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SAGA DE RAGNAR LODBROCK

Prog Folk • France


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This is the resulting album of a bunch of non-professional musicians, who used to organize events (mostly theatre pieces) d started to revolve around the Proust brothers and guitarist Alliard and bassist Vanderkempen. Having fallen onto poetry text describing Viking invasions into medieval France, François had his brother (an actor) adapting the text and Alliard adapting the ideas to music. The project started developing medieval folk-influenced mini-opera-type of concept, which one might wonder through which miracle it came to fruition, given the punk upheaval sweeping France at the time. The recording sessions were spread over 78 and 70, the album being released in March of that year under the new label Solaris and received a pressing of 1,000 copies. Another similar concept based on La Chanson De Roland was planned but never came to fruition.


::: Written by Hugues Chantraine, Belgium :::

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Saga De Ragnar LodbrockSaga De Ragnar Lodbrock
Import
Musea Records France 2006
Audio CD$20.99
Saga De Ragnar LodbrockSaga De Ragnar Lodbrock
Musea 2001
Audio CD$34.00 (used)

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3.45 | 15 ratings
Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock
1979

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SAGA DE RAGNAR LODBROCK Reviews


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 Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock by SAGA DE RAGNAR LODBROCK album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.45 | 15 ratings

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Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock
Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars A theatrical progressive folk-rock collaboration produced in honour of Ragnar Lodbrock, the Viking captain. Musically speaking, I'm put in mind at points of Gryphon's medieval folk approach, though the one-off supergroup also share Eloy's irritating preoccupation with including obtrusive narration of the concept during tracks, which rather gets in the way of my appreciation of the music. Still, there's plenty of dramatic stuff on here - funeral dirges and so forth - and if you're really into theatrical French prog in the mode of bands such as Ange this might work well with you. Three stars seems to be a fair score - the album is no classic, but if you happen to be particularly receptive to its charms you'll probably enjoy it a lot.

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 Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock by SAGA DE RAGNAR LODBROCK album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.45 | 15 ratings

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Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock
Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock Prog Folk

Review by Dobermensch

3 stars Ahh... Ragnar Lodbrok... Pillager of France and annoyer of Britain. Claiming to be descended from Odin, Lodbrok was a fiend so full of greed and ambition that it probably served him right that he was thrown into a pit of poisonous snakes to meet his timely end. Bloody vikings... they caused nothing but trouble eh?.

'Saga de Ragnar Lodbrock' probably belongs with bands such as Univers Zero and Shub Niggurath due it's chamber music approach. This is actually a very pretty album played in a very tasteful way It's also accompanied by lots of vocals, all of which suit the feel of the album very well.

An underplayed album that sounds reasonably threatening and atmospheric whilst at the same time being sung in French. Of surprising note, one Jean Cohen-Solal (of Nurse With Wound List fame) appears with his flute on this recording. He flutes away quite nicely using his instrument sparingly.

There's a huge list of contributors to this album - and despite countless listens - for the life of me I don't hear any of them. Figments of Norse folklore perhaps? All I hear is a big booming voice, a few horns, militaristic drums and a couple of additional singers. That's not to say it's bad. Not by a long shot.

'Saga de Ragnar Lodbrok' is one of the more original and unusual recordings in the huge Prog Archives. They attempt to conjure up images of the year 840AD and do so quite well with multiple vocals and certain horns that sound just like 'Dead Can Dance'. I'd recommend this album to fans of theirs who like "Aion'

Unfortunately it all gets a bit too much from about three quarters of the way through where you finally realise things ain't gonna change or progress.

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 Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock by SAGA DE RAGNAR LODBROCK album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.45 | 15 ratings

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Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock
Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

4 stars You have to be a fairly dedicated student of progressive music (or a real history buff) to have something like this in your collection. There is no band named Saga de Ragnar Lodbrock, by the way. This was a rather arduous labor of literary and theatrical love for Patrick Alliard and François Proust, a couple of French theater acquaintances who decided to turn a historical novel about the life and adventures of Ragnarr Loðbrók into a musical score. Lobrock was an eighth-century Viking who conquered the Normandy region of France and took the title of king before perishing at the hands of King Ælla of Northumbria in modern-day Britain. In reading the history of the album and subsequently the history of Ragnar Lodbrock my interest was piqued, probably in much the same way Alliard’s was when he read these tales himself more than thirty years ago. Obscure history can be as addictive as progressive music it seems.

Alliard had composed some music and put together a rough demo tape with the help of fellow musician Daniel Lysensoon in early 1977, which he and Proust presented to yet another acquaintance (Patrick van der Kempen) that autumn. With the help of Proust’s brother Oliver (an actor and stage director), François and van der Kempen expanded Alliard’s music drafts into a full-fledged epic composition, suitable for the stage with multiple scenes and both sung and spoken lyrical passages. Once complete the trio moved into the Solaris Studio of Armand Frydman, who agreed to not only allow the use of his studio but also recruited famed jazz percussionist Jean-Louis Mechali to take part in the recording sessions. The result was an eighteen-minute grandiloquent and multi-layered work which Frydman enhanced through the use of his studio’s mellotron by adding flute, strings and chamber choir sounds to produce what would become “Chants Funèbres de Ragnar Lodbrock”, the requiem dirge for Lodbrock’s death.

An historical aside here: Ragnar Lodbrock is said to have perished in primal fashion at the hands of King Ælla of Northumbria, whose lands the Viking had invaded with the intent of plundering in the early ninth- century (he must have been a pretty old yet spry Viking to be taking on such an ambitious task at that point in his life). Anyway, King Ælla is said to have thrown Lodbrock into a pit of vipers to bring about his death in a slow and painfully public fashion. Some say the Viking did not die immediately, possibly thanks to the sturdy chain-mail garments common to Viking warriors of that day, so Ælla ordered him stripped naked to allow the snakes’ venom to do its job. Two of his sons when learning of his death, swore revenge. Hingwar (Ivar the Boneless) and Hubba led the notorious Great Heathen Army to York post-haste, relatively-speaking (in the ninth century post-haste apparently meant about a year later), and sacked York before eventually capturing King Ælla and executing him by staking him face-down to the ground, slitting his back open, and pulling out his lungs between his ribs in a sort of winged fashion so that he would suffocate (aka a ‘blood eagle’ as featured not too long ago in the horror film Saw III). So you see how history can be so fascinating (check Google or your local library for answers to the next burningly obvious question, which is how Lodbrock’s son got the name ‘Ivar the Boneless’). There’s so much a guy can learn with a library card and internet access these days….

Anyway, back to the story of the music.

A second attempt at gathering the original musicians to flesh out “Chants Funèbres de Ragnar Lodbrock” into a full-length album was unsuccessful, owing mostly to the various participants all having lives and other commitments. But Frydman now owned a 16-track studio and Alliard still had a vision, so in late 1978 he, van der Kempen and the Proust brothers reconvened in Frydman’s new studio to finish the job. Mechali was no longer available, but the group managed to secure the services of an American (Kirt Rust), who happened to be in France at the time as a member of the French Zeuhl band Weidorje. So there’s your American and progressive music connections, all in one fail swoop. Avant- folk artist Jean Cohen-Solal was also convinced to stand in for these sessions to add real flute tracks instead of ones manufactured by the mellotron. Another progressive music connection there, in case you are keeping score – Cohen-Solal had released the flute ode to mysticism known as ‘Captain Tarthopom’ a few years prior to this record.

This time the recording sessions went off with few hitches and the group managed to record the remaining music that would become the preface to “Chants Funèbres de Ragnar Lodbrock” and the first five songs on the resulting album. Mitia de Gialluli, another artist who was among those in the studio providing backing vocals, carved the emblem that became the album’s cover, and the final package became album number 001 on Frydman’s Solaris label in 1979. Plans for a second album based on the battle of Roncevaux Pass, an eighth century defeat of French soldiers at the hands of Basque invaders, was eventually abandoned.

So what about the music? Well, all that background is sort of necessary to understanding this record, which is not exactly progressive music in any sense most fans would recognize. The feel of the music is quite dated, and not as in the Gods or Procol Harum or some other early prog band. I mean dated as in medieval-sounding, circa the tenth century or so which is probably when the tales Alliard wrote about first became legend. The long requiem track is quite dirge-like with heavy, somber chamber vocals (courtesy of the studio mellotron). The rest of the tracks offer serious backing vocal chants as well, but these are the real-deal, sung by various members of the cast and others who seem to have just been in the studio at the right time. The various flute, brass and piano arrangements throughout are classically- oriented and very professionally played, but again I would consider them more theatrical than progressive. And the vocals are clearly sung by men accustomed to aggrandizing voices of the sort needed to project out into an audience like in a stage play, not like those used in singing usually heard in popular music. And several passages feature spoken-word poems to augment the sung lyrics, so the overall impression is one of a recorded stage production, not a studio album.

The original release of this album was limited to 1,000 copies on vinyl and released in France. Getting your hands on one today (if you even can) would probably set you back hundreds of dollars, which unless you just really dig collecting obscure stuff would be a real waste of money. Musea reissued the album on CD in 1999, which is the one I picked up for a much more reasonable price (although even then I did have to have it imported into the United States). This version also includes seven short tracks composed and recorded by François Proust. These have nothing in particular to do with this album, but they are of the same period and are also minstrel-like stage compositions. Proust plays all the instruments and does all the singing on these, including overdubbing himself to create harmonizing on most of them. The theme of these tunes seems to be something about ancient Notre Dame or some such thing. Which brings up another note – on the Musea reissue all the lyrics are printed out, but they are also all in French, so be forewarned if you are a monolingual dullard like myself.

Like I said at the outset, this is music for very serious (and nerdy) folk music and history buffs. It is not a progressive music album in any sense most fans would recognize. So with those caveats I’m going to give it four stars as a very unique and extremely professionally produced folk offering, and recommend it only to those who find that description enticing.

peace

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 Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock by SAGA DE RAGNAR LODBROCK album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.45 | 15 ratings

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Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock
Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

This is a sole album from an unlikely team of theatre and music circles that were unknown back then. Their project is a giant-opera-like rendition of poems describing the Viking invasions of France at the turn of the first millennium. Graced with a drawn epic Drakkar artwork, it actually resumes fairly well the prog-arranged medieval folk laying on the slice of wax. While the vinyl contained two distinct parts (five short songs making a whole on the first side and the epic title track on the other side), the Musea Cd re-issue gives as bonus another series of similar songs that fit the artistic canvas of the album quite well, even if the different recording session is audibly noticeable. If the progressive folk developed is very accessible, it is recommended to have a correct mastery of the French language, but overall it is not mandatory either.

The first five tracks are very impressive prog folk that is medieval as well as very contemporary as well, with some excellent drumming (Hellequin), fascinating vocals (from operatic to almost kobaian- type choirs), but the narration linking some tracks together is sometimes a bit too present (Loup Fendri).

The "sidelong" title track epic is a bit more of the same, but here, the narration bring the music to cheesy levels that are sometimes bordering on the ridiculous. Normally this was written for a stage show, which I suppose would lessen the overly dramatic tone (which gives it an unwanted comic spin to it), especially in the opening macabre movement Empire Des Morts. Olivier Proust's narration itself is a bit overdone as well: he had gotten us used to lesser dramatic on the previous tracks. Musically outside the obligatory cheesiness of the theme, the music is not far from Prokofiev's Peter & The Wolf, later to evolve in a brassy heavy prog, marrying the very professional multi-vocals quite well.

The bonus tracks give us a sort of third period into the match, adapting some François Villon poetry to music. This third "bonus" tome is more in the Malicorne tradition, all of the instruments played by François Proust and the recording session (in 82) did not receive a final production, so they might seem raw compared to the rest of the album. Rondo A La Mort sounds like Jacques Brel's Je Suis Un Soir D'Eté, managing the same kind of solemnity, as does Ballade Des Pendus.

As prog folk is one of my fave genre, there is a lot for me to like on such an album, but unfortunately the few flaws present on it, cheapens it a bit to my eyes. Don't get me wrong, the execution of this album is next to flawless and the end result is almost miraculous, especially in its historical concept. While a good grasp of French is useful for full enjoyment of this album, the whole project is strong enough musically that even if you don't get the vocals and narrative, you can only be impressed by the grandiose and flawless execution of the project.

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 Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock by SAGA DE RAGNAR LODBROCK album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.45 | 15 ratings

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Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock
Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock Prog Folk

Review by victor77

4 stars Mysterious record from a very unknown band. As one can imagine when looking at the cover picture, it is going to be a dark record. But a dark folk recod, rather than a dark progressive record. It doesn´t mean it is a bad record. Great sad, dark and intimate songs ("Le Temps de Geants", "Chant de la Lance", Rèvelliez vous Picards", "Lai ou Rondo à la Mort" or "Ballade Finale") and the masterpiece and original project for the record: "Chants Funèbres de Ragnar Lodbrock", an epic about the Viking warriors who came to invade France in the XIIth Century: great dark choruses, tragedy, atmospheric and orchestral keyboards... and over all, very intersting musical work that blurs every prototypical category in music.

No doubt this is a grat record. For prog listeners, the main point of interest is "Chants Funèbres de Ragnar Lodbeock", and in fact this song makes worth getting the record. For tose interested in folk music, this record is very enjoyable. 4 stars

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 Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock by SAGA DE RAGNAR LODBROCK album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.45 | 15 ratings

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Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock
Saga De Ragnar Lodbrock Prog Folk

Review by hola

4 stars What to say, this album scares me so much, it has voices throw silence, and you feel being into a medieval casttle, with a ghostly man singing in the dark....well, that was my first impressions when i heard this album, and certainly has strong moments how it has weak instances...well, i recommend to people who loves hearing a voice who is the leader of the music....maybe you'll feel dissapointed, because it isn't true prog, but it you appreciatte all the experimental grounds musicians could explore, i say go and hear in a cd store this disc, and if you like it, buy it!!

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