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VERSAILLES

Symphonic Prog • France


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Versailles biography
A French symphonic band from the nineties, VERSAILLES have also been referred to as neo-progressive, but a listen to any of their studio albums reveals obvious and strong influences by the early symphonic masters, including GENESIS, YES, KING CRIMSON, and PFM. Their keyboard work is especially comparable to both GENESIS and YES.

The band consisted of the quartet Guillaume de la Pilière, Alain De Lille, and Benoit and Olivier de Gency. Their most memorable release is the 1992 "Don Giovanni", which is marked by three epic-length compositions full of inflected guitar, heavy mellotron, delicate flute, and three-part harmonic vocals. Their subsequent albums would also be characterized by lengthy passages, but none would approach the expansive and expressive feel of this release.

VERSAILLES' sound consists mostly of spacey but heavy mellotron, heavily inflected guitar, and dramatic flourishes of vocals (in French, of course) and flute. The guitar work often seems to lean rather heavily toward seventies David Gilmour, although the compositions themselves are distinctly French and do not approach the feel of PINK FLOYD. ANGE would probably be a better comparison.

The band produced four studio albums in the nineties before dissolving (sans bassist Olivier de Gency) to help reform the theatrical seventies French band MONA LISA, with whom the group released a studio album in 1998, and a live release from their ProgFest 2000 appearance before fading once again. Multi-instrumentalist and VERSAILLES leader Guillaume de la Pilière also produced solo albums in 1997 and 2000.

VERSAILLES should be listed in the Archives because of their distinct and dramatic style of keyboard-driven French music, and for being the catalyst in the reformation of MONA LISA. Their sound is undeniably symphonic, so their place here is assured.

Bob Moore (ClemofNazareth)

Versailles official website

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VERSAILLES discography


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VERSAILLES top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.71 | 11 ratings
La Cathédrale du Temps
1991
3.65 | 18 ratings
Don Giovanni
1992
3.97 | 20 ratings
Le Trésor de Valliesres
1994
3.98 | 17 ratings
Blaise et Benjamin
1998

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VERSAILLES Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Don Giovanni  by VERSAILLES album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.65 | 18 ratings

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Don Giovanni
Versailles Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars Shortly after the release of ''La cathedrale du temps'' Patrice Le Roy parted ways with Versailles and he was replaced by Olivier de Gency (propably the brother of drummer Benoit de Gency).This line-up change was not enough to hold down the band from producing a second album, just one year after their debut.Musically more of a team work with lyrics again entirely written by singer/guitarist Guillaume de la Pilière, ''Don Giovanni'' was released in 1992.

Here Versailles abandon the short music forms of the debut for extended, long compositions with plenty of variations.Four out of the six tracks are 10 minutes or longer with evident 70's influences and a slighter turn towards a more Neo Prog sound with powerful guitars and heavy use of synthesizers.Still the Classical influences prevail and the resemblance to classic French acts like ANGE or MONA LISA leads Versailles' music for yet another album.They do combine with comfort the muddy Mellotron and Hammond organ washes with the delicacy of piano interludes and the edge of digital synthesizers to offer multilple, different textures that can get too dramatic and theatrical at times.Of course not all things stand on the right side in ''Don Giovanni''.The lack of original ideas is slightly disturbing, while the long pieces do suffer from inconsistency, containing both excellent and mediocre moments.Still there is some great balance between the vocal and the instrumental passages, the later include some bombastic moves with dual keyboard deliveries and even some very impressive guitar work.On ''Erre au fil des eres'' they come up with their best performance by far, a fantastic piece of atmospheric Symphonic Rock with strong ANGE inspirations in the keyboard themes but also some nice fresh ideas in the long instrumental runs.

Very talented group.The short time between the first and second work seems to have affect the result, which could have been even better in my opinion.No question though, this is a pretty great addition for all fans of Neo/Symphonic Prog with bright vintage colors.Recommened.

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 La Cathédrale du Temps by VERSAILLES album cover Studio Album, 1991
2.71 | 11 ratings

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La Cathédrale du Temps
Versailles Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars One of the most consistent products of Musea during the 90's, French progsters Versailles came from Lesquin and were formed in late-80's, reputedly the band was named Fleur de Lys just before picking the Versailles label.They were led by singer/guitarist [Artist50909] and the original line-up featured also Benoit de Gency on drums, Alain de Lille on keyboards and Patrice Le Roy on bass.With tracks composed from 1989 and 1990 and all lyrics written by de la Piliere Versailles debuted in 1991 with the album ''La cathedrale du temps''.

The band was in a desperate hunt to capture the feeling of the old-school dramatic French Symphonic Rock as performed by acts such as ANGE, MONA LISA or SYNOPSIS and ''La cathedrale du temps'' is no more or less than an attempt by this French quartet to transform this style in the modern age.The result was an album of qualitive dramatic and theatrical Symphonic Rock with expressive vocals and bombastic moments, suffering from the cheap 80's sound techniques, but performed with passion and talent.The arrangements are sufficient and even superb at moments with emphasis on the huge symphonic keyboard themes and the intense lyrical passages, including melodramatic singing and narrations, not unlike the frontmen of the French monsters of the style.De Lille colors the album with grandiose symphonic organs, piano interludes and synth flights, mostly played with a high degree of inspiration, but the sometimes plastic sound burries part of his ideas.De la Piliere's guitars are sensational, both in the lead and rhythmic parts, with evident GENESIS, ANGE and even FOCUS traces, and become even more bombastic combined with De Lille's keyboards.Some very nice melodies and good interplays complete the satisfying proposal of Versailles and their fresh symphonic approach.

Very good debut and if it wasn't for some cheap-sounding passages the final result would have been a lot better.Even so ''La cathedrale du temps'' remains a nice modern Symphonic Rock experience for fans of the style and a must-have for all followers of Classic French Symphonic Rock.Recommended.

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 Blaise et Benjamin by VERSAILLES album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.98 | 17 ratings

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Blaise et Benjamin
Versailles Symphonic Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Forth album and aswell their final one, before some of the members left the band to reform famous '70 french prog band Mona Lisa. Blaise et Benjamin both the album and the opening track is another worthy one for sure and my second best after Don Giovani. Released in 1998 issued at same Musea records, this album is no less fantastic then predecesors. The title track is a killer one, nearly 16 min of pure magic with little jazzy hints on intro, I guess one of the best pieces Versailles ever compose, excelent. Thetrical arrangements, both on vocal department and on music, like a small opera, with omni present keybords , good guitars and very strong druming. Lots of breaks, the musicians going with an amazing ease from mellow parts to a more up tempo, each time with intelligent manuvres and captivating parts. A real solid band that goes rather to unoticed in prog circles, they need a far more wider recognition even they are disbanded for more then 10 years now. Very intelligent band that I think at least in the '90 has no competition from other french prog bands. 4 stars again easely, all 3 albums are recommended , maybe their first one is only ok, but after that they realy break ice and created something unique.

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 Le Trésor de Valliesres by VERSAILLES album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.97 | 20 ratings

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Le Trésor de Valliesres
Versailles Symphonic Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Third album from 1994 issued at same Musea records , Le tresor de Valliesres is another great album from Versailles. Again long pieces with one monster track - Une Saint Barthelemy Devote - 21 min of high class prog, killer arrangements. Keeping same attitude like on previous album, Versailles realy make some almost perfect parts, singing in french language is not something I don't like, I really appreciate it and gives a special atmosphere overall. The cover art is an intristing one, haha, great, showing what lyrics are inside. Moody atmosphere, melodic guitras melded perfectly with keyboards, a very solid vocal arrangements, what else another true great album from this unknown french band. An inspired album from all sides that needs attention for sure. 4 stars again, worth every second. Again is not a very easy album to listen , it may needed more then 3-4 listnings to fully appreciated what is here, because after the listner capture all the magic is inside is hard not to be impressed.

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 Don Giovanni  by VERSAILLES album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.65 | 18 ratings

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Don Giovanni
Versailles Symphonic Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Versailles is one of the most intristing french progressive rock I've ever heared so far. With only 4 albums released, they manage to create or re create some fantastic prog like it was made in old school, specially Mona Lisa comes in mind or Ange similarities. Their second album from 1992 named Don Giovani issued at Musea records is a fantastic journey both musicaly and lyrical. The music is very demanding, with lots of keyboards, guitars , drums all over the place, keep all the ingredints under symphonic prog flag. Lenghty pieces, 4 out of 6 are over 10 min, excelent musicinship and above all a doze of theatrical aproch like french masters Ange or Mona Lisa done decades ago. Very nice and intelligent are constructed the arrangements, from nice flute and keyboards passages to more uptempo moments, Versailles done a great job here, better then their first album. Lyricaly speaking this is a real sexual orientated album, very well written album, I needed time to understand what is going one here, because is not an easy album to listen and understands only after couple of listnings. In the end a true jam of an album, quite unnoticed world wide, they are among the best in their field. Very strong and album and my fav from all 4 Versailles releases. First track, Hybridite is a killer pieces, where all the musicians truly shine, like on the rest of course. Recommended band for all those who want to discover intellingent symphonic prog.4 stars easy.

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 Blaise et Benjamin by VERSAILLES album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.98 | 17 ratings

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Blaise et Benjamin
Versailles Symphonic Prog

Review by ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The last two "Versailles" albums were really good ones. Their symphonic music is mixed with some very sexual oriented lyrics (mainly to be noticed on " Don Giovanni").

This album only features four songs. From nine to nineteen minutes. Plenty of time to be able to develop their ideas. The sound is also harder during the title track. We'll even get some portions fully sounding like "The Knife" (around 4'30"). This song might not have the brilliance of their wonderful epic "Une Saint Barthelemy Dévote" released on "Le Trésor de Valliesres" but some great guitar breaks are really the highlights.

Vocals are somewhat "opera" oriented. I am not very much keen on these ones. This epic probably lacks in the fantasy of their earlier work but the more I listen to it, the more I get into (especially during those "The Knife" moments which are really plentyful). Not original but such a nice trip back to my youth. Actually, since I have just reviewed the excellent "Lycanthrope" from "Mangala Vallis" it is a nice extension. Maybe a good idea to listen to these albums consecutively.

This epic is definitely on the hard side of their music. Very pleasant, I have to say.

The second epic (almost twenty minutes) is more in the symphonic style. Some nice flute, spacey passages are available. Vocals parts are also more "normal". There is an incredible guitar solo (but this album is very much a guitar one). So, if this instrument does pleases you, do not hesitate). Some parts will also remind you "Supper's Readdy" (like during "The Mask" from "Mangala"). Most of this song is instrumental. Some spacey breaks combined to "Watcher" ones for the finale concludes this pure nostalgic track. Even some fluting to complete the picture (but more on the Tull side).

"Poison De Passion" is a good song, but maybe not enough personal. To integrate all of these elements is maybe a bit too much. Still, if you like the music I have been describing, you should like this album.

Now, the last two "short" tracks. Just over nine minutes. "La Haine De L'amour" sounds like the early "Ange" (Caricatures"). This song is more keyboards oriented. It is quieter and fully symphonic. Lyrics are sexually oriented. It's about the discovery of love in a brothel and all its consequences (syphilis etc.). A very good song again. Sounds almost as a Crimson one during some instrumental parts as well as during the closing section.

I feel somewhat sad when I see the very little interest for this band on PA. Please, do yourself a favour. Have a try on "Versailles", you won't be disappointed. It is their last album. My recommendation is their fabulous "Le Trésor de Valliesres". Even if you might not get into French lyrics. But come on you guys from France, and the French speaking parts of Switzerland, Canada and Belgium. Just have a listen and please share your views about their work.

The closing number is also very much "Genesis" oriented. A mix between "Broadway Melody of 1974" (from "The Lamb") and "The Kinfe" again. The fourth good song of this album. Nice vocals and again more keyboards than during the two epics.

This album is the third straight good one of "Versailles". I am expecting my order of their debut album to be able to review it on PA. It should arrive next month. This one is a solid four star work.

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 Le Trésor de Valliesres by VERSAILLES album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.97 | 20 ratings

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Le Trésor de Valliesres
Versailles Symphonic Prog

Review by ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer

5 stars "Versailles" is one of the many unknown band featured on PA. Before mine, there is only one review with a comment (the only ones which count IMO). From Erik, the symph guru.

I guess that most of the progheads prefer to describe some Genesis, Yes, Tull etc. great album over and over than to discover some brilliant bands. Of course, "Versailles" did not choose for the easiest task. Singing into French has NEVER been a plus. Especially on this site. It sounds as the language barrier has always have been a problem. And this is really a shame.

Some exceptions for the Italian symph style. But that's it. I really feel sorry for so many great French truely prog bands that are just not recognized as such.

"Versailles" second album was a great prog album and this one holds maybe one of the greatest epic ever written (well, let's not be too over-enthusiastic, maybe one of the top thirty one...). But before this epic, the listener will already go through a fantastic voyage. Musically with the opening track "Le Serment des Damnés" and lyrically with the short "Exquise Bêtise" (fantastic texts, really).

Now, "Une Saint Barthelemy Dévote". A magnificent piece of music. Wonderful and quiet intro. It makes reference to one of the darkest period of the French history (the "Saint Bartelemy" period - a religious massacre). Of course, it has some "Supper's Ready" moments. But don't you like these ???

Keyboards are grandiose, hypnotic chorus, "vitriolesque" lyrics, fabulous guitar work. Can't you cope with this ? Do you really want more ? This epic song is so brilliant, so inspired, so wonderfully played that I just can say one thing : give it an attentive ear. You will be so pleased to have done so. No doubt about that.

It is a five star track : no discussion about this. Well, actually, I hate to be so vindicative. But I just can recommend you to have a listen. I bet you : you won't be disappointed. Some spacey moments fully Floydian will transport you to the other side of the ...). A great, great song.

A gentle acoustic track ("Horizon's" & "Mood For A Day" like) will lead us to another beautiful prog moment : "Dégénerescence Obsessionnelle". Another long and gorgeous song ( over thirteen minutes). An incredible opening : outstanding guitar work, spacey keyboards. All of this during a superb intro (four minutes long). Some inspired lyrics, and here we go for a very much "ASOS" oriented song.

Brilliant symphonic and space-rock with great lyrics is a cocktail I like very much. If you also add some very nice flute solo instants, you might imagine that I am just stunned with this number as well. Finale is very much Genesis oriented ("Watcher"). BEAUTIFUL my dear prog friends.

"Avec Tous Mes Hommages" holds absolutely irreverent / vulgar / obscene lyrics (but how much I like these...). This song is the most "The Knife" oriented one that I have ever heard. Almost a cover, musically. A bit too short, unfortunately.

The closing and title track opens on a fully spacey mood (but this already has been noticed on this great album).

Once in a while I do upgrade an album. The very much inacurrate rating sytem available on PA (twenty per cent increment between each grade) makes it very difficult to decide whether or not an album deserves more than the four star rating. This one deserves nine out of ten. Since I am rather scarce (ten per cent of my reviews end up with five stars) I will just rate this album with five stars. I will downgrade it with four and a half or nine out of ten when available.

This is a great album. Have a try and review it, please !

Great musicianship, original songwriting, complex yet accessible (?) music, good lyrics. These ingredients are the ones you can find in this amazing album.

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 Don Giovanni  by VERSAILLES album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.65 | 18 ratings

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Don Giovanni
Versailles Symphonic Prog

Review by ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer

4 stars French bands do not seem to interest a lot of people on this site. The language barrier ? Maybe. But it is a pity to be reluctant to listen to some bands just because of the language. Credit must be given to "Versailles". To start a band in the early nineties and producing this great symphonic prog is not the easy thing to do.

Very little exposure, some recognition of course (but almost only in France) the band will release four albums and then call it quit. Most of the members will re-form the legendary "Mona Lisa", but this is another story.

Most of the songs are rather extended (except two). This is typical symph prog form the seventies (but I think that some of us might like this period...). Omnipresent keyboards, very nice flute passages, melodies, and again melodies...

Lot of people compare the vocals to the ones of Christian Descamps; and it is true that in some songs he sounds almost like him. Like during "Subtiles Délicatesses". When you listen to it, you might think that it is just a nice little song; not important. If you understand the lyrics, it is one of the most outrageous and almost pornographic that I have ever heard (it reminds me when I was a student and we used to sing lots of these type of songs. Belgian student parties - guindailles - are quite famous for this).

I guess that this song has hardly make any radio appearence. Rather vulgar but so funny, so irreverent. Just great. But mostly for the lyrics. With "Drama", there won't be any language barrier since it is an instrumental. Fully symphonic and delicate. So, even the short breaks are much more than fillers.

"Mémoires D'Hécatombes" is harder. More guitar-oriented. But at the same time, it will feature an opera section which will add a lot of drama. A bizarre piece of music. Scary and different. The keys here even sound like the Manzarek ones (yes, from "The Doors").

All these good tracks... And I haven't told you anything from the epic of this album. "Don Giovanni". A great mix of "Versailles" skills : good vocals, nice flute, performant keyboards (almost classical, ELP-ish), not too complex music yet personal, indecent lyrics "La Femelle Ecartelée, de tous les côtés..." : "The quartered female, from all sides...". Lots of sexual connotations of course. This is the most intricate song of the whole. Crimsonesque at times.

Versailles'music is pleasant, complex enough but far from being a mental masturbation exercise. Of course, some musical passages will remind the early Genesis. But only remind. I really like "this "Don Giovanni". Four stars.

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 Don Giovanni  by VERSAILLES album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.65 | 18 ratings

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Don Giovanni
Versailles Symphonic Prog

Review by Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Don Giovanni" is Versailles' sophomore album, a musical work that reveals a more matured and bolder band than the one that recorded the debut album, which was only interesting. Now, with the more adventurous "Don Giovanni", the foursome manage to become real studious pupils of the 'Mona Lisa prog school'. This band is really into recovering the pure heritage of French passionate symphonic prog, a trend that was initiated by Ange and then perfected by Mona Lisa, while Atoll and Arachnoid gave it their own touch in their respective heydays. With the aforementioned acts we have described the main influences that Versailles gets the inspiration from: even the use of keyboards by Alain de Lille rescues the vintage magic of Hammond organ, Mini-Moog and the Solina string ensemble for good effect and in a featured manner. But it is guitarist/vocalist/flautist Guillaume de la Pilière, who takes center stage perpetually with both his technical instrumental skills and his typically French-styled singing. You can hear him get romantic, whine, recite, ironize, feel afraid, even emulate the castrato timber. in a heavily pronounced Dechamps-meets-Le Guennec way, only with a higher timber. The 11 minute opener 'Hybridite' is an exciting tour-de-force of successive melodies and motifs fluidly intertwined to provide effective ambiences and moods (some stronger, others softer) for the lyrics' storyline. The final "homme / homme / animal ou homme" litany delivered in a bombastic spirit is simply awesome, right until the closing explosion. 'Erre au Fil des Ères' kicks off in a gentler mood, albeit bearing a subtle somber underline. The solemn verses and choruses are quite catchy, and the brief piano-flute interlude is beautiful, albeit too short; the ethereal synthesizer solo in the middle is too short, too. Right after this solo a build-up gets in, taking to another flute moment, this time more playful and longer, which now gives the listener the chance for a proper enjoyment. The track doesn't feel as cohesive as the previous one, despite the good promise shown by the initial sung section and the conviction used by the musicians at performing the varied finale. Things get more majestic and consistent with the 15 ½ minute long title track, another tour-de-force that equals the grandeur of the title track. 'Don Giovanni' puts more emphasis on extroverted dynamics and also enhances the contrasts between the energetic sections and the soft ones. Arguably, here and in 'Memoirs d'Hecatombes' are the best performances by the rhythm section. Also, special mentions go to the tense guitar leads and the well-constructed piano interlude, sober yet revealing a clear sense of romanticism. 'Subtiles Delicatesses' is a half-Baroque half-punk interlude, a funny brief diversion between the title track and yet another long song, 'Memoires d'Hecatombes'. This one kicks off with a very robust vibe, which will remain consistent throughout the varied motifs. 'Memoires' pretty much follows in the footsteps of the title track, although I don't feel the cohesion working as well, but it's very good all the same. The album is closed down by the evocative exercise in synth orchestrations 'Drama', providing a farewell of mysterious turmoil for the album (somewhat similar to Pulsar's "Halloween"). "Don Giovanni" is the perfect item for those who wish that the good old sound of Ange, Atoll and Mona Lisa would have never died.

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 Le Trésor de Valliesres by VERSAILLES album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.97 | 20 ratings

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Le Trésor de Valliesres
Versailles Symphonic Prog

Review by erik neuteboom
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The cover from this third album by French progrock band Versailles is almost worth to make a review about it..... Ok, now you have taken an (extensive?) look at that artistic blend of sex and humour, let's conclude that Freud is right and go back to the music. The first time I listened to Versailles I was blown away by their very distinctive sound: a captivating mix of rock, symphonic and psychedelia featuring great, often fiery electric guitar work, pleasant flute play, bombastic vintage keyboards, dramatic, a bit theatrical French vocals and a dynamic rhythm-section. The shifting moods are frequent and the Mellotron is omnipresent, what a joy! The short song Jadis is a maverick delivering Spanish inspired acoustic guitar. Versailles doesn't make very accessible progrock but to me they sound as another unique and captivating French progrock band, SUPERBE!


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