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L'HEPTADE

Harmonium

Symphonic Prog


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Harmonium L'Heptade album cover
4.08 | 234 ratings | 31 reviews | 41% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1976

Songs / Tracks Listing

Side 1
1. Prologue (4:20)
2. Comme Un Fou (7:50)
3. Sommeil Sans Rêves (1:25)
4. Chanson Noire (8:12)
I) Le Bien, Le Mal
II) Pour Une Blanche Cérémonie
Side 2
5. L'Appel / Le Premier Ciel (11:12)
6. Sur Une Corde Raide / L'Exil (12:54)
Side 3
7. Le Corridor (8:10)
8. Les Premières Lumières / Lumières De Vie (14:11)
I) Lumière De Nuit
II) Eclipse
III) Lumière De Jour
IV) Lumière De Vie
Side 4
9. Prélude d'Amour / Comme Un Sage (14:03)
10. Épilogue (2:52)

Total Time: 85:10

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Releases information

LP-CBS-PGF 90348-Can-1976
CD: G2K-90348 (CBS)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Fitzcarraldo for the last updates
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Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saisonSi on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison
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HARMONIUM L'Heptade ratings distribution


4.08
(234 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(41%)
41%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(39%)
39%
Good, but non-essential (16%)
16%
Collectors/fans only (4%)
4%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

HARMONIUM L'Heptade reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
4 stars Somewhat very different of the previous two in the sound but another full blown epic sometimes longish but unlike previously very sombre and depressing but with the same sense of harmonies and melodies. This however does not affect the musicianship and the artistic value of this great oeuvre. Just do not expect a Sixth Season, this is far away from that album but in some way the subject is still the same: alienation. No wonder after this one they called it quits.

Neil Chotem's orchestrations on the first disc are certainly beautiful but rather uneventful and therefore rather languish and does not survive well intense repeated listening. Most of the better stuff is on the first disc and Comme Un Fou and L'Exil are superb. The second disc bears the same problem as Lamb On Broadway: the inspiration was waning by the Side 3 and you get the feeling that there are fillers.

This ambitious project was simply seen as the crowning achievement for Harmonium and Normandeau who was the second writer in the group left as the album was nearing completion not able to agree on the direction of the music. Be careful when you buy this one and the live album to follow for there are some really poor bootleg copies, Serge Fiori is actually working on the remastering of these two albums.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#21572) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, February 02, 2004

Review by loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Following the highly successful release of "Si on Avait Besoin D'une Cinquiene Saisons" , HARMONIUM sat out to record their most musically involved and challenging album. "L'Heptade" is a multi-disc concept album based around the melancholic atmosphere of the seven states of consciousness of life as depicted through a daily newspaper. The end result is a wonderful mixture of HARMONIUM's traditional folk- prog with a heavy dose of symphonic brush strokes. This album is often criticized for having been a tad too long and perhaps having lost some focus all of which I can note subscribe to. In sharp contrast, I love the wondering melodies and aimlessness in parts of the album and find it very musically seductive. HARMONIUM have always had a way of reeling me into their music and this album may be in fact my favourite of the lot. This was the last studio album by HARMONIUM and cast member Michel Normandeau left before this project was completed. Drummer Denis Farmer, flutist Libert Subirana, guitarist Robert Stanley, and vocalist/second keyboardist Monique Fauteux were recruited. As well Neil Chotem was brought in to compose and arrange orchestral bridges between the songs. The end result is a gentle yet mind numbing album full of some wonderful melodies and instrumentation.

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#21556) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, March 11, 2005

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars For the first time, Harmonium put some drums and electric guitars on this double LP, and there are more varied instruments and keyboards: piano, moog, mellotron and electric piano, among others; there is even a very good sax solo on "Chanson noire". The acoustic folk tendency present on the previous albums is more absent here. There are many bits that sound very much like the Anthony Phillips' "Geese and the ghost" album: not because of the guitars, rather because of the celestial & delicate oboe, flute and piano parts. There are some very good female lead & backing vocals. There are still floating mellotron, but it is more in the background: there are many orchestral-like arrangements in the background, and I wonder if it is not the mellotron that makes those arrangements. Serge Fiori sings in French, and he has the typical Quebecker accent. The electric guitar on "Lumieres de vie" sounds a bit like the Camel of the 70's, and I think it ends with a floating harmonium sound. Unfortunately, this is their last studio album.

Rating: 4.5 stars

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#21575) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, April 07, 2005

Review by Heptade
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I find it hard to believe that so few prog fans have heard this album, which is beyond a shadow of a doubt a masterpiece. What's more, it's been available on CD from a major label for quite some time in Canada. Quebec's Harmonium broke up after this album, and it was for the best, because I can't seem them bettering it. Serge Fiori decided to drop some of the folky aspects of the band's previous albums, adding a rhythm section and working with a composer to come up with classical interludes. This double album describes a soul's mystical longings in a very emotional fashion. I think Fiori may have the finest, most expressive voice in prog, and he uses it to full emotional effect. Some songs are upbeat, featuring joyful multi-voice harmonies, but others are sombre ballads dripping with sadness. The instrumentation is a tasteful mix of clean guitars, classical piano, lush synth textures and strings. There are a couple of ambient passages that are tear-jerking in their beauty. As far as classical/rock unions go, it just can't get better than this. This is easily my favourite symphonic album, which fans of that kind of prog just can't afford to not own!

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Send comments to Heptade (BETA) | Report this review (#49427) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, September 29, 2005

Review by belz
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 4.5/5.0

This album was recorded while the band was actually imploding. The songs were mainly written in rural Québec, and recorded at Serge Fiori's house in Eastern Townships. While the two previous albums were really a team work, this one is clearly Fiori's work and marvelous imagination, the journey in the seven steps of consciousness, from the « Comme un fou » (Crazy guy) to « Comme un sage » (Wise guy)...

This album is really depressing, but it's a masterpiece anyway. I believe this album expresses the end of an era in progressive music in Québec, setting the pace for the upcoming 80's and somehow saying "the trip is over, we're far from home...". This album is not nly a concept album, but also the flow is great thanks to Chotem piano.

I would like to master english enough to say how great this album is and how depressing it can be, but really the only thing I can say is you have to listen to it and then judge by yourself! The whole album creates a depressing but increadibly powerful climax. This is a masterpiece, clearly, not only because of the music itself, but because of what the album was and what it means.

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Send comments to belz (BETA) | Report this review (#65906) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, January 21, 2006

Review by Fitzcarraldo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This double-album has seven songs (heptá is Greek for seven) segued with short instrumentals composed by Neil Chotem, a classical and jazz pianist, composer and arranger. The album's concept is "the seven levels of consciousness of a person through his daily life". The lyrics (in Quebec French) are philosophical and often introspective, and to me sometimes sound at odds with the music itself (possibly intended to be ironic or sardonic?).

By the way, the sleeve notes list a John Williams as responsible for artistic direction for the group's record label CBS. Is that the John Williams?

My overall impression is that the music sounds very dated, reminding me in several places of some of the mainstream music of the 1960s and early 1970s. But that is not a bad thing in itself and there are some pleasant tunes and sounds on these two discs. It makes for easy listening but I do find it unnecessarily long, even making allowances for the concept. I think the whole thing is rather pretentious, and that the group were overly ambitious and trying too hard to guild the lily (the lily being the group's previous album). If half stars were possible I'd award this double-album 3.5 stars but, as they're not, I'll bump it up to 4 stars (excellent addition to any progressive music collection) although I don't feel it is truely excellent. I'm happy enough to have this in my collection -- it is good -- but I'm not certain I would have bought it had I heard the whole thing before parting with my cash, and I find it a disappointment after hearing "Les Cinq Saisons".

Here's a rundown of the music on the two discs:

The short instrumental pieces written by Neil Chotem -- who also composes and arranges music for radio, TV and film -- are predominantly orchestral and sound like scores. These pieces are preludes to the songs (finale, in the case of 'Épilogue'). "Sounds like old movie music", commented one of my children. In fact 'Prologue' reminds me of the soundtracks of those 1950s Walt Disney nature films. 'Sommeil Sans Rêves' sounds very like atmospheric film music. The others are not as memorable. Anyway, in summary these instrumentals are OK but nothing special in my opinion.

'Comme Un Fou' is quite pleasant. Serge Fiori has such a good voice and fills it with emotion. There is a girlie choir and the track sounds rather like a Burt Bacharach composition and arrangement, in fact it reminds me a little of his score for Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. There is a very dated feel to the track; in fact there is a very dated feel to much of the music on the two discs (rather a 1960s popular music style). In one place I hear what sounds to me like Ondes Martinet or Theramin, although neither are mentioned in the sleeve notes. The track has different moods; one part rocks up and sounds almost like 1960s Italian pop. There is also some pleasing, buzzing synthesizer and it mixes well with the orchestral backing.

Despite the lyrics, to me the music of 'Chanson Noire (Le Bien, Le Mal)' sounds anything but. Some of the music is reminiscent of Brazilian Bossa Nova and sambinha. 'Chanson Noire (Pour Un Blanche Cérémonie)' has Fiori sounding like a crooner in an upmarket cabaret. It's a pleasant, jazzy song nonetheless, with the girlie choir ooh-oohing in the background. Whistle-along stuff. The style of music, the alto sax and the girlie choir all make it sound to me like a Billy Joel song at times.

'Le Premier Ciel' starts as a slow, sad-sounding song with orchestral and bass backing, later becoming an upbeat 1960s/1970s pop-sounding number with girlie choir backing and vocalisations. The lyrics are certainly not poppy, though. Nice tune. Then it funks up and reminds me of Patti La Belle's 'Voulez-vous Coucher Avec Moi'. The guitar and other parts of the track also remind me of something: Fleetwood Mac, possibly. Anyway, it's pleasant too. Buzzing (but rather good) synthesizer adds a nice touch to the long instrumental part of the track; I'm a big synthesizer fan, so this, which is Emerson-like, is a treat. The drumming, synthesizer and orchestra give a big band sound to the end of the song.

'L'Exil' is possibly the best song on the two discs, and is nearer to the quality of the song writing on "Les Cinq Saisons". It's a melancholic number, and what sounds to me like Ondes Martinet or Theramin (although not mentioned in the sleeve notes) in one place adds to this mood. Then the song ups tempo and becomes a bopping circus-march (not matched by the lyrics), and rather nice it is too. The track draws to a close with a big band sound and finishes with the celeste simulating a musical box.

Disc 2 starts with 'Le Corridor' and the gorgeous voice of Monique Fauteux backed by equally gorgeous Rhodes piano. This could almost have been a Carpenters number, and I don't mean that pejoratively. The synthesized Mellotron later in the track is also gorgeous. The sweeping orchestra that fades out at the end sounds very like film music again (reminds me of Gone With The Wind, actually).

'Lumières De Vie' is a melancholic number backed by strings and some very nice acoustic guitar. The song and the orchestral backing give it a mainstream 1960s feel.

'Comme Un Sage' also has a mainstream sound, very like some of Bacharach's mellow stuff, complete with girlie choir (sounding gorgeous, it has to be said) providing Fiori with backing and the refrain. The orchestral backing is again present in places, also sounding very 1960s mainstream. Near the end, the track has a big band sound that could have come straight from a Broadway show. Although this track has a pleasant theme, it's no masterpiece and I find it the weakest song on the two discs.

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Send comments to Fitzcarraldo (BETA) | Report this review (#75932) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, April 23, 2006

Review by Zitro
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 3.25 stars I actually waited a lot of time to let this grow on me as it seems to be very loved among prog fans.

How disappointing, it did not grow on me anymore. It is disappointing since it is after that album of theirs that I sometimes consider the best prog-related album of all times. This is an ambitious double-album with the use of an orchestra and many other instruments not heard in the previous albums. While it sounds good that the band is finally complete, the songwriting is not as great, and the songs drag on and on, especially in the second disc ...Nevertheless, This is still a very good album with some excellent tracks and an overall nice mood. The problem with it is that it tends to bore sometimes as it may have lack of dynamics in some of the long songs.

Prologue opens the album and show the listeners the new direction of the band: symphonic music. Not much to say about this track, it is just an overture, and not a very good one.

Comme Un Fou is my favourite track here. It is extremely dynamic and tight. It also offers brilliant riffing, gorgeous and some menacing-sounding instrumentation and vocalizations. I love that synthesizer in it (yes, there is a synthesizer now!)

Chanson Noire is a good jazzy tune with orchestra, backing vocals, and a pleasant atmosphere.

L'Appel/La Premier Ciel starts slowly with a seemengly melancholic mood but later turns into an upbeat song at the 3rd minute. The chorus is quite catchy. Then, there is a part that grows and grows to reach a climax which finishes the track nicely with my synthesizers and a big band-like feel.

L'exil is another highlight of the album. This song contains some of the strongest moments of the album and is only flawed by its tendency to drag in a few parts. The melodies are as strong as they were in the previous two albums and the songwriting is almost as good as their masterpiece album (Si On Avait). For example, while it takes a bit for the music to lead to the chorus, that chorus is phenomenal. Sadly, after the 2nd chorus, there is a soft section that I don't really care for. A great upbeat finale continues the song and a bombastic finale finishes it.

Now, to the second disc (much duller)

Le Corridor features a gorgeous female vocalist accompained by simplistic and effective electric organs. The second half is a bit boring though. While minute 4-6 feature nice and haunting mellotron coupled with acoustic guitars, it is a bit repetitive and the last two minutes seem like movie soundtrack music, which I don't really care for.

Les Premières Lumières / Lumières De Vie: This is where I lose the music. It is extremely slow for a very long moment and while the arrangements seem well done, it loses my interest thanks to the lack of dynamics, hooks, and memorable melodies. The piano takes over later in the piece, but it is not as interesting as I hoped it to be. It seems to be there to fill up more time. This whole songs feels like filler to me.

Comme un Sage is a song that is waaaay longer than i should be. While it carries a gorgeous theme, it doesn't have that much besides that theme (The vocalized Comme un Sage line). There are some good moments here and there, but it comes off as just an ok track with a great climax near the end. The theme is used and developed at the end with great vocalists.

Epilogue is just like Prologue, an OK instrumental.

It's a shame that they had to make this a double album, as they could have removed some of the padding in various parts of the album. As a result, this album has similar problems to Tales Of Topographic Oceans from Yes.

Highlights: Comme Un Fou, L'exil

LetDowns: Prologue, Epilogue, Sommeil sans reves, and most of the music in the 2nd disc

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Posted Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Harmonium's most ambitious undertaking attempts to build upon the classical moments of Si on avait besoin d'une 5ième Saison, but does see Serge Fiori and co overstretch themselves. Quite simply, despite a sizable chunk of beautiful moving music, 85 minutes is simply too much, and thus leaves a listener having to wade through filler on the latter half of the double album. When one considers the intense melancholic feel of a lot of the material, you'll understand why I say that L'Heptade is the most difficult of Harmonium's three studio efforts. It is however still an essential cornerstone of both Harmonium's career and Queboicois prog in general.

The first half of the double album is almost universally excellent. Opening Prologue sets the scene with an evocative and entertaining score. Comme un Fou is a real standout, starting out with more of the pastoral folk that we've come to know and love, before breaking into rocking passages with some excellent synth work (you gotta love the "madness" of the pitch bends). Belying its dark title (Black Song) Chanson Noire is the most upbeat piece here, riding on some lovely piano from Serge Locat and the acoustic guitar work of Michel Normandeau, with a nice sax solo from Pierre Daigneault and a glorious epic chorus thrown in for good measure.

The shorter pieces like Sommeil San Reves also serve a purpose in linking the themes of the longer songs. This disc concludes with two massive pieces ... Le premier Ciel / Sur une Corde Raide and L'Exil, both of which are simply beautiful. Le premier Ciel "overcomes" a really heavy opening to burst into an explosion of much needed joy, tasteful double-tracked guitar solo (12:54), Beatlesque segments and another with absolutely wonderful vocal harmonies ("tous les voire le premier ciel") CHECK with a build up of strings and eventually a laid-back light funk-tinged rock portion with a majestic Locat synth solo. As for L'Exil, the first minute alone makes me want to weep, as Fiori's beautiful vocal melody sits atop a string/organ/acoustic guitar backing that is simply perfect. In fact, when the second verse starts after 4 minutes and the band kicks in, one has hardly noticed the passing of time. A desolate passage confirms the feeling of exile, and the melancholy can really get overpowering during this track, even though it finishes on an emotional, if not musical, high.

It is on the second "album" that the trouble starts. It is plainly too difficult for Harmonium to keep up the intensity and the two of the three main pieces are just too long. The shortest, the 8 minute long Le Corridor employs a murky Rhodes electric piano sound that I love, as well as the services of emale vocalist Monique Fauteux, there is a lovely swirly mid-section that carries you to other worlds with a minimum of fuss. Unfortunately, Lumières de Vie while undoubtedly grappling with expansive subject matter, seems to spend far too long on ambient/New Age/light jazz piano rambles, and the same ailment plagues Comme Un Sage, except that this time the orchestral arrangements are overdone, and the awesome vocal harmonies towards the end come way too late to save the song. It is a shame because the Fiori vocal segments on both tracks are as great as ever. One wonders if the Quebecois world will ever see his like again.

Overall, there's so much good stuff here, I feel I shouldn't be complaining. ... 78% on the MPV scale

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Posted Thursday, June 29, 2006

Review by Atkingani
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars HARMONIUM's proggiest but not their prodigiest. After "5ème Saison" masterpiece we all expected "L'Heptade" to be similar or even better but the result although interesting is a bit disappointing. Some could say that masterpieces aren't done all the time however we may point a number of bands that released gems in batches and during a really short period, like Genesis, Yes, PFM, etc.

Everything concurred for a best achievement here: an experienced band, a fair production, great and ambitious arrangements, all packaged in a double disc. I guess that the album promotion at least at HARMONIUM's motherland should have been more than average with loud echoes in Europe and other parts - here in Brazil the echo arrived with some months of delay and not so loud.

Perhaps if "L'Heptade" were a one-disc album or it contained less filler or if some tracks were shorter it could achieve masterdom. Also noticeable is the darker atmosphere when compared with the previous album that kept a joyful freshness in spite its political bias.

The songs are generally fair but if someone expects another 'Histoires sans paroles' be concerned that none matches this fabulous piece. The highest points are just those where Serge Fiori's vocals sound great like 'Comme un fou' and 'Chanson noire'. Another track with fine moments is 'Comme un sage'. 'Le corridor' has female vocals that give an interesting contrapuntto and is also pleasant to hear. Other long songs are a bit dull even when one can identify neat parts here and there. Short tracks are intended to link the main songs and they sound pastoral or bucolic but even being sometimes catchy and hearable they add few.

I place "L'Heptade" below "5ème Saison" - which is a true masterpiece, and shoulder to shoulder with HARMONIUM's namesake first output, although I can listen to the later more easily than the present one.

"L'Heptade" could be a true 3,5 rating album if it weren't HARMONIUM's. However, considering their history, their background, the natural difficulty of singing in French in an ocean of English language, the somewhat tiny band's discography, the rating shall be notedly raised, since it's good and essential. Total: 4.

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Posted Thursday, August 17, 2006

Review by ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Third and last studio album from this Canadian band who played a very much folk oriented music during their first two albums. Surprisingly enough, the band has to co-finance this expensive project. But the album will sell well (mostly in Quebec) but will lead the band to perform outside their Province.

There are several numbers which feature orchestrations (Montreal Symphonic Orchestra) and which I don't really like : Prologue, Sommeil Sans Rêves, Lumières De Vie and Epilogue. These tracks are almost fully classical music oriented. Not my cup of tea. The last minute of Lumière includes some very nice electric (!) guitar notes. But one minute out of forteen is not what I consider a fair equation and is definitely not enough to make a symphonic prog number.

This album is extremely tranquil, fully on the soft edge (but so were their prior works). This provokes with no doubt a certain dull feeling during this double album while you listen to it from start to finish.

But still , there are some good songs on this work.

Comme Un Fou : for instance. Mostly folkish and featuring a very quiet intro but the final instrumental part is really good and at least we have some symphonic prog moments in here. But this will be the treat with this double album. A mix of folk parts featuring at times very fine fluting and some more prog oriented passages. More or less of these depending on the song.

Chanson Noire for instance : more on the jazzy-folky mood. Not bad at all, but too far from the symphonic prog genre to my likes; even if some beautiful instants reminds me of Trespass. But these instants are far too short, unfortunately (and therefore called instants).

And the same type of structure is applied to L'Appel - Le Premier Ciel (jazzy-folky, I mean). All this is very well played, vocal harmonies are excellent and the mood is very joyful. At times, it is even excellent.

L'Exil is the most poignant song of L'Heptade: still on the smooth edge (as all their offering) but the rhythm gently catches up towards the end. A song full of emotion and subtlety. My fave.

Le Corridor features fine mellotron and the Trespass savour is again very much present but the classical ending is superfluous. Nice vocals from Monique Fauteux.

The last true number is again a looooong and not too useful track and fades in the Epilogue. At this moment, the next key won't lead you anywhere since it closes the album just like Prologue opens it. Same weak orchestrations and classical feeling.

I haven't discovered the secret key which would have opened my ears to discover the beauty and brilliance described by most reviewers. Even if there are not many who think as I do, I 'm not the only either to feel that this is a pleasant album only. Three stars for this symphonic folk album.

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Posted Thursday, January 17, 2008

Review by russellk
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Near the fag end of the great prog rock era of the 70s comes this superb album to remind us what it was all about.

L'Heptade is a triumph, arguably the best utilisation of symphonic and classical structures in a rock context. It represents a move away from the folk music of their debut and the prog-folk of their much-loved second album: with the addition of many musicians, most notably a drummer, their rather narrow musical palette is enlarged dramatically, and the result is an album that covers the entire gamut of symphonic progressive rock. The marriage of orchestra and rock band almost always ends in arguments and an early divorce, so it is with delight I can report there is not a single false step here.

With this album HARMONIUM achieve everything their career promised, and even before it was recorded the band had begun to break apart, making this their last studio album. Nevertheless, this is a stellar accomplishment. Compared to the pleasantness of 'Si On Avait Besoin D'une Cinquième Saison', 'L'Heptade' is by turns dramatic, melancholy, moody, ambient, rhythmic and gentle. Seven main songs are linked together by short orchestral segues, each of piercing beauty: the seven songs are themselves each memorable in their own right, but wrapped up in this package they make for irresistible listening. All the technical ability in the world is on show, but the listener hardly notices it as the compositions themselves capture the interest. Any fan of symphonic prog, or of classical music, who has not heard this is in for a rare treat.

This is an album with no standout song. It is not a showcase for such simple packaging. Instead, it is an eighty minute symphony best listened to from start to finish. As other reviewers have noted, it is a demanding listen, but I suspect the reason many report a decline in quality in the second half of the project is because their attention span has been exceeded. I certainly experienced diminishing returns on my first listen.

Because of its length this is only an occasional listen for me, but I believe this, rather than their previous album, is of true masterpiece status.

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Posted Friday, June 06, 2008

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is HARMONIUM's third album and it does differ from the first two folkish albums. Drums are present this time and an orchestra. Not a fan of the latter, or the fact that this a double concept album. In fact I really didn't enjoy this recording that much. There were a few bursts of joy from me, but only a few. There are seven long songs along with an intro, an epilogue, and a short orchestral piece. I believe the seven songs represent the seven states of consciousness.

"Prologue" is pastoral with orchestral sounds.They get louder and settle back throughout. "Comme Un Fou" opens with vocals, acoustic guitar and piano as it builds. Drums and bass before 2 minutes as it gets fuller. It settles back as contrasts continue. Some mellotron in this one. I really like the catchy section before 5 minutes. "Sommeil Sans Reves" is a short pastoral orchestral piece. "Chanson Noire" opens with vocals, bass and drums. Some flute and acoustic guitar join in. Piano 2 minutes in as the tempo picks up. The tempo continues to shift. Horns and mellotron too. "L'appel / Le Premier Ciel" has these reserved vocals as violin comes in. The guitar replaces the violin. The tempo picks up after 3 minutes as it becomes catchy with vocal melodies. "Sur Une Corde Raide / L'exil" opens with strings then it turns mellow. Soft vocals after a minute but they do get passionate at times. The sound builds after 9 1/2 minutes as it kicks back in with vocals.

Disc two begins with "Le Corridor". This is again pastoral with piano and reserved vocals for the most part. It's better before 4 minutes as we get some acoustic guitar and some atmosphere with no vocals. Thankyou ! Orchestration 7 minutes in. "Les Premiers Lumieres / Lumieres De Vie" features more piano, acoustic guitar and almost spoken vocals. Some strings after 4 minutes and orchestration after 12 minutes. "Prelude D'amour / Comme Un Sage" opens with strings and harp. Yikes ! Acoustic guitar and almost spoken vocals around a minute. Male and female vocals in this one. Mellotron too along with more orchestration. This might be the best track actually other than the intro. "Epilogue" has these orchestral sounds throughout.

Man i'm not a fan of Classical music or this long double album. Many consider this a masterpiece though and I can understand where they're coming from. Just not my kind of music.

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Posted Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Review by stefro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Canada's Harmonium went for the grand move for their third studio album, producing a double-sided concept album which incorporated a full-blown orchestra into the mix and also saw the band upping their use of keyboards, synths and electric guitars, as well as for the first time incorporating a full-time drummer who is prevalent on most tracks. Belying their folk origins but not completely ignoring them, the band cultivated a rich, symphonic sound for 'L'Heptade' which built upon the ideas and themes sown in their beautifully-orchestrated previous album 'Si On Avait...'. Indeed, following up that 1975 release was always going to be a tough task. 'L'Heptade', although a tad overlong and indulgent, does represent a step up compositionally, with 'L'Heptade' proving a much more ambitious album that nevertheless still manages to retain their core folk principles. Like 'Si On Avait...' 'L'Heptade' is filled with moments of pure beauty, with soaring violins, lightly-strummed acoustic guitars, Serge Fiori's trademark emotional vocals and some stunning keyboards creating yet another wonderful artistic statement that showcases the band's instrumental expertise and their cultured ear for pretty melodies. However, despite the plethora of gorgeous sounds on offer 'L'Heptade' does sometimes prove a difficult listen thanks in part to it's inordinate length but also because many of the songs feature slow, careful intro's that tend to drag. One does tend to feel slightly exhausted after listening to both sides consecutively, but there is no denying the power of this remarkable album. Those with the time to enjoy 'L'Heptade' will be richly rewarded. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010

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Posted Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Review by colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars L'Heptade takes the styles used on Harmonium's previous two albums and adds a bit more of aggressive edge to it, using percussion and more of an electric feel throughout. This album is quite long at over 80 minutes, but it never gets boring. The cinematic feel of their last album is definitely here, but as stated before, it seems a bit more aggressive. I get a darker feel from this album as well, but there are more uppity sounding songs in this mix. The compositions change moods and passages with ease, although there are times when the changes seem kind of random or unnecessary. Among all of the symphonic progressive rock albums I've heard in my life, Harmonium writes the best. The songs are fun, beautiful, and absolutely no cheesiness is present. Highly recommended along with the band's previous two albums.

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Posted Monday, April 11, 2011

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Passing from symphonic-influenced prog folk into folk-influenced symphonic prog, Harmonium's epic concept album L'Heptade is a gorgeous little album from the tail-end of the golden age of prog. Always sentimental, the music at some point threatens to cross the line into sheer schmaltz, but is saved from this by the band's exceptional command of mood. The album stands out for having some of the most delicately beautiful vocal performances in symphonic prog, lead singer Serge Fiori being backed up by a range of singers (of whom Estelle Ste-Croix stands out as offering a particularly astonishing performance). Not quite as revolutionary as their previous album, but still a great piece which can't fail to win the hearts of anyone who likes a little folk in their prog.

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Posted Monday, October 17, 2011

Review by Anthony H.
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Harmonium: L'Heptade [1976]

Rating: 6/10

L'Heptade is the third and final studio album from French-Canadian progressive-rock band Harmonium. The group's sophomore effort Si On Avait Besoin D'une Cinquieme Saison is almost universally regarded as a masterpiece among progressive-rock fans. That was a transitional album from Harmonium. It showed them moving away from the pure folk-rock of their debut in favor of symph-prog grandiosity. On L'Heptade, the symphonic elements of Harmonium's sound take center stage. There is still folk influence to be found here, but it's only that: influence. Zealous ambition accompanies this stylistic development. This 90-minute double album is certainly a far cry from the band's simple folk roots. Unfortunately, I think Harmonium bit off a little more than they could chew on this release. Some of these tracks are incredible, but others are ploddingly overlong and dull.

"Prologue" sounds like a legitimate classical overture, with sweeping strings and quiet flute. "Comme Un Fou" opens with acoustic guitar and soft vocals. It grows more and more bombastic; drums actually show up about halfway through. This is one of the album's strongest tracks. The band is doing what they do best here. "Sommeil Sans Reves" is a short orchestral interlude. "Chanson Noire" is an interesting combination of jaunty ragtime and symph-prog. The woodwind section in the middle is fantastic, and Fiori's vocals are gorgeous as always. "Le Premier Ceil" fuses jazzy influences with the normal symph-prog sound. This track goes on a bit too long, but the fantastic synth solo near the end saves it completely. "L'Exil" is an overlong and rather dull track that takes far too long to get going. "Le Corridor" features some female guest vocals that don't do a whole lot for me. The atmospheric middle section is pleasant, but this is another somewhat boring track overall. The 14-minute "Lumieres De Vie" follows the same path of overextended mellowness, although the piano playing is impressive. "Comme Un Sage" is also similar. Nothing about this track manages to engage me. "Epilogue" is a suitably bombastic orchestral conclusion.

The first half of L'Heptade is superb, featuring fantastic musicianship and memorable songwriting. However, I wish that the band had nixed the entire second LP. It's not an entertaining listen, to put it simply. Compositions drag on beyond their capacities; for example, a simple guitar/vocal folk arrangement goes on for seven straight minutes. The entire album has a nice atmosphere, but the compositions fail to back it up. This is all the more tragic given the excellent first half of the album. Overall, L'Heptade is an inconsistent follow-up to the masterpiece that preceded it.

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Posted Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review by Einsetumadur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 13/15P. Harmonium's magnum opus. Compared to this, Si On Avait Besoin d'une Cinquième Saison pales quite a lot - in spite of the considerable lack of mellotronic action.

Maybe you need to have sit through folk ballads with more than 20 stanzas to be sufficiently prepared for L'Heptade. Maybe you have to love 12-string guitars and keyboard soundscapes as much as me to be mesmerized throughout the whole two discs. I don't know the actual reason for my huge sympathy for this album, an album situated (just like England's Garden Shed) quite uncomfortably in the years between the classic sympho-prog era and the earliest ventures into neo-prog. Usually I get cynical when bands present me ambitious mixtures of operatic and orchestral stuff, of easy-listening jazz and pop and chanson and whatever. But when I listen to this album I'm able to excuse the lengthy academic piano études, the well-behaved woodwind melodies, the orchestra parts and the female backing voices. And I don't simply tolerate them - more and more I start to really relish these fairly huge arrangements, which are stylistic devices which give this record the glossy finish which it definitely deserves.

1973 brought up Harmonium's energetically jubilant song Un Musicien Parmi Tant D'Autres which, without any doubt, was a first big masterpiece. The politocritical and lavishly floating Depuis L'Automne from Les Cinq Saisons was a grand piece, as well. But somehow the Saisons album, actually dealing with a coherent cycle of natural stages, turned out too uneven for me to be able to appreciate it as an entity. Good songs per se, but a bit of a mess when taken as a 'concept album' of sorts.

Many reviews criticise that L'Heptade is blatantly overlong, suffering from songs which need too much to time to get going, let down by instrumental filler interludes and similar means to use the precious vinyl resources efficiently. For the second LP this argument is justifiable - I experience it differently, but I see the point in this opinion. But on the first LP Fiori et al somehow seem not to know where exactly to put all those great and inspired melodies. The band jumps between lots and lots of different song fragments in just one piece - but they always manage to stick these parts together again. During Comme un Fou, for instance, you'll find the main musical anchor in a *heavenly* Moog melody with a full band backing, including great drum work and Serge Fiori on a lovely 12-string electric guitar. (It's no Rickenbacker, but seemingly a Fender XII, so rather expect tight'n'simple chord textures à la Pye Hastings (Caravan) than a Byrdish jangle.) Definitely you wouldn't expect such a part to creep out of a song which starts with laid-back jazz guitar strumming, just like a genuine French chanson with lots of add9-chords. This song, by the way, is the only one which fully features Michel Normandeau as a guitarist - he left during the album sessions. The chanson, as a musical genre, maybe appears to be an uncommon component of progressive rock music to most people. French stylings, a certain amount of retro associations, love balladry, maybe even an accordeon somewhere - the chanson is widely known as (maybe slightly jazzy) feel-good music which is gladly used time and again by record company functionaries to give songs a pseudo-emotional component. Today, eclecticism means that you take superficial glances at different (mostly 'retro') genres, use them merely as effects in modern productions and sell them as a total innovation. Especially against this background Serge Fiori's take on chansons is incredibly inspiring. His songwriting is firmly rooted in folk music, but augmented by these wide-ranging harmonic patterns which might well be an expression of the Francocanadian culture: surely influenced by American multiculturalism, but firmly rooted in the French culture and its language. This - along with the typical chord progressions, the occasional clarinet solos and the other jazz allusions on this album - might be pretty unusual for some listeners, but Fiori fills these structural frames with lots of feelable emotions - and great melodies. The chanson concept really works pretty well in the context of pastoral folk music and progressive rock - even were it only for the jazzy chord cadenzas which allow a lot of exciting improvisational interplay, such as in the first groovy part of Chanson Noire with the busy work on flute and electric piano. Supertramp might be one popular band which comes fairly close to this in terms of arrangement; Caravan - who were quite fond of those relaxed bossa-nova-style shuffles - as well.

The music on L'Heptade does ebb away at some time, yes. But, strangely, I don't feel any dissatisfaction about that. This kind of music invites you to let yourself take away, sometimes into varied sonic landscapes, sometimes on a mountain in mist, on which you might see nothing, but still perceive a lot - some moments, like the extended keyboard carpets of Le Corridor, for example, which appear after the brief Fender Rhodes ballad sung by Monique Fauteux, are beautiful in their monotony. Others, like the delicately arranged L'Exil, are radically slow. But the lamenting first part is pure melancholy to the core and always leaves me in awe, it shines in the fragile sophistication of the arrangement with some of the best (and best-produced) 12-string guitar playing I have ever heard, just to end up in a stompy folk rock piece with a convincing orchestra backing. Another particular highlight of this track is the stunning Ondes Martenot solo on top of a shimmering Hammond organ, later to be accompanied by the orchestra. (The Ondes Martenot is an early synthesizer, quite alike the Theremin in terms of timbre, and has curiously been used by a lot of Canadian bands as an eerie lead instrument, mostly to good effect.)

A minor let-down is Le Premier Ciel, probably the piece with the biggest rock ratio on this album. While the first three contemplative minutes, basically Serge Fiori singing and accompanying himself on this beautifully ringing electric 12 string (treated with the Shin-ei Uni-Vibe, I suppose), are as good as everything else on this album, the upbeat middle part is a bit weaker. I believe this is simply because the melodies - particularly in the chorus - are stiffer and less catchy than what you'll be used to by the time you've listened to the previous tracks. But even there plenty of nice parts abound, for example the soaring multi-tracked guitar solo - I, at least, don't see any reason to skip any track on this album.

The three instrumental orchestra pieces, which also seemed queer to me when I first saw the tracklist of this album, sound a lot like atmospheric film music and are light-years ahead of the easy-listening orchestra fiddling on The Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed. The brief Sommeil Sans Rêves, the orchestral interlude on the first LP, notably indulges in some pretty odd chord progressions which competently convey a pretty eerie and surreal mood. Interestingly, the violins are 'muted' most of the time, making a pretty unusual sound and providing a certain nostalgic flashback at given points. The Prologue and Epilogue are lengthier, but the ambience rather reminds me of the eerier moments on Sigur Rós' Heima film than of a standard overture of an opera. The orchestra also appears in the band compositions and really adds to the whole sonic spectrum - I've rarely heard albums in which the orchestra really manages to create a coherence which wouldn't exist without these orchestral snippets. Comparisons to Harry Robinson's arrangements for Nick Drake's River Man and Sandy Denny's Next Time Around surely aren't far-fetched.

After one of these tasteful orchestral introductions Comme un Sage, a great favorite of mine, continues as another heavenly 12-string-led ballad which spawns enough great ideas to nourish the next seven minutes, plus the great finale which rejoices in an instrumental orchestral reprise of the chorus melody. The track doesn't only feature the orchestra, but also a set of female backing voices - voices that, contrary to the women who accompanied the Pink Floyd on their 1974 tour, really colour the music instead of wailing around pointlessly. Apart from the folk components there's also a certain amount of 'pastoral fusion' to be found here; I mean the Fender Rhodes jazz chords, fresh flute improvisations and the folky guitars in the background - again Caravan springs to my mind. There are not a lot of compositions which are able to embody an ambience of 'transition' that well - a transition of whichever form, be it a passing, the start or the ending of a relationship. Comme Un Sage ends the album on a reflective, but hopeful note. I'm not a sufficiently fluent French speaker to fully get the lyrics, but the song seems to be a pretty holistic thought on death and love, and the forms in which they might exist. 'The love finds itself a body to be able to journey', the lyrics roughly say. And again and again there's the question of how love and insanity go together - maybe as a more personal continuation of the thoughts on power and insanity on Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon. The dual scatting/wailing (by Fiori and a female soloist) in the end of Comme Un Sage even feels like a musical pendant to The Great Gig In The Sky. Even though you're allowed to be sceptic about a wordless Fiori vocal solo - he surely ain't a big vocal acrobat - the atmosphere of despair conveyed by his vocals is (positively) spine-chilling.

All in all, L'Heptade is delicious food for both thought and soul, best served on a warm summer's day, somewhere in a countryside which inspires you. It might support you during a good meditation on whatever you wanna think about. If you don't understand the French language, this can be both a handicap and a benefit; you won't understand the pensive and emotionally resonant lyrics, but you'll be able to take the vocals as just a part of a magnificent whole. It's a close-to-perfect record which hit me much more than Harmonium's previous album - highly recommendable to all friends of progressive rock, especially to those who were unsettled by the length of this album. It's by far more diverting than you'd expect it to be!

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Send comments to Einsetumadur (BETA) | Report this review (#975984) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Latest members reviews

4 stars Stepping away from their previous "masterpiece", consciously, they also challenge that album's followers. Maybe it could be the "less serious" composition style , or that it uses resources not very "symphonic", or the close to "pop" musical passages, or maybe just the mere fact that it steps away ... (read more)

Report this review (#1116646) | Posted by admireArt | Sunday, January 19, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Bombastic. Theatric. Conceptually ambitious, grandiose and interesting but, perhaps, Serge bit off a little more than he (or his band mates) could handle. There is a lot of attention to detail and subtlety--certainly a lot of love and energy went into the creation and production of this album bu ... (read more)

Report this review (#489864) | Posted by BrufordFreak | Sunday, July 24, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is a review I have been struggling very hard with. Harmonium has released three studio albums and one live album. Neither of the four albums is easy listening or even remotely easy to review. The reason is the complexity of their music and the intense effort it takes to get under the sk ... (read more)

Report this review (#371635) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Monday, January 03, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Simply put Comme un Sage is the most wonderful and beautiful classic Progressive tune ever recorded. No fan of symphonic progressive rock should die without having wrapped themselves in the absolute perfection of this melody. The rest of the album, especially Comme un Fue, is comes close, but neve ... (read more)

Report this review (#255850) | Posted by BRIAN STEFFENSEN | Sunday, December 13, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Great of the greats album. I don't really understand why this album voted to be an inferior alternative to their previous Les Cinq Saisons. I personally think this album is way better sounding Harmonium and personally think that this album is the finest production of Harmonium. With whole new l ... (read more)

Report this review (#248136) | Posted by Jadittir | Wednesday, November 04, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars If L'Heptade is not in every way as perfect as its predecessor, Les Cinq Saisons, this by no means suggests that it is not also a brilliant and wonderful album. L'Heptade diverges from Les Cinq Saisons in many ways, and follows from it in others. Drums have made their way into the musical mix ... (read more)

Report this review (#242188) | Posted by SentimentalMercenary | Wednesday, September 30, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars 3.5 stars really. This albums follows on from the excellent Cinquieme Saison (SoabduCS). This one adds drums and a few other prog elements into the mix. The first 'side' of this album sounds similar to the first four tracks from SoabduCS. The second side of this album has less singing and les ... (read more)

Report this review (#188792) | Posted by digdug | Tuesday, November 11, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is a special album. It is enchanting. Harmonium set out to elicit a sentiment of wonder and tranquil awe; they succeeded. Some of the softest and most beautiful melodies I can call to memory are present on this album. I whole- heatedly recommend this album for those who appreciate the pastor ... (read more)

Report this review (#187750) | Posted by AngleofRepose | Sunday, November 02, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I tend to consider this album a rough draft for what went to become their live album "Harmonium en tournée". Although it has some interesting aspects in its symphonic arrangements, it really is far away from the latter, mainly because Fiori doesn't sound like he's on the edge here. Still, a very ... (read more)

Report this review (#138745) | Posted by Nao/Gilles | Monday, September 17, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Harmonium L'Heptade is the perfect example of a masterpiece of progressif rock. It is a 2-disk concept album composed of 7 principal songs representing the 7 levels of concience. Most of the songs are long, smooth and contains wonderfull solos of mellotron, guitar and classical instruments. Per ... (read more)

Report this review (#130176) | Posted by Stream | Wednesday, July 25, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars First thing, it's incredible how Harmonium changed in a musical state of mind in only two years. Compare Harminum and L'Heptade just for fun. It dosen't even look like this is the same band. Now, here is my favorite album over everything that ever came out of Quebec. Every song on this album i ... (read more)

Report this review (#114377) | Posted by proglil49 | Wednesday, March 07, 2007 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I thought this album on par with the previous one, originally, but as time passes, then I found it much more boring and tedious, and much less emotionally touching and moving. Then I realized that I was not listening to this album under the right frame of mind. It is a fantastic album, with a great ... (read more)

Report this review (#105085) | Posted by Shakespeare | Sunday, December 31, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Many people conside "Si On Avait Besoin D'une Cinquième Saison" as the best Harmonium album. Sure is a great album, but I have to say, it's following is the ultimate Harmonium masterpiece. As Prologue starts you really get into Fiori's world. There is no filler here, all songs are meant to be ... (read more)

Report this review (#99917) | Posted by vene777 | Wednesday, November 22, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Not quite as good as Les Cinq Saisons, although a very good album. Not quite a masterpiece of prog music. The instrumental tracks slow the pace and the second CD is lacking compared to the first. If the whole album was as good as Le Premier Ciel / L'Exil this would be the greatest album o ... (read more)

Report this review (#77800) | Posted by video vertigo | Thursday, May 11, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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