. If it had been recorded in the early (or possibly even mid) seventies, this would most likely be considered a symphonic rock album even though there aren’t any orchestral instruments used in the recordings. If it had been released a few years later it may have been tagged as neo-progressive, along the lines of similar projects like Distant Dream or a slightly mellower version of the band Faun. I have even read suggestions that band could be an early incarnation of post-rock, providing the missing link between the Bark Psychosis and Sigur Rós styled variants of that genre. I’m not sure which (if any) of these is correct, and I would throw into the mix an observation that the group’s guitarists were clearly fans of Pink Floyd or at least of Dave Gilmour.

For comparative reference I will say that the band has been linked in style and sound to the German symphonic rock band Novalis; the UK’s Cressida and Camel; and their own countrymen Terpandre. All of these are valid observations to some extent, although in the case of Camel it sometimes seems as if any progressive band whose music is rather languid and who singer seems overly-sensitive gets the ‘Camel-like’ label stuck on them. One other band I would throw in here that has not only a similar sound, but also a rather similar story and is also a French group – Chrysalide. They came later but offer the same sorts of unhurried arrangements centered on guitar, along with lyrical themes that are historical in nature. The American group Dead Meadow comes to mind a bit as well in terms of the style of the song arrangements, although their music also includes a heavy psych element.

This is an album that is made for people who are willing to give it the attention and thought it demands, and in exchange it gives little in return beyond the experience. You won’t put this into heavy rotation on your playlist, and it doesn’t travel very well in either iPod or automobile stereo format. You pretty much want to play this while sitting in a comfortable lounge chair and dimly lit room, and with nothing pressing to hurry or distract you. If you can manage that then the trip is worth the time.

Like I said, the emphasis is heavily on guitar throughout the album, and there are no orchestral, ethnic or even brass used anywhere. The percussion is quite limited as well, mostly soft drumming and even that is quite limited. Again, mostly guitars and a lot of that is acoustic (although especially on the longer tracks you’ll see what I mean by the Gilmour influence thanks to the one guy who plugs his in). The other omnipresent instrument is piano, played rather simply and not in classical fashion but more like a soft-rock type of style. There’s also a bit of synthesized keyboard that sounds a bit like an electric spinet, but even that was deemphasized in the mixing process and tends to take a back seat to the guitars and piano for the most part. The blend of these instruments is slightly amateurish at times, but really that only becomes apparent when playing the record multiple times with a highly critical ear for the purpose of reviewing it. In casual listening the album acquits itself quite well, mellow but well- played and not one-dimensional like so many softer bands can tend to be. Even in its quietest moments the group keeps the piano or drums in play to enhance the persistent guitar playing.

The album is centered around the two lengthy middle tracks, “Viking” and “Geoffrey” in which the band tells the album’s mythical and historic story. Wrapped around these are a couple of short intros and “Duo”, the brief but sonically strong closing track. Of the longer tracks “Viking” seems a bit heavier on bass and acoustic guitar, while the title track includes a lengthy guitar instrumental that can’t hide its Floydian influence and is quite beautiful. Behind the guitar throughout that track the guitar, keyboards and drums keep a slow and slightly hypnotic rhythm going while the vocalist hums and times and sings in hushed tones at others. This one is the album’s highlight for sure.

‘Geoffrey’ is an obscure album from what was more of a collective or project than a true band. It’s not for everyone, but hardcore progressive fans will undoubtedly love it, as well as those who favor music that is introspective and slow music, but not emo fodder. These guys fit that description. Four stars.


Report this review (#169836)
Posted Sunday, May 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!!

Built on the ruins of a previous project, Temple Ghost, the main core stayed together and formed Eméraude (emerald, the stone), by adding JPA's wife (and GB's sister) on keyboards into the fold with yet another guitarist Gilles Escoffier. Their sole album was privately-released in the early 80's, but let not this deter you the least, it sounds anything but 80's and sported a medieval artwork. With three guitarist (one doubling on bass) at hand, Geoffroy is a surprisingly even and acoustic album in terms of progressive folk, medieval-sounding folk, but not as complex as Ripaille or as legitimate as Malicorne or Tarentule. But these guys definitely heard a lot Floyd music and it certainly sounds like it, although the usual remark of space-folk might be a bit stretched. Other touchesof Novalis or Hoelderlin (mostly the latter) give a certain symphonic twist, but overall this remains a pure folk album.

Starting the album on the delightfully light Boule De Plume that features a kid's poetry/monologue over a steady almost martial beat, sometimes a bit cheesy, but with plenty of drama. Immediately followed by a short instrumental guitary piece called Pluie (rain) where indeed the guitar arpeggios could sound like rhythmic rain. Closing the A-side is the lengthy Viking (sung out correctly in English, but no more) that starts a capella, before getting invaded by Simone's piano and JP's synths, the track getting regular shifts overhauling its structure regularly. Glimour-esque guitars, Waters-like bass lines, Walhalla wind noises abound in a track

The flipside opens on the mega-title track picks up a bit where Viking left and starts on solemn guitar strums over an almost poetry-read vocals (this part can draw chills in the spine), before Floyd-ian synths take the track slowly on electric grounds where a Glimour-esque solo awaits us in all its glory. Returning to a more acoustic mood, the track sinks into a very intimate mood before starting one more run of the start of the track. The closing Duo is a short piece of guitar that bookends the two long tracks and find its alter ego in Pluie.

Clearly a labour of love, written, rehearsed after hours, recorded with life-savings, Geoffroy was partly intended as a memoir for their kids, but the group toured with different line-ups until mid-86. Precisely because of its amateur side, Eméraude's sole album holds something true, something where the magic operates; making a small gem of the early 80's where France was one of the last bastions to still have groups crazy enough to release such un-trendy musical concepts. One of the year's best album and even in its prog folk genre, of the decade as well.

Report this review (#171694)
Posted Tuesday, May 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Nice album from this band from france. A prog folk when de calm tracks made by acoustic guitar, and a calm voice, is completed with some string sounds from keiboards that create a spacey context. IOs very nice heard this album because we don't now if we listen prog folk or synphonic prog. Some electric guitar arrangements very good played, give to this work a very good quality sound, and a Guilmor atmosphere. Very balanced album and I like very much specialy the third long track Viking. If you don't like prog folk you can listen this work because it's an album with a Floyd, and Eloy atmosphere, with a nice bass and keiboards arrangements. Lyrics are in French. I give 4 stars
Report this review (#260573)
Posted Tuesday, January 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars It's a pretty cool story as to how this album came about as a group of friends and relatives got together to make an album for their children, doing this after work as they wrote the songs and practised while saving money for the studio time. This was released in France in 1981 with a dark and mysterious album cover and the music to match. This is very much a Prog-Folk album that is very sad sounding with melancholy throughout. The vocals are almost spoken and the music is fairly straight-forward sounding with little in the way of breakouts, and I love it.

"Boule De Plute" is the 4 minute opener as laid back piano greets our ears to start before it turns fuller before a minute. Such emotion here and i'm not sure why. A child starts to speak words in French 1 1/2 minutes in and when the words stop, drums then guitar lead the way as it continues to flow slowly and beautifully. Vocal melodies and bass late. "Pluie" is 1 1/2 minutes of instrumental work as acoustic guitar leads the way.

"Viking" is next at 12 minutes and I should mention here that the band were fans of Prog bands like PINK FLOYD and KING CRIMSON hence we get a couple of long tracks here. Male vocals to start as the music comes in. He then pretty much speaks the words as he tells the story of the Vikings in English. "The night was as bright as day, it was raining, it was storming, thundering but the sailors were not afraid". We get this steady beat with guitar and bass helping out. I like when the keyboards come in as it all comes across as understated. The tempo does change at times as it trips along with vocals coming and going in a relaxed manner. I like when it picks up after 5 1/2 minutes with the throbbing bass and upfront yet relaxed guitar. Such a cool tune. "Geoffroy" is the 16 1/2 minute epic. Back to the French vocals here as he sings in a reserved way with guitar to match. I like the spacey synths 9 1/2 minutes in and the guitar solo before 11 minutes that goes on for well over two minutes as the song continues to drift along. Just gorgeous. "Duo" is the short 1 1/2 minute acoustic guitar instrumental.

A very solid 4 stars for this special album. I'll treasure this one.

Report this review (#1173647)
Posted Saturday, May 10, 2014 | Review Permalink

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