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MUSICIENS - MAGICIENS

Atoll

Symphonic Prog


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really. This album would stand another star if it was better recorded. Although not scandalous, one cannot help but thinking of how good this music might have been, if Parsons, Hentschel , Dudgeon or Offord had done the production. For the music we have here a typical french symphonic prog that will be developped by Carpe Diem , Shylock etc...

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#19390)
Posted Thursday, February 05, 2004 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars ATOLL were a talented French ensemble who very much carried their own symphonic sound blending the finer aspects of French comrades ANGE, PULSAR and MONA LISA. Next to ANGE, ATOLL were probably the most influential of the French symphonic groups. With this debut album "Musiciens-Magiciens", ATOLL led the way for the others with a wonderful progressively charmed album full of emotion and originality. Their style was very theatrical in nature offering dynamic and melodic arrangements with some great song writing and vocal harmonies. Musically "Musiciens - Magiciens" is directly in the GENESIS, YES, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA and ANGE camp. The album is comprised of 7 tracks of early prog rock with an amazing 11 min epic track "Le Baladin Du Temps" which definitely is IMHO the defining moment on this album. An excellent album full of originality...!

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#19391)
Posted Sunday, March 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
Progbear
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars A tentative first step for the now legendary French symphonic rock group. The band started out as a sort of West Coast folk-rock/country-rock influenced group, and some of this still sounds very folkie. Not really a whole lot of prog here. "Le Baladin du Temps" and "Je suis d'ailleurs" try, but the magic isn't quite there yet. Made worse by original guitarist Luc Serra, who contributes some rather annoyingly shrill backing vocals. Mainly recommended to completists.

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Send comments to Progbear (BETA) | Report this review (#43768)
Posted Monday, August 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first work released in 1974 "Musiciens-Magiciens". It is YES of France. There are a lot of common features in music. For instance, it is a chorus and a technical rhythm section. It is a work of an extremely symphonic performance though it is an unremarkable work.

YES certainly influences it. However, the directionality of music might have looked like rather than the imitation of YES since beginning. Special mention is for , rhythm section to relate to the chorus and to give the sound freshness. The performance and tone quality are violent. Music is enough though the guitar is weak as the debut work. Choruses are nearer QUEEN than YES.

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Send comments to braindamage (BETA) | Report this review (#79483)
Posted Saturday, May 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is rich in harmony, complex rythms,structures and poetical lyrics! This is the best french symphonic prog band of the 70's (John Wetton came to play with them after UK)! This album is a high quality story that can be compared to the best 70's concept albums : influences from King Crimson and Yes are obvious. Singer Christian Balzer is a model of inventivity and a true poet. They developped a their own style. The guitarist develops really emotive solos and rich rythmics. THIS ALBUM IS A JEWEL!!

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Send comments to Pélik@n (BETA) | Report this review (#120076)
Posted Saturday, April 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars "Ange" has paved the way for lots of Frenck (prog) band. Some will have the same theatrical approach while others will try and step back a bit. I would say that "Atoll" is probably somewhere in between.

The opening number indicates that the music that will be displayed on this album won't be second rate. Gentle but strong "L'Hymne Médiéval", is the best way to launch the epic piece of this album. "Le Baladin Du Temps" is very much premonitory of even better things to come, IMO.

Vocals are nice and not too demonstrative here. But what is really fantastic is their music. Complex, sensitive, melodic, full of medieval fantasy. Their sound is of course influenced by Crimson (once again) and Genesis; but we are far from having a clone here. Atoll sounds very original, fresh. What it's even more remarkable with this album, is that it does not sound outdated. Bravo for this superb piece of music.

I might not be as positive for the title track. Too jazzy, I'm afraid. Great rhythm though and good sax. The magic is back with "Au Delà des Ecrans de Cristal" (beyond the crystal screens). Again, a very middle-age oriented title fully in-line with the concept. This song has an upside beat and the demonstrated a grand maestria throughout the song.

"Le Secret Du Mage" is the weakest song of this work. Vocals are a bit irritating, as the rhythm. It seems that "Atoll" is in such a hurry ...Which is the complete opposite with "Le Berger". Nice and peaceful flute intro, this song is extremely melodic. Another fave of mine.

"Je Suis D'Ailleurs" was the last song of the original album. It sounds more as an improvisation track than a well-composed song I'm afraid. I guess that it is time that this album ends (even if it is on a low note). Even if a small part of the last section will bring us back again in the very good symphonic style.

The last remastered version (Musea Records) holds four live bonus tracks of which two unreleased album songs : "Fille de Neige" and "Je Fais un Rêve". These songs were recorded at a concert that took place in Metz (June, 23rd 1973). The sound is not great but I guess that Musea was willing to add these for the document it represents. One can imagine how much stronger the band should have been on stage. "Au Delà des Ecrans de Cristal" and "Musiciens Magiciens" will complete this track list. Of all these live moments, "Je Fais un Rêve" is the most beautiful one. A jewel of a melody. Rather strange that this number did not make the album...

This debut album is promising. Let's hope that promises will be kept. Three stars.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#132591)
Posted Friday, August 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Mais Oui?

Atoll, regarded in France as the French Yes (and for good reason), provided a fine and mature debut with this album that is well worth checking out;

"L'Hymne Medieval" is positively dripping with Mellotrons and rich bass, providing just the right kind of nostalgic feel that Genesis and King Crimson perfected. The early accellerando picks the piece up well, and the vocal harmonies soar, Queen-like. The only let-down is the lead guitar, which is just a little noodly and aimless. The structure is fairly basic, but well blurred, and a nice extension of the old song format.

Again, the Mellotron rings out for the 11 minute "Le Baladin du temps", which is full of vocal experimentation; melody lines that wind and twist into unexpected territory, soft harmonies and high falsettos make for a great dynamic range. A few intonation issues and rough production don't hurt this piece - the music continues in inventiveness through passages reminiscent of Yes and ELP, from the grinding, propelling bass with more than a nod and wink to Chris Squire to the scrunchy, angular harmonies so beloved by Keith Emerson. Yet this is not particularly derivative - there is a distinctly original flavour to the composition, although it does have the tendency to tread water and pop off at a tangent every now and again, which I find mildly annoying. Around 7 minutes, this piece starts to feel a bit long, and like ideas have just been crowbarred in - some of these ideas are cool, with mad rhythmic devices, but some are not so enjoyable - just filler until we get to the next bit, and the 3 minutes or so of ending feels overdone, even for symphonic Prog.

A funky blast kicks off "Musiciens - Magiciens" (next on my copy), which has a fantastic Yes-inspired bass riff, and is more a groovy song than a piece of Prog rock, but it's absolutely blinding in terms of solid groove energy and dramatic build-ups. Let down a bit by another weak guitar solo, but a killer choon - turn this one up to 11!

More Yes is evident in "Au-Dela Des Ecrans De Cristal" in the solid groove, but again, this extremely well done, with a lovely drop- down to Mellotron and bass around 2:50, and some nice keyboard and vocal textures - oh, and some great rhythms! I get a feeling of a Can influence here - the drummer is particulaly inventive and pulls out some very tasty licks. Not sure about the mad panning of the ride across the stereo picture though...

"Le Secret Du Mage" continues in much the same vein - another fantastic track, most strikingly, the vocals remind me of "Flash" by Queen.

At last, we get something a bit different in the intro to "Le Berge" - a classic Symphonic Prog sound with flute melody, then Monk- style "Ahhs", reminiscent of the superb "Tips Zum Selbstmord" by Necronomicon. This piece does feel somewhat familiar - but it doesn't matter too much, as, intonation and weak pentatonic scale issues in the guitar apart, it's very well executed and feels nicely developed. A very dramatic piece, almost Zeuhl in flavour.

"Je Suis D'ailleurs" has some nice synth work in the intro - and this is different again. While the first few tracks would have you place the band into a narrow, somewhat derivative soundscape, the latter half of the album really opens up into something different and more original. The band clearly feel more comfortable with grooves, and this 8 minuter settles into a Genesis- inspired groove pretty quickly - not a little unlike "Apocalypse in 9/8" until the bass cuts across with a "Squire special". Sadly, the guitarist chucks in some noodle over the top - but check out the rhythm section! A tribal beat cuts in, and the rhythms swirl all over the place, time getting mashed up in a hypnotic trance of polyrhythms. Some promising synth textures are sadly given way to an acoustic flavoured start to a new section (more like a new song idea), with nicely fluttering flutes reminiscent of Gong, that opens up to a symphonic flavoured section with a curious lead line that makes it sound like the Moodies with bagpipes. A beautiful slow groove is built up beneath it, but then drops away... amazingly, most of the short sections in this piece fit together in a logical way - the flow is not obvious, yet the pieces all work together to form a coherent whole in a modern jazz-like way. I'm even reminded a little of the Soft Machine here. Sadly, the piece just cuts off at the end, and we're left wondering what might have been.

The live tracks do little to showcase the band - while the execution is top notch, and indicate how good the band must have been live, the sound quality is utterly appalling, with the keyboards dominating, and everything else sounding like they were recorded in the room next door, except the drums, which were locked in the broom cupboard. The whole sound has a terrible left bias, so if you're listening on headphones, it feels like your right ear has suddenly gone numb.

Summary

As a package, the live tracks actually let the whole thing down.

Taking the studio album tracks on their own, a slightly derivative and homogenous, but very competant groove-based outing that improves as it goes on, and digs well into Prog Rock territory - the best is saved for last, even though the ending is somewhat chopped.

It would make a fine addition to any Prog collection - even though I'd say this isn't really an essential album, it still weighs in well enough to get regular spins by any fan of Symphonic Prog.

Overall, 3.6/5 (the weak guitar parts let it down badly, but the arrangements and grooves are excellent, and the latter tracks push it closer to a 4 than a 3.

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Send comments to Certif1ed (BETA) | Report this review (#143280)
Posted Wednesday, October 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tom Ozric
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars French Sympho-Prog band, Atoll, released 4 albums of semi-complex music during the seventies, of which this, their debut release, 'Musiciens Magiciens', presents us with a potentially high quality progressive rock from a band which strikes me as trying to find its feet ; tackling the usual (prog) traits of clever time sigs and abrupt tempo changes, sometimes rather uncomfortably - as displayed during the 11min+ mini epic 'Le Baladin Du Temps - and utilising a fine array of classy sounds (particularly regarding the Keyboards) - the playing can't be faulted, though the tuning of certain instruments can - some guitar and clavinet parts sound woefully flat to these ears, and lead vocalist Andre Balzer seems to over-sing in a somewhat weak, falsetto styling which annoys the hell out of me. These short-comings aside, the compositions are fairly well arranged and performed, opener 'L'Hymne Medieval' (where the vocal harmonies work well), 'Au-Dela Des Ecrans De Cristal' (alternating between 'rockier' and mellower 'atmospheric' sections) and the dynamic piece 'Je Suis D'Ailleurs', really show off the talent of the players and are relatively enjoyable tracks but the album as a whole misses the mark somewhat. Vast improvement will come with their next 2 albums, where everything comes together almost perfectly. 4 stars, just.

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Send comments to Tom Ozric (BETA) | Report this review (#155394)
Posted Friday, December 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Musiciens - Magiciens is the debut album from french symphonic prog rock band Atoll. The album was released in 1974 and is clearly influenced by two of the great british symphonic prog bands of the time Yes and especially Genesis. In that respect Atoll don´t differ much from another French band that is also very inspired by early Genesis namely Ange.

The music is as mentioned very inspired by Genesis and sometimes especially in the bass work by Yes. The big difference here is of course that Atoll sing in French and that gives this band their own identity. The songs are of high quality even though there are really no surprises here. If you like early Genesis there should be a lot to enjoy on Musiciens - Magiciens too. That is if you can get over the French language obsticle. The song style from André Balzer is satisfying but nothing special really.

The first couple of songs seque into each other and form and epic song which is really good and it´s with this song the Yes influence is heard the most. It´s a highlight on the album. Other highlights include Le Barger which has some really nice flute and is a good soft symphonic song. My favorite here is the last song Je suis d'ailleurs though. It starts with a long building instrumental part before the singing starts and has a great percussion part near the end. After that part the song ends with a really Genesis inspired synth flood. Beautiful just beautiful I tell you.

The musicianship is good even though I don´t like the drum style much. It´s a bit too dominant in some parts.

The production is good but again I think the drums are a bit too high in the mix.

All in all Musiciens - Magiciens is an enjoyable album in the symphonic prog rock style. It´s not the best French album in this style but definitely worth listening to from time to time. If you´re curious about French symphonic prog rock I would recommend listening to Ange instead though. Musiciens - Magiciens is a 3 star album in my book.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#176286)
Posted Monday, July 07, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The 70's French Symphonic Prog scene is (after the English bands) my very favorite subset of Symphonic Prog Rock. Atoll is possibly my favorite band of them all and this debut features some of their very best work. The sound is deep, colorful, and phantasmagoric... listening to this beautiful music is like being in a wide-awake dream. It almost doesn't seem real.

'L'Hymne Medieval' is among the best songs. The rich vocal harmonies here are absolutely mesmerizing. The rhythm section pumps out a relentless funky beat; it's impossible not to move to this song. The guitarist is quite good and writes very memorable riffs and solos... his playing reminds me of Caress of Steel-era Alex Lifeson. The synthesizers mainly stay in the background and add a lush trance-inducing chill to the music's charming atmosphere.

'Le Baladin du Temps' is my favorite moment on the album... more wonderful vocal harmonies and free flowing musical clouds...

'Musiciens - Magiciens' is another great song that makes it impossible to sit still... you are compelled at the very least to nod your head to this excellent rhythm section's tight playing. The song features a good sax solo and some trippy-yet-funky pimp-wah guitars that sound perfectly at home here.

'Au-dela des écrans de Crystal' start off like a long lost 'Yes' masterpiece (circa 1972) and 'Le secret du Mage' continues in that same vein with some very thick Squire-esque bass thumping. The vocal harmonies on these two songs sometime remind me of classic 'Yes' as well.

'Le Barger' is a gentle and bittersweet track featuring flute solos... it provides a lovely sleepy-eyed respite from the aggressive previous two songs.

'Je suis d'ailleurs' continues the magical floating daydream and ends the album on a beautiful note.

I think this is an under-rated gem from this brilliant band... and they were only going to get better!

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Send comments to AdamHearst (BETA) | Report this review (#202330)
Posted Tuesday, February 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Fine debut from the French quintet, especially as first albums in Prog tend to be hit-or-miss, Musiciens-Magiciens is unusually well-developed and demonstrates all the promise fulfilled on their following releases. Typical to be sure, mediocre not at all, and though quite stuck in its early 70s post-Hendrix jamrock soup, the band never sacrificed the prog. In addition to their native influences oft cited [Ange, Mona Lisa], the closest reference would have to be Yes' microscopically discordant vocal harmonies. Also on hand is the foggy mystery of Bo Hansson, hints of early Genesis and the distant sounds of North American rock. It's a good mix from a really talented bunch.

'L'Hymne Medieval' is familiar Symph Français but 11+ minute 'Le Baladin du Temps' is much more involved with great changes and some nice surprises. Luc Serra's guitar lines over his and Michel Taillet's keys ring an irresistible Allman-like bell of harmony, backed-up by the heavy bass of Jean-Luc Thillot and le batterie de Alain Gozzo. Same for the hard funk of the title track, a kitsch beauty of its time peppered by some hot brass. Standout 'Au-dela des Ecrans de Cristal' is European prog when it was European pop-- and it's excellent, filled with plenty of development and tight playing. And though uninteresting, commercial 'Le Secret du Mage' foreshadows the Gallophilic chants of The Police. Soft and folkie 'Le Berger' is a rest before the huge 'Je Suis D'Ailleurs', a satisfying journey through the space/prog solar system of 1974.

Recommended to fans of the second tier. Very nice reissue on Musea with full-color gatefold, good booklet and beautifully reproduced cover art. Four live bonus cuts from '73 are poorly recorded and probably unnecessary.

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Send comments to Atavachron (BETA) | Report this review (#274761)
Posted Saturday, March 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well, well, well........... I was leaning back in my sofa with a satisfied grin and awaiting an Ange like album when I first put on this album. I was in for a big surprise........

This is the debut album from the French symph proggers Atoll. A band with a very good reputation. So I purchased some of their albums.

This debut album is style wise all over the shop. From country to eclectic to folk and a bit of symph prog too. They even touch base with disco and zeuhl too on this album. A very eclectic mix, it has to be said.

The quality is not that great though........ with the exception of the title track and the closening track Je suis d'ailleurs. Both are very good symph prog tracks with a lot of what later became known as typical French symph prog. The rest of the songs are blowing hot and cold. Some of the melody lines here, the disco stuff, is cringeworthy. But the French people has always done it their way and Atoll is no exception from that rule. Hence, this is a bit of a bizarre album. But it is saved by those two above mentioned albums. It is a good album, but not perhaps an album that will get much airplay in my household.

3 stars

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Send comments to toroddfuglesteg (BETA) | Report this review (#525183)
Posted Saturday, September 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A competent but not exceptional debut album from Atoll, which has a fairly diverse sound but regularly returns to pastoral prog of the Genesis variety - possibly influenced in this respect by the work of fellow countrymen Ange. The production job isn't brilliant and none of the compositions really stand out as being exceptional; furthermore, vocalist André Balzer's contributions seem to be rather lacklustre, though they're not particularly clear in the mix so it's possible this is a production issue. There's clearly talent here, but they seem to be still working out how to make use of it; still, the album is a fun enough listen by itself. Three stars and no more.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#532010)
Posted Sunday, September 25, 2011 | Review Permalink

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