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Various Artists (Tributes) - Hamta´! Hommage Ó la musique de Christian Vander CD (album) cover

HAMTA¤! HOMMAGE └ LA MUSIQUE DE CHRISTIAN VANDER

Various Artists (Tributes)

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Logan
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3 stars I would be very tempted to give this five stars if the rating was for "Essential: a masterpiece of tributes to Vander albums."

While I don't think this tribute to be an "excellent addition to any prog music collection" (nor would I say the same of original Magma albums, though I would say that having at least one Magma album is an excellent addition to any well-rounded prog collection, and "Theusz Hamtaahk" off Retrospekt´w I-II would make my Zeuhl 101 class), I do think it would be a very excellent addition to every Christian Vander tribute-completist's collection (yes, absolutely essential to tributes-to-Vander completists I think I can safely say). So, while it's very good, but non-essential generally-speaking, I would like to give it four stars because it is a very good tribute album, and perhaps it should be judged compared to other tribute albums -- such as the New Kids on the Block's disappointing tribute to Menudo's Greatest Hits (particularly disappointing because the band never did one). But, since I think it could have been considerably better, I give it a strong three stars. Now that we have cleared that up, on to the music... at some time, no promises. In fact, this becomes much more essential because of the bands/artists that were involved. What a great list of acts. Now where was I?

I find myself returning to this like no other tribute album, which isn't saying much. I'm not a fan of tributes, generally. The first starts terrifically well with Koenjihyakkei's "Magma Medley". I only wish it was longer, but the brevity gives it more impact. It's such a quick journey. Koenjihyakkei is, in a way, the perfect band to cover Magma, as they are the Japanese successors to the Magma throne (Koenjihyakkei's "Angherr Shisspa" album is amongst the most essential of Zeuhl). It is an incredibly talented band.

All of the Magma personnel do terrific jobs, though perhaps not altogether quite so full of surprises as I would like. I love their performances, though -- some are real standouts.

Some tracks like "Om Zanka" are very well-executed, but lack sufficient twist on the original music -- more of a straight cover than an adaptation. These best ones commonly have more personality -- the band/ artist has put its own stamp on it. The "Kohntarkosz" one is very well done, but it really doesn't bring anything much new to the table (not surprising considering who did it). When you hear Kramus doing Magma, for instance, you would never think this was Magma. If Magma did sound like that, I wouldn't like Magma nearly so much (okay, maybe not at all), but it's fun and adds variety. Ad Vitam's "Morrison in the Storm" is beautiful. Klaus Blasquiz gives a terrific vocal performance of "De Futura". Troll's "Day after Day" is delightful. I find Disk 1 very good.

On to CD II. It starts off very well with Lockwood's contribution, and Kafka follow-up very nicely. John Trap's "Aurae" is a highlight; I really love it. It may be my favourite off the album. Then ex-Girl comes up with a surprising a Capella song (such a 'kawai' group, but this is serious, and seriously good). Gauthier comes up with a fabulous take on my favourite Magma track, "Theusz Hamtaahk". The rest is good too. "Nono" is as delightful as Troll's.

I do like the variety of bands/ artists when it comes to the music -- from Magma stalwarts, to other Zeuhl bands, to punk, to lounge, to metal, to pop.... That said, I don't think it's altogether that inspired. I feel like some are going through the motions. I would like more creativity and deeper re-imaginings, exploration of the themes. One can only imagine what Art Zoyd would have done with the music. Now that group would have had something to say. This could be more artistic, more exploratory, but it's enjoyable. It's rather shallow on the whole. It's good, but generally not insightful -- some needed to dig deeper down and re-invent the music. It's not really of consistent quality to my ears, either.

I am still wanting to give it four stars even though the adaptations/ covers on the whole are not quite as creative as I would like, because I find it a very enjoyable project even if not really profound. Maybe there aren't startling revelations, maybe it's not that spiritual or reaches sublime para-Magma heights, and maybe it doesn't give much greater understanding of Vander/ Magma, but it's good, and I think it a much better than average tribute album to a much better than average person. More variation on Vander themes would have been better, and more exploratory musical analysis of Vander/Magma would be preferable. What would have been really great is if all the bands had worked on a grand finale (thanks to technology, they wouldn't have to physically meet). Now that would be grand... followed by a special, original tribute to Christian Vander by Robert Wyatt. Even grander. And had, as already alluded to, "chamber prog" groups such as Art Zoyd contributed, I think its status would be elevated greatly as "art" -- not just something for the fans. Oops, does this now mean that I must lower my rating to two stars because this tribute album, like tribute albums commonly, is really intended for "collectors/fans only"? I won't because I think this would have appeal to more than Vander/Magma fans. It should interest those who enjoy the bands that contributed, and in some ways, this would be an easier introduction to the world of Magma than Magma itself (especially since there is variety in regards to the approaches to music and styles of the artists who contributed).

It's hard for me not to think of all the possibilities that could have elevated this (original material would be one as one can pay tribute to the music without doing covers), but hopefully I'll find many more tribute-to-Vander/Magma albums to sink my teeth into. Debbie Harry does Vander; hmm, maybe not.

All said, I still think this a wonderful tribute, and I love it. It really is very good (a superior tribute album) and mightn't be a bad introduction for some into the world of Vander.

Is this more homage or fromage, you be the judge.

For those that don't know it, I suggest listening to the samples at http://www.myspace.com/hamtai

-Greg

P.S. Vander iss de hundin!

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Send comments to Logan (BETA) | Report this review (#184302)
Posted Wednesday, October 01, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars So, even French 70's rock scene is now taken by the 'tribute mania' started nearly 15 years ago. The compilation we are talking about right now is nothing but a gathering around one of the strongest musical vision ever born in France, in Europe, in the world, in the whole universe! Remeber it: Magma is, will be and had always been the best band in the universe (and that is written in the booklet of ''Retrospekt´w I & II''). More seriously, it was time for a tribute to Magma and its leader, Christian Vander, for the band is an influence for many and had revealed a lot of musicians (Jannick Top, Didier Lockwood, Bernard Paganotti...). ''Hamta´'' is a double CD, nothing less, with 27 bands. Not surprising when you keep in mind that Magma had been able to create some true jazz/rock/ symphonies. Yet, the various artists worked on small fragments of each standard, otherwise Welcome Records would have to make a four CD boxset! Among the bands, we find several former members of Magma : violonist Lockwood, bassist Top, vocalist Klaus Blasquiz, keyboard players Patrick Gauthier and Benoţt Widemann; a lot of French bands: Patrick Forgas, Zaar, NeBeLNeST (I love you guys, but your name is a pain to type), Vital Duo; and some people crossing the seven seas: Koenjihyakkei, eX-Girl, Mats/Morgan Band and Steve Shehan. A nice guest list, isn't it?

But, at the very end, what can we say about this tribute? It seems that the majority of the musicians have choosed to stay in an 'orthodox' path, keeping a jazz-rock feeling in their covers, as if they feared to damage a monument. As examples, the versions of ''Hha´'' by Post Image or ''Day After Day'' by Troll are not bad, but they lack of personality. NeBeLNeST or Kafka, despite of being close to a heavy metal sound, stay in the footsteps of Vander. Also trying the metal approach, Kramus only manages to make us think of Faith No More... Even the oriental flavor of Sidji Moon doesn't prevent them of being boring. Patrick Forgas is alone with his keyboards on ''L´hns'' and offers a delicate sound, a bit too mawkish.

But some tracks are truly innovative and striking! Opening the dance, Koenjihyakkei performs a crazy medley, condensing 20 years of Zheul music in 3 minutes and 45 seconds! A reminiscence of Yoshida's previous band Ruins, but a fun thing, like a bunch of open-minded punks. Then, we can hear Klaus Blasquiz ALONE WITH A MIC. Nothing but his voice overdubbed in a manner to create a virtual and powerful virile choir. Tellurical. On the other hand, Cernunos gives us a sunny version of ''Retrovision'', sounding more, let's say, carribean than koba´an. Refreshing and loveable. The ''M.D.K. / WŘrdah ¤tah'' medley by Steve Shehan starts as ''aquatic'' and turns to be the most majestuous version ever recorded of ''M.D.K.''. With the same song, Lockwood only shows his technical prowesses, just as Kafka. Not that the Shehan version is perfect: it's suspiciously close to some new age follies. EX-Girl tries ''R´ah Sahiltaaká╗ a cappela (well, it's true that we can hear a few bells and tinkerbells in the background, but there is no other instrument). Not as impressive as Blasquiz (who did the same thing alone, like a grown-up boy), but quite good and original. When Patrick Gauthier hammers his piano and his keybords, he summons ghosts on ''Theusz Hamtaack''! Maybe more repetitive than the original version, Gauthier's ''T.H.'' is a breath-taking trance. Talking about synthesizers, Mats and Morgan prove us that Vander would have been a terrific composer for video games: I can hear the Nintendo feeling in their take on ''Tţlţm M'dohm''! Humorous, enjoyable, funny, you can start the dance! But when coming to Vital Duo's ''La'' Dawotsin... The Payssan brothers open a fascinating historical perspective: what if Vander worked with, let's say, Jon Anderson, Ian Anderson and maybe the guys from Genesis? These seven minutes (not the last ones) are a view on a musical uchronia. A beauty maybe naive, but nevertheless touching and moving. Ending this album, Le GrÚ des Vents plays the ''Hymne Koba´en'' (Koba´an Hymn), a blooming astral flower rooting deeply in the mind: the bagpipes and the hurdy-gurdy join the wonderful voice of Addie DÚat in a choir which started with reminiscences of the so-called celtic folklore, but, soon, becomes an example of a possible universal world music, as the influences from soul music softly arise.

As a manner to conclude, we have to wonder if this record is a masterpiece. Many people have listened this tribute album with mixed feelings, and so do I. As I wrote, some versions are not convincing, if not boring or forgettable (even the performances of some former members of Magma!). On the other hand, some other bands have managed to give their own sound to the music of Christian Vander, would it be electronic, acoustic, folkrock-like... If talking only about the music, it would be a three-stars rating. If keeping in mind that this tribute is nearly a ''manifesto'' for the Zheul and the Magma disciples, it would be a four-stars rating: these two discs may have a historical importance for the years to come. As I am honest and tell the truth most of the times, I would say : simply good and well done, but may become essential later.

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Send comments to CPicard (BETA) | Report this review (#217342)
Posted Friday, May 22, 2009 | Review Permalink

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