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Opus-5 - Contre-Courant CD (album) cover

CONTRE-COURANT

Opus-5

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars OPUS 5 were a 5 Piece ensemble from Quebec Canada who released IMHO one of Canada's finest pieces of 70's prog rock with "Contre-Courant" in 1976. Line up included Olivier Duplessis (claviers, vocals) , Luc Gauthier (guitars, vocals), Serge Nolet (flute vocals), Christian Leon Racine (bass, vocals) and Jean-Pierre Racicot (percussion, vocals). OPUS 5 were essentially a mix of lighter fusion / jazz prog with folk leanings at times and somewhat reminiscent of the Canterbury school of prog (i.e. HATFIELD & THE NORTH, EGG.). Instrumentally these guys blend tempo challenging aspects with acoustic and synthesizer runs offering the listener quite a fine variety of rhythm and tones. "Contre-Courant" is a very expressive album with all 5 members adding vocalization throughout and is delivered with great emotion. Sometimes albums just seem to have everything and fulfills your mind, ears and spirit and that is the case with this album for me. Absolutely 100% essential.
Report this review (#28986)
Posted Tuesday, March 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
5 stars James once again made an acurate description of the music and maybe the difference in rating might be due to the french singing on this album. Actually quite different than other Quebecois band but just as incisive in contents ( lyrics ) , here the singing is of crystal- clear French without the typically local accent and it is refreshing, but it does take some mastering of the languages to fully grasp how good this album is . Those texts on top of it are politically engaged , mind-challenging , thought-provoking , environementally-conscious and socially oriented . The music is accompanying such superb vocals and texts is in the same vein : Food for thoughts. Just like your cereal breakfast (and just as indispensible as that first meal ) it just crackles , snaps and rocks (it does not pop ) and will nourish your body and feed your brains so well that even your asshole boss cannot screw-up your day. If I must point out to other band , I would say fellow Quebecois Maneige with vocals , and sometimes G Giant and also Canterbury.

In short , this is another real gem from that part of the world , up there with Harmonium , Et Cetera , Sloche and Maneige. Mosts of the numbers present long instrumental passages only slightly interrupted by very on-the-dot lyrics ( Les Saigneurs instead of Seigneurs). The title says it all Contre Courant - against the flow (mainstream).

This album got a recent re-release on Cd by Unidisc with a new catalogue number AGEK-2401

Report this review (#28987)
Posted Tuesday, July 13, 2004 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This record is really among the excellent prog albums of the Quebec prog scene, almost at the same level as Harmonium's Si On Avait Besoin D'une 5ime Saison. Musically speaking, this record is REALLY complex and elaborated, presenting compositions suited for the most difficult prog fans. An overall mix of Baroque & fusion tendency allows the music to often fall into fast, dense & intricate patterns. The omnipresent piano and flute remind a bit a lighter version of the famous Baroque record featuring Jean-Pierre Rampal & Claude Bolling. ELP is another slight similarity too, because of the way the piano is played. The best parts are the fast, loaded & synchronized ones. There are many very good mellow bits that maybe could be a bit more catchy. The record is not really emotional, but the technical performance and the quality of the compositions are outstanding. Another important characteristic to mention is that the music is mostly very disciplined: there are very few obscure things, no experimentation, no improvisation and no jam sessions: mostly everything is mathematically calculated & dosed. The keyboards are surprisingly discreet, but the other instruments compensate very much: the piano is the most preponderant one. It is sad that their discography is only made of 2 albums. The last lyrics parts of "Les Saigneurs" sum it all up: "Es-tu fier de toi? Dans un PAYS que l'on nomme le QUBEC, est-ce normal que de parler l'anglais? Is it abnormal to speak FRENCH?" WOW: Speechless!

Rating: 4.5 stars

Report this review (#125630)
Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
avestin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A sublime opus by Opus-5

Opus-5 released this lovely gem in 1976, a wonderful mix of symphonic-rock, jazz-rock and folk. Varied and melodic, the music here is delightful and uplifting. The songs are by no means one dimensional and have enough changes in them to keep things not only interesting but also enchanting. The flute is always a good attractor in such an album plus the drums, conga, timbales and other percussions by Jean-Pierre Racicot are very well done and add fantastic flavour. The band members backing vocals also enhance the experience along with the effective bass work and the piano having fun all over and the occasional acoustic guitar. The main singing vocals are clear and caressing. Had I not known this was a Quebecois band, I would have though this is a French band, because of the vocals; the accent is impeccable.

Well as you can understand from all of this, the musicianship is top notch. But that's not enough, is it? As noted above, they compose a lively and cheerful sort of prog-rock mixed in its core with jazz-rock with a tinge of folk-ish elements (best exemplified by the percussion and flute).

The first song, Le temps des Pissenlits, is a good opener, that fools you as it changes mood after the intro into the main theme. However, I think they could have developed it somewhat more and added a segment to it. But lets not be too petty and be happy with this magnificent opener. Il etait Magicien, opens softly but then changes pace and speeds up a bit and goes back, with the aid of the synths, to the original pace and introduces the main theme. What is wonderful about Opus-5 and this song perhaps shows it best, is the "painting" done with the instruments. Listen to the acoustic guitar, the flute and piano as they play back and forth, in the background and foreground, sometimes unnoticed and at other times in "plain view"; you'll hear how well they add layers to the foundation of their melody. Further on into the song, there's a lovely interplay between heavy and light sounds, played between with the flute and piano very well building two contradicting segments that together synergize to a superb whole. After that there is some great "playing around" by the band members and the ending gets more "rocky" as it reaches a peak; and then a mild and tender outro by single instruments. This piece is quite jazzy, though mostly in a mid-slow pace, but still bouncy enough to make me move and shake my head to it. Les Saigneurs starts with the acoustic guitar, gives a sort of medieval feel. It slowly gains strength and then makes way for the entire band, who also chants together the main theme, getting reinforcement from the flute and piano. This is a wonderful piece that is well developed and executed, my favourite on the album. There's much going on: contradictions, interplaying of themes and instruments and changeovers; this is the most fascinating and complex piece here that shows how well they knew to construct a complex, brilliant and haunting melody. Another great thing here is how well it all sounds, how clear each instrument is heard. This song alone makes it worth getting the album (but the others are great as well as you can understand from what I wrote so far). I won't go into the two remaining songs, but they are of no lesser value or quality.

Though Opus-5 is less mentioned when speaking about bands from Quebec, this is in no way a band or an album to ignore. On the contrary; in my opinion it's one of the best to come from Quebec and an outstanding album in its own merit. They seem to lose the attention to the other great bands such as Harmonium and Maneige but they should be mentioned in the same breath as far as I'm concerned, even if they have only two releases. This is a gem not to be missed; not only for the excellent musicianship but also for the magical mood and wonderful melodies.

Report this review (#171677)
Posted Monday, May 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 4.5 stars. No doubt this is one of the best albums to come out of Quebec, and that's saying something.The music here is so intricate and precise. It's one of those albums I listen to carefully, taking in the collage of sounds that is presented flawlessly. These guys play so amazingly well. All five members take part vocally (French), but it's the instrumental work that is usually the focus.

"Le Temps Des Pissenlits" is my favourite, especially the last half of the song. It opens with piano and it's soon joined by flute. Drums and synths take over and we get a catchy melody 2 minutes in. I really like the drumming that follows with flute. Guitar then vocals before 4 minutes. I love the vocals on this track. Lots of piano and drums with those great sounding vocals. This goes on until the song is almost over. Nice. "Il Etait Magicien" opens with intricate acoustic guitar as piano, drums and flute join in. The tempo shifts at will. Vocals a minute in with crisp drumming and piano. Flute and a calm 2 minutes in. A fuller sound before 3 minutes as intricate sounds come and go. This song continues to evolve and change beautifully. Vocals are back after 4 1/2 minutes. Guitar a minute later and a great sound 6 1/2 minutes in. Check out the vocal melodies, and then it sounds like Elton on the piano after 7 minutes. Nice bass follows then vocals 8 minutes in as guitar rips it up. Love that section ! The song stops abruptly and returns softly with flute and a spacey vibe. Piano, bass and acoustic guitar ends it.

"Les Saigneurs" opens with some acoustic guitar and laughing in the background. The tempo picks up. Heavy drums and vocal melodies 1 1/2 minutes in. The multi-vocal melodies are almost Zeuhl-like. Flute joins in. Great sound. Piano joins in. Vocals 5 minutes in as they trade off with the drums. The vocals sound amazing 7 minutes in to end it. "Le Bal" opens with vocals and acoustic guitar. It sounds like harpsichord before a minute. Check out the vocal melodies followed by guitar after 2 1/2 minutes. Flute 3 minutes in as piano and bass are added. Synths 4 1/2 minutes in as vocals continue. Bass and piano join in late. "Contre Courant" opens with strange sounds. Vocals follow with piano. Flute and a great melody full of incredible sounds is next. The wind is blowing as vocals along with piano and drums play on. Organ 2 1/2 minutes in with piano, drums and synths sounds amazing.

Highly recommended. Greg Walker really praised this one up a couple of times to me. Now I know why.

Report this review (#180887)
Posted Wednesday, August 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Opus-5, here's another example of the kind of great talent that was developed in the French Canadian prog scene in the 70s. Being as unkown as it is (and even more celebrated names such as Maneige, Pollen, Sloche, Et Cetera and Harmonium are mostly accessible in collectors' circles), Opus-5 is a must for all frantic lovers of vintage symphonic prog, and this debut release entitled "Volume 1: Contre Courant" is irrefutable proof of that. The band's style is quite lyrical, giving predominant room to the delivery of soft sonorities, related to the habitual side of Harmonium and the pastoral side of Pollen. The additional presence of heavy coincidences with Mediterranean prog (PFM, Apoteosi, Delirium) and the bucolic side of French symphonic (first album-era Atoll, Carpe Diem) punctuate the aforesaid features in the band's nuclear trend. The album's opener kicks off with a lovely marriage of classicist piano and pastoral flute, then the full ensemble flows in on a very lyrical note. Definitely, Duplessis' keyboards state the guiding lines for the instrumental deliveries through their melodic and harmonic complexity, while Racicot's drum kit fluidly carries the overall framework. The vocal interventions mix the Harmonium and Moody Blues tenures. Regarding the stringed instruments' department, the electric guitar features controlled phrases that never undermine the acoustic guitar's protagonist role. After this 9 minute display of progressive glory, more glory comes in the guise of the 11 minute 'Il Etait Magicien'. This piece brings musical colors so clean and pristine that they almost sound angelic; but there is also room for energetic interludes dominated by a solid combination of jazzy swings and typically symphonic dynamics. There is a lot of early PFM elements to be noticed here, as well as undoubtedly clear traces of a heritage from "L'Heptade"-era Harmonium, although Opus-5 always manages to keep its own road as an original and peculiar one. The fascinating coda that occupies the track's final 2 minutes start a bit spacey and then go to a mixture of soft fusion and pastoral Renaissance. The album's second half starts with another long number, 'Les Saigneurs', which mostly deepens the musical trend pursued so far. The prologue is a beautiful acoustic guitar sonata (somewhat a-la Anthony Phillips), followed by a brief palace chant sustained on a lightly jazzy rhythmic scheme. The most intense instrumental passages are some of the most complex moments in the album, which to my ears evoke a hybrid of Maxophone and Gentle Giant. On the other hand, the sung section is more relaxed, even showing some upbeat humor with those tongue-in-cheek lines that ask "Is it abnormal that I speak French?", alternately in English and French. Of course, this is a reaffirmation of the French speaking essence of this Canadian province. The album's final two tracks are the shortest ones. 'Le Bal' bears an apparently simplistic framework, but it really states a subtle complexity based on the inventive harmonic variations that go on through the track's scheme. A special mention has to go for the lovely harpsichord intro - this band is really into starting its songs with unseemly preludes, and the same rule applies for the last track, which is also the namesake one. 'Contre Courant' starts with cosmic synth layers and an a capella ensemble, succeeded by a main body that brings the most exciting and extravagant side of the band. Zappaesque vocalizations, bluesy variations and jazzy ambiences are brought in on a polished connection, ultimately leading to a bombastic finale. In conclusion, "Contre Courant" is a genuine gem that shouldn't be missing in a good prog collection.
Report this review (#204055)
Posted Sunday, February 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Opus 5's Contre Courant is yet another unique contribution to prog from the Quebec scene of the mid-to-late 1970s. Opus 5 are one of those groups who are quite hard to pin down - right now they're in jazz fusion, when I first started browsing progarchives I could have sworn I saw them in heavy prog, and there's some folk influences (Harmonium flavoured, naturally) working their way in there as well.

For my part, I hear an exceptional symphonic prog band incorporating a whole swathe of influences into their unique sound - often tending towards the heavy, and with bits of Canterbury-ish fusion there, but with gentle flute and delicate guitar never too far away. I can hear the Gentle Giant influence some report, but at points I also hear a bit of Renaissance in the interplay of guitar, piano, and occasionally operatic vocals. But however you peg it, there's some mighty good prog here.

Report this review (#552395)
Posted Tuesday, October 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Yet another satisfying record!

This band fell under the radar, even for me, and it's my province! Wow, the progressive scene of the 70's in Quebec is stunning. The quality is as high (if not higher) as Maneige, Sloche and Et Cetera. They share a same timeline, and therefore a similarity in terms of writing and vocal style. Not to be repelled, Racicot's vocals are humble and pleasant (with reverb and delay) yet not spectacular. But the musical performance is top notch with grand piano and flute gracefully intertwined like two lovers. With winks here and there to Novalis, Gentle Giant and Harmonium, I am under their spell.

It's an impressive record to play in front of connoisseurs, and it's a fun-a-plenty to look at their frowns searching for what is playing.

An underdog gem, pure out of nowhere, with skills and complexity.

Report this review (#890765)
Posted Thursday, January 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Contre Courant is a very exciting record. Superb instrumentation patches seams between each lengthy track, coalescing in an organic whole with impeccable flow. Elegant piano, guitar, and flute highlight the set. The flute provides some Tull references in a few places, naturally, but not too much. It's an album that stands on it's own with the rest of the Quebecois classics I've unearthed because of this site, yet is reminiscent of all of them. A great listen from cover to cover. I can't say it' up there with Selling England so I'll give it 4.5 - I think every fan of progressive music will find something to enjoy here.
Report this review (#1054038)
Posted Friday, October 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Heavy Prog Team
5 stars Part symphonic rock, part jazz-rock fusion (especially in the piano), part folk (especially in the harmonium-like vocal harmonies), this band from Qubec sounds like a cross between Maneige, Harmonium, and Sloche (which just happen to be all Qubec bands).

1. "Les temps des Pissenlits" (9:10) Central to the success of this great song is the HARMONIUM-like earworm choral vocal repeated over the course of the second two-thirds. (18.5/20)

2. "Il tait magicien" (11:40) opens like a CAMEL-RICK WAKEMAN piece. Other sounds and motifs that are familiar remind me of RENAISSANCE, TRAFFIC, ELP, and even ELTON JOHN. Not always cohesive or easily flowing, there is so much great music and musicianship on display here that I can't help but rate it highly. Strange that it goes so quite/delicate with two minutes to go. Quite anti-climactic. (18/20)

3. "Les saigneurs" (9:21) opens with anachronistic sounding steel-string guitar work--Anthony Phillips "Private Parts and Pieces"-like. At the end of the second minute tom-toms usher in a choral vocal section that sounds very much like a FOCUS-like play on classical traditions. Even the piano play and stop-and-go forms used feel FOCUS and/or GENTLE GIANT like. In the fourth minute, the musicians stop for a totally a cappella section before heading back into a jazzy flute and piano led "Moondance" like motif. Quite complex and virtuosic. The sixth and seventh minutes find the music alternating between precise jazz motifs and "Ancient"-sounding vocal responses. Then we move into a more pop music sounding section with gentle melodies and a simple instrumental chordal weave. (18.75/20)

4. "Le Bal" (5:42) sounds quite a bit like early Genesis--even the quirky story form structure of the song. Very nice keyboards and vocals. Quite and interesting and engaging song. (9/10)

5. "Contre-courant" (3:55) nature/harbor sounds mixed with odd synth sound lead into brief choral bank before the piano-based rock motif takes off in a GENTLE GIANT/FOCUS direction--lots of quirk playing off of very serious sounding classical riffs and motifs. Fascinating! Especially if this is, as it feels, intended to be a kind of tongue-in-cheek classical-rock fusion. (9/10)

Despite the obvious skill and virtuosity of all of the musicians involved, central to the band's achievements are the keyboard play of Olivier Du Plessis: he is a marvel to listen to. I am also quite impressed by the bass and flute playing and the vocals.

An excellent contribution of FOCUS/CAMEL-like progressive rock music. In fact, this music--and the temperament conveyed through it--is quite on the same par as all of the afore-mentioned bands. I call this a masterpiece!

Report this review (#1705841)
Posted Tuesday, March 28, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars All five members of Opus 5 sing (in French) on this 40-minute little treasure from the 1976 Quebec prog scene. At times sounding reminiscent of bands like Renaissance, Jethro Tull (flute), fellow countrymen Harmonium, and even a splash of Gentle Giant, these youngsters created some great melodic prog that included a little Baroque, a little fusion, and some great prog in both the symphonic and folk styles. I found the piano to be a bit more prominent than the traditional prog band of that time, and the drummer has a nice crisp snare sound. Three fantastic long tracks start the cd (9:10, 11:45, 9:20) as they finish everything off with a couple of nice ones in the 3-5 minute range. I have not been disappointed yet with any band from Quebec, and this debut from Opus 5 "Contre Courant" ("against the current") sails mightily among them.
Report this review (#2439396)
Posted Wednesday, August 19, 2020 | Review Permalink

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