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Symphonic Prog

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars This album is really the start of it all: superb vocals harmonies, two acoustic guitars and an electric bass; not your standard prog lp but splendid songwriting in French, sung with a mild Quebec accent. This is of course one of my fondest memories but this does not alter my judgement, as this is in my first ten records ever bought and I still listen to it now and then although I know it by heart. The latest edition comes with a bonus track, although not on the same level of this album, it is still worthy.

The title track is really superb and ends in a great moment of energy and is the only place on the album where drums are present. Chambre Au Salon and Bonjour A la Vie are personal tracks and about quitting drugs. Vieilles Courroies is another highlight (although some of those harmonies on there can sound ..... weird). Attends-Moi is simply the best pieces on here and the lyrics reach almost Gabe quality. Pour un instant is their best known number and is about forgiving and holds some superb guitar lines. The last number is also a highlight bit the finale is rather long, repeating one of their best two-liners: "On a mis quelqu'un au monde , on devrait peut-être l'écouter">> Somebody was brought into the this world, maybe we should listen to him.

Clearly not all that prog, more of a folk album, but if you loved Cinquième Saison, it should be just as cherish-able

Report this review (#21554)
Posted Monday, February 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars 4.6/5.0

Harmonium is not only a group; it is an experience. It is the wake of a people, coming from old times to modernity with magic noise and sensitive words. Melancoly is the word if such a word can be described: the image of something that has been and will never be again. Harmonium is THE group of the 70's in Québec country and its work is not only musical, but also political. It represents not only the aspiration of the people to be free but also nostalgia and deception of a new world that is not always what you wanted it to be.

When you first listen to this album, you may not even notice that they do not have a drummer. Why bother? Why would this band need a drummer with so much rhythm and imagination? You have to focus on the words, on the stories in each of the songs. Enter this world and when you will leave you will be someone else.

Report this review (#21555)
Posted Saturday, February 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This progressive folk album is rhythmic acoustic guitar oriented. The bass often sounds like on the Genesis' "Nursery Cryme" album, especially on the "Fountain of Salmacis" song. Serge Fiori's catchy lead vocals and the backing vocals themselves are excellent, and they are an important aspect of this record: Fiori sings in French with the true Quebecker accent. There are some very good flute parts. There are no drums on this record: only bass drums that are played by Fiori himself. This record is not very progressive: the next albums are much more progressive and elaborated. The keyboards are very rare & discreet: piano and electric piano in one or two bits. All the tracks are at least very good; "Pour un instant" was a major hit in the 70's here in Quebec, and it is still played nowadays. "Harmonium", "Vieilles courroies" and "Musicien parmi tant d'autres" have very impressive lead & backing vocals. "Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjour a la vie" has a beautiful mix of delicate acoustic guitar sounds, birds sounds and kids playing.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Report this review (#21557)
Posted Thursday, April 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars HARMONIUM's debut is still dominated by folk-ish songwriter-typical songs mainly presented on admittedly excellent acoustic guitar supported by bass and drums. Every now and then we have as well some piano, flute, sax and horns. Actually the line-up description here is looking more impressive than what I can confirm by listening. The compositions on here are not very intricate, nevertheless the album is a very versatile one. It's really showing the basics where this Franco-Canadian band were starting from to become one of the best ones in mellow symphonic prog. I listened as well to their two following albums, but I've to admit, none of them ever became one of my favorites. This fact might explain why I can't rate this album here as high as my co-reviewers. Probably one should be a lover of chanson and songwriter stuff to be able to really appreciate the dreamy and soaring music of this band. Unfortunately I am not and I'm missing a bit the rock element in it although I'm anything else than a "Metalhead" I would say.

Best song IMO is Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjour à la vie giving already a premonition of what to come from them on the following album. Really beautifully played filigree acoustic guitar added up with some harp. Vielles courroies is a rather melancholic emotional piece with piano, flute and guitar. The perfect sound for relaxing moments. In the song Attends-moi ("Wait for me") they've used obviously the sound of a metronom as a kind of clock, actually quite a nice idea. All songs here are really very nice and an enjoyable listen in quiet moments.

As a CONCLUSION I'd like to say that this album is a rather good debut but only a must-have one for lovers of french chanson music and fans of the band.

Report this review (#36952)
Posted Sunday, June 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the beginning of it all: Harmonium's eponymous album is a mix of sweet acoustic guitars, impressive lyrics, the beautiful voice of Serge Fiori, and great songwriting. This is album is not necessarily progressive, though. This much of a Quebec Folk Album with some progressive aspirations, but realy they still are not there . Mostly, this albums contains touching songs in the most simple way. No drums here, wich adds to the subtlety of the guitars and the whole atmosphere. The bass is always well used, giving a great rythm for the leading parts. In Quebec, this albums was the most popular by the band, and to this day is still a classic. Most songs were hits, and are still played in a lot of houses. For any progressive fan, this band is a gem, and needs to be known a whole lot more. Better things were still to come, but still a great debut album. 4/5
Report this review (#38324)
Posted Sunday, July 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars On their first album, Harmonium had already their own sound, acoustic guitars and bass with sometime flute and keyboard. If you live here in Quebec, there's a lot of chances that you already know most of these songs without even knowing who made it. This album feature awesome rythm guitar with little well played leads. The bass is also great. It's Harmonium less progressive release but it still really interesting to listen to it. This album is more Quebec folk style (which is different from Jethro's style of folk). This is great music for a band that was at this time a trio.
Report this review (#41084)
Posted Sunday, July 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars "Fantastique! Extraordinaire! Incroyable!" (Amazing! Outstanding! Fabulous!)

Thanks to ProgArchives to refresh my memory and send me back more than 25 years ago when I noticed the existence of Harmonium and also had the pleasure to hear many songs in an old tape recorder. Really the tape was not mine and when the owner took it back I lost contact. Well, but those moments were great indeed.

Now, I had to make a sort of pilgrimage to recover the band's material; a hard work, fellows! But worth the price and here I am pleasantly hearing this little jewel and writing this review. The first thing that touches me is the cultural link with that Quebecois band; there's some smell of Latinity, the real one, original, back to the same roots, the same background. The other thing is that in many points their music reminds me some ballads and modinhas* from my own country that have been composed from more than 2 centuries until now - but again the roots are the same.

The songs:

'Harmonium' is a catchy opening track, good guitar and good vocal with exquisite French accent with good choir and voices. The fastest part remembers some enjoyable soft rocks of the 60s.

'Si doucement' is also fair, now guitar seems to offer some bossa nova tunes, just like the almost soothing singing. Refrain is rich with chords and a drum beat, very characteristic. A flute sound appears suddenly and it's like Ian Anderson was a guest.

'Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjour à la vie', an apparent optimistic song with some sad moments. The voice rises from soothing to exciting. Guitars sound great, too.

'Vielles courroies' seems a continuation from previous track, but now the piano and the flute are more present.

'Attends-moi' is animated, amusing, average.

'Pour un instant' is like Beatles singing in French, the beginning is very similar to Harrison's 'Here comes the sun' and the tune hovers over again along the song.

'De la chamber au salon' is the best track, although acoustic is also the most prog song of the album with changes in tunes, fascinating atmosphere, marvelous singing.

'Un musicien parmi tante d'autres' is a good ending track, the strong bass and guitar give a rocky environment together with funny and catchy vocal.

Well, my CD copy has also a bonus track, '100,000 raisons', a fair song where rhythm transits from the French chanson to a soft rock and then to a folk tune.

One will ask: 'and where are the moog, the mellotron, the electric guitars, the heavy percussion to make this album a real prog work?'. I don't mind if Harmonium is pure prog, folk-prog or prog-related or whatever; the soul of this namesake album is totally progressive.

I observed some production flaws but as a whole the work is excellent. Total: 4 stars.

* a gentle Brazilian musical style which origins can be traced to Middle Age's minstrels.

Report this review (#63805)
Posted Sunday, January 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars The reason why I didn't rate this album five star it's only because we are on Proarchives and this album from Harmonium is the less prog album from the band. But it's clearly a masterpiece from Québec province and should be listen by any melodic music fan.

As a reviewer said: Harmonium is not only a group; it is an experience. It is the wake of a people, coming from old times to modernity with magic noise and sensitive words.

Report this review (#68030)
Posted Thursday, February 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars 3 2/3 Stars

What a beautiful debut from a beautiful band! This album reminds me of the beginning of Charly Garcia's music career: melodic folk/rock that anyone could like. The prominent instruments are only acoustic guitar, bass, and singing. Don't get put off by the fact that it is sung in French. Maybe I'm the guy who does not pay attention to lyrics. If you are like me, then you'll find that good vocals are more important than lyrics.

The title track tells you how the album will sound like. Catchy bass guitar, pastoral acoustic guitar playing, and absolutely gorgeous vocalizations often appearing in harmony. The ending of this song is excellent. In short, the opener is a pop masterpiece and the highlight of the self-titled album.

However, don't feel that the rest is inferior folk/rock, because it is not. Listen to a song like Aujourd'hui which features an orchestra of acoustic guitars playing rhythm, counterpoints, solos, everything. After listening to this song just now, I don't know if I can call the opener the only highlight. You got Veilles Courroies' catchy "na na na" vocalizations. The famous "Por un Instant" that has a great instrumental break is also not to be missed. De La Chambre is yet another track where there are many acoustic guitars playing with a very rich sound. "Un musicien parmi" is the longest and most complex song here featuring deeper instrumentation, including some electric piano. The vocal harmonies near the end are like a Canadian anthem. This song kind of foreshadows the masterpiece that was about to come.

In conclusion, this is a magical album, and one of the best albums I have heard in last 6 months. It is hard to believe that they came up with something even better in the next album.

Not Prog ... It doesn't have to be.

Again: Magical. Go get it! If you remotely like folk, you'll fall in love with this album.

Highlights: Harmonium, Aujord'hui, Un Musicien parmi Let Downs: Maybe Si Doucement (but It is still good)

My rating: B-

Report this review (#72969)
Posted Friday, March 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars First album by the most known Québec prog act.

First of all, I'd like say that this album isn't really prog. Maybe some prog elements are scattered troughout the songs but Harmonium is mostly a folk album... but what a good folk album it is! It doesn't have to be prog to be excellent. On with the review.

Weirdly enough, there is no drums in this album (except for the last part of the title track). There are only two guitars and a bass. The absence of drums is basically unnoticeable thanks to the three musician's amazing playing. The instrumental parts are great but not really proggy yet.

There is not really a weak track on this album in my humble opinion. The music in there is just beautiful. The vocal harmonies, though primitive if compared to their subsequent albums, contributes a lot to the raw beauty of this album. As always, Fiori sound like an angel. He has really one of the best voices ever in my opinion. Plus, it is sang in genuine québecois accent so you can really feel the distinct Québec sound.

As a québecois, it's strange for me to review this album because it has been played over and over again on Québec maintream radios since the seventies. Most of the tracks were chart hits. Now, I'm on a progressive rock website and I'm reviewing this album. It's hard because I really don't feel the same way about it that someone who has never heard a single note of it ever.

Knowing that, all I could say is that I recommend this album to anyone who is sensible to accoustic guitars and cheerful and mellow songs. It's the kind of album that puts on smile upon your face. I rate it 4 stars for this site (lack of progressive elements) but I rate it 5 stars in my heart and in Québec's history charts.


Report this review (#77775)
Posted Wednesday, May 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Like i said in my review of "Les Cinq Saisons", i was raise with Harmonium, being my father favorite band, i had no choice, i could not avoid their music. The first one, out of three, may not be the best but, it's still a excellent album. Musically it's closer to folk, à la Shawn Phillips, but still very unique. There are 6 outstanding tracks on this one plus 2 good tracks and the song "Pour un instant" witch i find it to comercial to my taste. If you don't understand french, it's a shame because the lyrics on this album are A+, Fiori is one of the best lyricist i know!! Two song in this album had a profound impact, lyrically, on me, "Attends-moi (wait for me)" & "Un musicien parmi tant d'autres (a musician out of others)".

The first one, "Attends-moi" deals with the time we put working to gain some kind of security but, you finally realised that you've spend so mutch time working, that in the end you have no more energy to do what you really whant to do. "If one day, it's too mutch for you, and you feel yourself broking down, you don't have any choice, need to survive or finishing it (attends-moi)"

The second one "Un musicien parmi tant d'autres", deals with the fact that you may have sucess one day but the next day somebody else will replace you. The song ends with those phrases "Where's been the people who had something to say? We've gave birth to someone, maybe we should listen to him".

"Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjour à la vie" is another one of my favorites. Just listen to the 12 strings guitar solo at the end, if this is not prog, than prog means nothing, a must!

The title track is very effective also, with a very good but simple 6 strings acoustic guitar solo in the middle of the song. the song end with a beatiful melancolic part including Fluglehorn & instrumental vocal sing with a lots of feeling by Fiori and Normandeau.

So, to conclude, a very good album but, not as good as the other 3, if we include the live album.

Report this review (#78266)
Posted Monday, May 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars In three short years, Serge Fiori and his cohorts in Harmonium broke new ground and wrote their way into the hearts of millions. While the two other studio albums Si on avait besoin d'une 5ième Saison and L'Heptade deservedly have their fans, this debut is by no means to be ignored. It is less progressive, and folkier than the works which followed but a throughly pleasing album nonetheless.

I admit that I was totally hooked by the sheer exuberance of Aujourd'hui Je Dit Bonjour A La Vie, apparently a track written from the point of view of a recovering drug user who observes the simple joy of children at play. It rides first on a folky melody, and then a lovely acoustic guitar jam featuring the talents of Michel Normandeau. Other highlights include the melancholic title track, with its upbeat bursts and nice brassy outro. The description that came to mind was that of a cross between Lindisfarne and Barclay James Harvest with a little bit of America thrown in!

Elsewhere there's Si Doucement which mixes a light jazzy Latin feel with a Tull-style flute from Pierre Daigneault, Vielles Courroies (the only track with drums ... courtesy of guest Réjean Émond) which also has lovely flute from Daigneault and an excellent oh-so-mellow outro. Pour Un Instant is another joyous piece (with hints of The Beatles' Here Comes The Sun just for a second or two) and lovely interplay between the guitars ... I believe it was an actual hit at the time.

It never gets very complex on this album, and generally each piece has quite a similar style to the next ... Un Musicien Parmi Tant d'Autres is perhaps the most diverse sounding piece (and at 7 minutes it's the longest) but actually I don't like it as much as some of the others, and that's despite the singalong chorus that closes the song out!

This is an excellent folk-rock album, but from a prog perspective, I can hardly call it a compulsory purchase. Yet, once you do immerse yourself in the second album, which is indeed an essential work, you'll really want this to see where it all began. ... 58% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#82265)
Posted Thursday, June 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars This album, along with the following one, were lent to me by a French teacher in Grade 8. I listened the the first track, and wasn't amazed. After a few months, I began to listen to all my songs without a play count on iTunes, and discovered "Si on avait Besoin D'une 5ieme Saison", namely the track "Histoires Sans Paroles". I was absolutely blown away. After listening and burning a copy of that album, I remembered I also had their debut album. It wasn't quite as moving or innovative as "Saison", but I still loved it. It was more folkier than prog, but very enjoyable and fun. The electric principles of music from this era were hardly used on this album, which was very fresh and beautiful. Some electric piano and bass were used, but no electric guitars or keyboards are used. (The bass is also very nice on this album, especially the final track of the album.) Unfortunately, this album is very tedious and drags on with its acoustic guitar and often wordless chanting, and the atmosphere and feel is completely static throughout the album, with no sudden surprises or musical novelties.
Report this review (#89882)
Posted Sunday, September 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of the most beautiful, joyous and perfect albums ever. I first experienced "5ieme Saison" which kept me occupied for a couple months, several plays per day, and it was literally the only music I listened to in that period. A few weeks after the bliss subsided, I ordered this album, and "L'Heptade". I have yet to fully digest Heptade at this point (Dec 30 '06) but I've been giving alot of listening time to the debut for a few weeks.

All of the best elements from "..Saison" are present here, the incredible vocal harmonies that no other band has achieved (light years ahead of Yes) the amazing acoustic guitar arrangements throughout the whole album, unbelievable melodies that send you into unevitable spasms of joy, the beautifully emotional voice of Serge Fiori, who has a great talent to conform to various styles and moods, but he mostly sings in a lower voice, he doesn't go all out like he does on "L'Heptade" or "Depuis le Autmn". The fact that the vocals are in french is a aspect of the album I wouldn't even think of changing. It's rare for me to hear music in other languages that I like, and then I see the vocals as another instrument. This works particularly well here, because the words flow so perfectly, and the melodies present in Serges vocals are excellent.

Another difference from this album and "Saison" are the presence of drums. But if you listened to the albums back to back without knowing, you would not realize there was anything missing in the rhythm section. The acoustic guitars on both albums are ever present, and the way they use them harmonically and cooperatively, I wish more bands would adapt this sort of style, it makes the music more dreamy and personal (Saison is just so "right" in this sense)

In terms of compositional talent, this album is not far behind it's succesor, but it lacks the epic quality of peices like "Depuis" and "Histoires sans Paroles". It's an album with a bunch of excellently written songs with outstanding performances, but it's more than that. Listen to "Vielles courroies" and you realize just how in tune they are with themselves musically, and they are really doing what they want to. There's absolutely no sense of tension or force (as with many other bands that shine on their debuts).

Beautiful, perfect in what they were trying to achieve, essential listening for fans of "Saison" and folk music. Give their music a chance before putting it off as "PBS informercial" music, and I assure you it will be a extremely rewarding as it was (and is) for me. Add another half star to that rating.

1/28/07 edit - Sorry, after more listens, I can't give this album less than 5 stars. Nearly as good as Cinq Saisons.

Report this review (#104983)
Posted Saturday, December 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars If you were of a certain age in Quebec or the Acadian part of New Brunswick, chances are that you had this album or knew someone who did. Imagine America with intelligence, jazz sense, guitar mastery (especially 12 string) & a way with melody that brought to mind symphinic prog, without the mellotron or orchestra so rich is the sonic palette the group used. Pour Un Instant is a song that still carries with it a certain weight in Quebec, its' lyrics message about consciously starting to believe in oneself. Un Musicien Parmi Tant D'autres details the up & down nature of music. Here Today, gone tomorrow, replaced by the newest sensation. Enjoy your time in the spotlight, but know that others will have their turn, then ending with the epilogue asking where have all the people who had stories to tell gone; that we bring children into this world, maybe we should at the least listen to what they have to say. As a final note, I think if you polled french speaking canadians on Harmonium's musical ouput, this one would come out on top by a wide margin, because of its' special place in our hearts.
Report this review (#113438)
Posted Saturday, February 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars 8.5/10 Great

This is a great debut, of which I heard after the incredible "Si on avait..." (5th Season). Despite how drastically different this sounds to the aura of "Si on avait...", the music on here is actually really great and highly enjoyable. The voice and great guitar work is all there, the songs a bit simple in construction but drenched in mood. This has become a very memorable album for me, considering how catchy the songs can be, I listened to this countless times over an entire summer. The melodies are all there and are all really great, nothing gets too extravegant but it is all really nice and uplifting. You really know there is something special waiting here, and behold the 5 seasons release proves this quite well. Favorites include "Pour un Instant", "1000 Raisons" and the combined "Aujourd Hui, Je Dis Bonjour à la Vie / Vieilles Courroies"...awesome!!

Report this review (#145431)
Posted Wednesday, October 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars This was SO all over the FM airwaves in Quebec for years after its release that it's hard to listen to it without still feeling like it is overrated and overplayed. Yet it struck me even then how self indulgent Harmonium was, and those flaws are magnified 10-fold in the post-punk era. Indeed, this is a singer songwriter album more than a band album, with Serge Fiori having a hand in the lyrics of 5 of the 8 songs, grabbing onto one navel gazing reverie after another, and surrounded in general by the blandest of accompaniments - the strummed acoustic guitar and syncopated bass.

Apart from Fiori's affirming "Aujourd'hui je dis bonjour a la vie", the better songs tend to be those with lyrics written by Michel Normandeau - the lovely "Vieilles Courroies" and the anthemic "Pour In Instant" with its gorgeous melody and guitar technique. These three tunes represent the best of Quebecois folk rock of their era. Unfortunately they are more than offset by mundane efforts like "Attends moi" and "Si Doucement", while the finale latches on to one interesting phrase and tries to turn it into a mantra. In the end, it sounds like a plea to have us listeners pay attention to the musician just because we brought him into the world!

The fact that the self absorption on display in Harmonium's music might represent that of an entire generation of young Francophones during the early 70s might make this more valuable as a historic document than for any artistic merit. But, even there, the level of songwriting is not consistently high enough to warrant three stars.

Report this review (#151374)
Posted Saturday, November 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Harmonium chapter 1

While this is a quaint and charming collection of folksy soft rock songs it must be pointed out that this is significantly less stunning than the masterpiece that would follow it, the wonderful Saisons album. It is not awful by any means though. If you enjoy simple melodies strummed pleasantly on acoustic guitars with great vocal harmonies this might be right up your alley. There are occasional flashes of the gem that was coming especially in the ability of the music to convey a range of emotion both sad and sunny. There are some lovely flute and piano passages. Some of the tracks feature tasteful but reserved drumming. While certainly recommended to Harmonium fans who want to hear their entire musical journey, I feel it is harder to make the case that this album is essential to the wider progressive rock community. 3 ¼ stars.

Report this review (#154911)
Posted Sunday, December 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Living on the other side of the Atlantic (Belgium), I had never heard of this Canadian band in the mid seventies. I discovered it almost four years ago thanks to PA.

This album is essentially (if not all) folk-rock oriented. Acoustic, peaceful and at times melodic. Prog is not yet on the rendez-vous, I'm afraid.

Of course, I have never been into true folk music (which this album is), but since the band was referenced in the symphonic genre, I decided to give this band a try and it was rather a deception. I really wonder what's all the fuss about this release.

Some pleasant acoustic songs like Aujourd'hui Je Dis Bonjour à la Vie or Pour un instant but nothing to write home about. This album sounds different from the others of Harmonium which will be more progressive in their essence. This one is not IMHHO (in my humble and HONEST opinion).

It is fully melancholic, even a bit sad at times ("De la Chambre au Salon"). The closing number, Un musicien Parmi Tant d'Autres on the contrary is more joyful, positive. It reminds me of the quiet parts of Stagnation (From Trespass).

Two stars.

Report this review (#158270)
Posted Thursday, January 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Harmonium's eponym debut album is a total classic piece of art in Quebec. It is believed that every house in Quebec did have his own copy of the vinyl version of this album. As it was said before, it is not really prog-oriented but more folk. The feeling around the album is about having fun playing music . Songs are fairly simple when listened too, but they get a little bit heavier when you try to play them. Most people don't even know that drums (except bass drums) where used only on the first track. That said, do you really need drums with those incredible rythms guitars?

Harmonium, Pour un instant (For a moment) and Un musicien parmi tant d'autres (A musician among so many others) are songs that are very known for still playing on radio nowadays.

The interesting fact about Harmonium, and especially about this album are the chords that are being used. Most of the songs use the same chords sometimes on different capo positions but still. Added to those pentatonic arranged chords are added some completely crazy chords which the feeling of harmony you hear when you listen closely.

This first album is not quoted 5 stars because it is not pure prog. Otherwise, it would be for the major importance it had outside of the music but what that meant politically and culturally for quebec province.

Report this review (#165094)
Posted Wednesday, March 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The self-titled debut album from French Canadian ( Quebec) progressive rock act Harmonium was released in 1974. Lead vocalist and guitarist Serge Fiori met Guitarist/ vocalist Michel Normandeau at a theatre music meeting in 1973 and later that same year they met bassist/ vocalist Louis Valois and they formed Harmonium.

The music on Harmonium play on this debut album is light jazzy and folky pop/ rock with progressive elements. Outstanding and beautiful vocal melodies ( and harmonies) are the main focus in the music. The music is mostly acoustic guitar driven and the two guitarists and the bassist compliment each other in an excellent fashion. There are very little drumming on the album. Besides the very simple basic instrumentation there are also occassional moments where flute, accordion, electric piano, Flugelhorn and zither harp ( whatever that is?) are present in the music. Those little changes are great for the diversity of the music.

The lyrics are in French and Harmonium really make me wish I could understand more French than I do. It doesn´t ruin the music for me that I don´t understand a word ( well a few but not enough to get the meaning), but I can understand if others feel it´s a problem. I might be missing the last dimension in the music because of my lack of French language knowledge but the music is so great it doesn´t feel like a loss. As always it´s an aquired taste if you can enjoy lyrics sung in other languages than English though.

The songs are all pretty simple but beautiful and at times even moving. At least that´s my personal reaction when I listen to the album. Songs like Harmonium, Vielles Courroies and Un musicien Parmi tant d'Autres really touches me and gives me special feeling of joy. The CD version has an extra track called 100,000 raisons which is not the best song on the album but still a welcome addition. It´s not that the music is especially challenging and on initial listen I wasn´t as happy about the album as I am today. I found it to be a pretty simple pop/ rock album. I gave it the neccessary spins though and it has payed off. The more I listen the more I enjoy the Genesis like guitars and the beautiful vocal melodies/ harmonies that makes Harmonium´s music so special.

The musicianship is excellent. Both the instrumental side of the music and especially the vocals are very well executed. Serge Fiori has a beautiful voice. He can be both deeply emotional and good humoured which is a great quality IMO.

The production is outstanding IMO. The guitar sound is so clean. One of the best acoustic guitar sounds I have ever heard on an album. Just beautiful. The sound is generally warm and pleasant. I´ve been really pleasantly surprised by this debut from Harmonium and if the music on this album is any indication of what´s in store on their second and most known album Si On Avait Besoin D'Une Cinquième Saison ( 1975) I think I´m in for a real treat with that one. This album fully deserves a 4 star rating from me.

Report this review (#190422)
Posted Tuesday, November 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars If ever genius was a word applicable to songwriting, then this is as prime an example as one is likely to encounter.

One after another after another ... does this album ever stop!? It's just certified classic after certified classic. Vielles Courroies might well be in the top 20 most gorgeous songs of all time. The juxtaposition of sad, weepy piano weaving its way through your heart into the diatonic sounds of harmony vocals and flute soaring through the sky alongside the backing is nothing less than extraordinary. Serge Fiori is a freaking genius if there ever was a songwriter worthy of that description. Some of these songs are so good they will leave you breathless.

I don't think the albums that followed this were as good, despite the fact that they are very solid efforts. The songs here are just about untouchable.

Best heard on vinyl, IMO, but the CD release is decent. I think it was probably digitally dehissed as it sounds a bit sterile compared to the vinyl and has an extremely low hiss level, but just get it if you can't spin a record. You need it, the end.

Report this review (#191699)
Posted Wednesday, December 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Harmonium's second album Si On Avait Besoin D'Une Cinquième Saison has got a very deserving listing in ProgArchives top ten albums list. That is a truly remarkable album. So I turned my attention to this, their debut album. In fact, I have turned my attention to everything from this band. The other reviews will follow in the coming months.

The roots of Si On Avait Besoin D'Une Cinquième Saison can be traced back to this album. The folk rock elements at least, although this album is pretty progressive too. This album is not the run of the mill folk rock album though. Harmonium had their own style and I am not sure if anyone has ever successfully copied their style. A style I find very charming. I do not understand a word of French, but it is my understanding that their lyrics is superb. But I cannot possibly comment on that. What counts here is the music.

The music is a mix of Maneige's brand of jazz and folk rock. It is difficult to describe it, because Harmonium have their own take on music. But if you know Si On Avait Besoin D'Une Cinquième Saison, deduct the symphonic prog parts of that album and you have this, their debut album. The songs are not particular great. Only Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjour à la vie and Un musicien Parmi tant d'Autres is truly great songs here. The rest is a bit anonymous. It is pretty obvious this is a debut album where the band is trying out things. Regard this album as a prelude to their second album and purchase it if you like this or their third album. I give it three stars, bordering to four stars.

3.5 stars

Report this review (#282869)
Posted Friday, May 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Harmonium's 1974 debut reveals the band's strong folk roots and, although it lacks the expansive style of their next two albums, it still retains the beautifully-constructed melodies that have become their trademark. Fans of Harmonium bemoan the fact that their career contains just four releases but, in truth, music lovers couldn't possibly ask for anything more. Each album displays a marked progression from the previous one and 'Harmonium', with it's softly-peddled acoustic guitars, soulful vocals and lovingly-crafted rhythms shows just how adept the band were at combining various disparate genres without ever sounding quite like anybody else. Progressive rock fans may find 'Si On Avait...' and 'L'Heptade' more to their tastes, with both of those albums building upon the original folk-orientated sound with layers of keyboards, synths and some electric guitars, but once you have explored those albums fully the next logical step is to uncover the band's simpler origins which, after several listens, prove just as exhilarating. Imagine Nick Drake was French and trapped in a lift with 'Songs From The Wood'-era Jethro Tull and a classical folk trio in love with early Genesis and Fairport Convention and you get the idea. Progressive rock in the classic sense it may not may fully be, but the scope and style of the music is highly impressive, showing exactly why Harmonium harbour legendary status amongst both the citizens of French-speaking Canada and in the progressive rock community in general.
Report this review (#293223)
Posted Tuesday, August 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Harmonium' - Harmonium (6/10)

Before they became a full-fledged progressive rock act with their second album, the French Canadian act Harmonium was married to a style of folk rock, as can be hear on this debut. In 1974, the band had not yet developed their style into anything really innovative, but instead took a much more songwriting-based approach to the sound. The result is an album that has a few really good tracks and great vocal work, but doesn't come close to the perfection Harmonium would achieve with their second album.

Listening to this from a relatively more modern viewpoint, the sound here is somewhat reminiscent of the recent indie folk movement; acoustic guitars and warm vocals, with the occasional horn or flute thrown in to keep things interesting. Although this is technically a band effort, it does have the feeling of a singer-songwriter album, most often being driven only by acoustic guitars and the vocals of Serge Fiori. Of the better songs here, the title track 'Harmonium' is a really perfect way to start off the album. Organic guitar strumming and bass are the only instruments starting off, before a bouncy drum backing touches things off. A thing one really notices here is that the bass and percussion are both highly underrepresented when compared to the vocals and guitars.

Another great track here is the single 'Pour Un Instant', which was coincidentally the first song I had ever heard by this band, before I even knew they were progressive rock! Some interesting details and flourishes in the acoustic guitar work really gives an added depth to what is otherwise an already pleasant track. Unfortunately however, many of the songs here do not have the melodic tact of the single, and instead feel a bit too long for their own good, without the sort of attention that would have made them (and the album as a whole) a really good experience.

Certainly not a balanced band effort, but a charming piece of pastoral pop folk from this fine Canadian band.

Report this review (#422861)
Posted Friday, March 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Harmonium is among my absolute top 5 symphonic progressive rock bands of all time, no doubt about it. The rock element here is almost nonexistent, however. This is acoustic folk composing at it's best. Though this album isn't as elaborate on their sophomore album, the music here is equally as fantastic considering that this is their debut. The mood ranges from happy to sad quite easily, and moves from slow to fast passages with ease. Did I mention that this music is beautiful? 'Cause it is. This music isn't super progressive or epic like Harmonium's later work, and this album has absolutely no connection to bands like Genesis or Yes. This is most just extremely sophisticated folk tunes sung beautifully in the French language with a Français québécois accent.
Report this review (#431298)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I am finally owner of a copy of Harmonium's debut album--one which I first heard over 25 years ago and whose magic has never been far from my internal 'wish list.' My impressions from then--which have definitely been borne out with my recent acquisition and repeated listenings--is that this is a wonderful album with an energy quite similar to that of the debut album of AMERICA, only with its lyrics sung in French. With deepened familiarity, the album has an almost too familiar feeling to it--as if it is too similar to the America album. Throughout the album there is wonderful musicianship, nice song structures, enough interesting instrumental variations (e.g. trumpet in "Harmonium," the flute in "Si doucement," children's playground voices and guitar harmonics in "Aujourd'hui...," piano and flute in "Vielles courroies," electric piano in "100.000 raisons," metronome in "Attends-moi," zither harp in "Pour un instant," ) and, of course, as always, great vocals (both Serge's leads and the group's harmonies), but all in all there is not enough really catchy, memorable melodies, lines, or riffs to make this album anything more than a good album--and certainly not one to be highly recommended for its contributions to progress, progressive music, much less prog rock (though I cannot judge its contribution to the music development within Québec). A very nice French Canadian pop album with one extraordinary song, but nothing on the par of America's eponymously titled first album.

5 star song: "Un musicien parmi tant d'autres"

4 star songs: "Si doucement," "Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjours,"

Report this review (#489861)
Posted Sunday, July 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3/5

The first Harmonium album and by anyone's standards as debut albums go this is a great start and the band went on leaps and bounds for their second album 'Si On Avait Besoin D'une Cinquieme Saison' which rightly so is one of the highest rated Prog albums of all time.

The eight compositions that make this album are all beautifully crafted works, gentle and relaxing. Very very easy on the ear. Sung with tenderness too. But I can't rate this too highly for a couple of reasons.

Part of it is my own fault for not paying attention in French classes enough at school so I haven't marked it down for that but it could play a part in other peoples reviews. My main problem is there is a substantial lack of musical diversity on the album. Don't get me wrong I love the acoustic sound they have but a whole 42 minutes of it (aside from the fleeting visit from a fluglehorn and the use of a metronome on 'Attends-Moi') is just dull.

Also, the general structure of the album and songs doesn't really strike me as Prog. It's definitely not Symphonic Prog as the tag atop this page says, Prog-Folk would be more accurate but Folk even more so.

Of course Harmonium would go on to swell their ranks with other musicians to get that Symphonic sound for their next album and really hit their stride!

Negatives aside, this album is unequivocally nice and I thoroughly recommend it as background music to serenade a young lady/old man with.

Report this review (#614688)
Posted Saturday, January 21, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Playing prog-folk with a strong emphasis on the folk (the prog side of their formula would become stronger on Les Cinq Saisons, and dominate L'Heptade), Harmonium's debut album is charmingly beautiful, with perhaps the best treat being Serge Fiori's exceptional lead vocals. True to the Quebecois pride that underpinned their work, the unit sings in French and looks as much to French folk music as to more North American folk rock sounds in constructing their particular blend. If you are mostly here for the prog in their sound, I would suggest leaving this until after you've sampled Les Cinq Saisons or L'Heptade, but if you are coming at them from a folk rock perspective I would say this is definitely worth a try.
Report this review (#1641114)
Posted Friday, November 11, 2016 | Review Permalink

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