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Malicorne - Almanach CD (album) cover



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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars More good stuff from Yacoub and DeCourson as they keep on "pillaging" the french folklore to bring out the best and not-so-well known songs that come from the past centuries . I have neard people make a comparison to the early Gryphon , but I strongly disagree as Gryphon made pre-renaissance or medieval music and Malicorne's music comes from much later in Human Musical History . Also that Gryphon will eventually turn to rock as Malicorne will stay true to themselves. Ecolier Assassin and Tristes Noces are of interest for progheads. Note that some of the tracks on this album have been released on other studio albums , making this a rather strange mix of new and old numbers. This one and Quintessence cannot be considered as best of .
Report this review (#30411)
Posted Monday, May 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
Steve Hegede
4 stars A few years back, some of my family visited the Breton region of France. I casually mentioned to them to keep an eye out for the Breton band MALICORNE, thinking that they would be impossible to find. But, as luck would have it, many of the older locals were still familiar with the band, and they quickly recommended "Almanach" as a perfect place to start. This 1976 album is not 100% "prog rock", but it is of interest to prog collectors who also enjoy European folk, acoustic JETHRO TULL, The POGUES, and GRYPHON (progressive folk in general). The music is 90% acoustic, and done using a combination of violin, viola, mandola, dulcimer, hurdy gurdy, krumhorn, and some percussion. The "electric" portion of the band consists of the bassist, Moog synth, some electric guitar, and an electric dulcimer. Overall, this is some beautiful music.
Report this review (#30412)
Posted Thursday, May 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars As we all know, there are some progressive subgenres that strongly require a minimum knowledge of the languages they are sung in, and Malicorne's music is a case at stake. In order to fully appreciate the beauty of traditional songs like "Le luneux" (note the pathos of a blind girl's narrative of her life) or the piquancy, tongue-in-cheek humour, even the hidden symbolisms of a song like "La fille au cresson", the best is to arm yourself with a good French dictionary (and of course, an elementary knowledge of the French language), as well as plenty of time, patience and an open mind, to let grow on you the incredible synergy of musicianship, poetry and true respect for tradition that Malicorne undoubtedly stands for in the scene not only of French folk-prog, but in the whole realm of progressive music. ALMANACH is a must for every good-natured, well-meaning prog listener, hence the five-star rating that this classic deserves.
Report this review (#30413)
Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is maybe the technically and conceptually most sophisticated of the early MALICORNE albums. The twelve months of the year are illustrated in a collection of traditional folk songs which originate from different French provinces. Each song is about a custom or belief directly related to a certain month. Just like on their previous albums, MALICORNE mix traditional harmonies and instruments with electrical arrangements and thus never sound "old-fashioned". On the whole they keep up the "French-version-of-STEELEYE SPAN"-style of music, which is on this album made perfect and marks the peak of their folk era. Highly recommended for all fans of traditional folk, strange harmonies and musical innovation. However, since this kind of music seems to me being rather "folk" than "prog", on this website I give only four stars instead of five.
Report this review (#37140)
Posted Tuesday, June 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
5 stars Malicorne is my favourite folk collective and Almanach is their best album. It is a concept album from 1976 where each of the 12 songs represents a month of the year. Hence 'Almanach' which means calendar in English. Track 13 was not on the original album. (However we have something called a 13th month here in Belgium. It's an extra month of pay you get at the end of the year without having to work for it! No joke, we're lucky bastards :)

Anyway, on Almanach, Malicorne's French folk is at its most intense and melancholic. The Lebanese/French singer Gabriel Yacoub is the focal point. His slightly nasal plaintive voice, rich guitar chords, together with the harmonies delivered by the entire band, are Malicorne's main point of attraction. The wonderful arrangements of the mostly traditional songs hasn't aged a bit in the 33 years since this album was released.

A few favorite months to wet your appetite:

After a short 'a capella' welcome to the new year, they start off with the excellent Quand J'étais Chez Mon Père. A song that will sure entice prog folk lovers because of it's strange time signature.

Les Tristes Noces is the second highpoint, a song about a wedding (Noces) that, how shall I put it, doesn't end all that well. Hence sad (Triste). I'm not sure I understand the lyrics entirely correct. They're in a very old and weird type of French. (Probably Canadian ;). So what happens is that the beautiful bride drops dead during the opening dance of the wedding and the groom grabs a knife and stabs himself to death. Quite a scene!

Even amidst all the superb tracks that surround it, Voici La Saint Jean stands out as the most intensive track on the entire album. Its stark rhythm with complex time signature should win you over in no time. If you have enjoyed The Hazards of Love from the Decemberists you simply must seek this out. Or I'll be very angry if you don't :-)

Malicorne don't use a classic rock drum kit so don't expect the Fairport Convention approach. Malicorne sounds entirely different: mainly acoustic, melancholic and French of course. Quand Je Menai Mes Chevaux Boire is a good example. It's a ballad soaked in sweeping melancoly.

Ecolier Assassin (Murderer Apprentice) is Malicorne's best song ever and the first song you should check out next to Voici La Saint Jean. It's a thrilling story about a young man who is asked by his mother to murder his girlfriend, but after he did so and shows mom the heart, she doesn't even believe him and says it's just the heart of a sheep. Nice song material. "Ils sont fous ces Bretons!"

Given the popularity of The Decemberist these days, it might be a good time to explore this influential band that revitalised folk music in the 70's and made it compelling for rock audiences. This is widely referred to as their best studio album and I couldn't agree more.

Report this review (#249165)
Posted Monday, November 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars While I may have trouble appreciating this French Folk band, this particular album went gold for them in their own country. So yes they gained some popularity with their take on traditional music. Male and female vocals with lots of acoustic guitar and violin is what is served here.

The first track is a short intro of male and female vocals while the native sounding drums beat slowly. "Quand J'Etais Chez Mon Pere" continues with the male and female vocals while the guitar helps out. Violin before 1 1/2 minutes with male vocals only. "Margot" is a short multi- vocal track. "Les Tristes Noces" is the first song that I really enjoy, especially when the tempo picks up before 2 minutes when the violin joins in. My favourite though is "Voice La Saint Jean" with the great sounding guitar along with vocals and violin.

"Le Luneaux" sounds excellent early as we get this pastoral mood with guitar. Female vocals follow. "Brance De La Haie" is more upbeat and brighter. It's interesting how melancholic this album is. That may have to do with the abundance of reserved vocals and violin.

So a good album that I wish I liked better, but then again the Folk-Prog genre is very hit and miss for me, mostly the latter.

Report this review (#278193)
Posted Friday, April 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars With their third album, Malicorne reached a higher level and began to be recognized by a larger public. The traditional materials remain preponderant in this record. Even the arrangements stay close to the folk sources of each songs.

Gabriel and Marie were born in Paris (not in Bretagne) and their mother was from the center part of France (not far from Orléans), but their father had libanese origins and I can not help feeling that some oriental influences can sometime be heard in some vocal inflections, more especially in Marie's voice when she sings "Quand je menais mes chevaux boire".

On the contrary, in "Le luneux" ("le", not "les" ; there's only one luneux in the song !), pure wonder sung nearly a capella, her voice recovers the deep feeling of old french folk songs.

The two other great moments of this album are the two epics. The voice of Gabriel, more especially in "L'écolier assassin", is deeply emotionnal, as the stories are cruel and sad. The music is slow, deep, it takes you by the guts, it is mermerizing at some extend.

"La fiancée du timbalier", adapted from the poem of the great french poet Victor Hugo, enrich conveniently the CD reissue.

Report this review (#369461)
Posted Saturday, January 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars When approaching decades old material heard for the first time, one must resist the temptation to compare it to those who came after but were known first. Also, although an album's present appeal is what counts most, one must also factor in its influence and ingenuity at the time. In the case of MALICORNE's "breakthrough" third album, all of these aspects are brought to bear. Gabriel and Marie Yacoub advanced the Breton prog folk cause with their precise and uniquely dour medieval style, but they also sound like they were listening to STEELEYE SPAN's "Parcel of Rogues" while stoned, and are still in an altered state today.

Yes indeed this is Brittany's answer to that Steeleye classic which appeared a couple of years earlier, from the herky jerky guitars, violins, a cappella male and female voices to the dirge like rhythms, minimal drums and profound respect for the living and evolving tradition. And while its epic tracks are the highlights - particularly the ponderous "Ecolier Assassin", the eerie "Le Luneux" and the Allison Gross-like closer "La fiancee du timbalier", MALICORNE conjures more atmosphere than a Shakespearean witch. Even if the overall musical mood is considerably more morose than that of Steeleye (and as a result more consistent with the ominous lyrics), and a bit more so than I would like, they do loosen the corset for the GRYPHON like "Branle de la Haie".

Lest you leave with the impression that Yacoub's longstanding project was nothing but a very good rehash of someone else's pet project, may I first say that they managed to forge a clear identity with this, their third disk, and inspired many artists to come, including many from my native Quebec - GAROLOU for instance - where I know they toured at least once. While it might be harder for a hardened fan of 1970s folk rock to enthusiastically endorse MALICORNE on first listen, this disk belongs in everyone's almanac of significant progressive folk music.

Report this review (#912733)
Posted Monday, February 11, 2013 | Review Permalink

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