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MONA LISA

Symphonic Prog • France


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Mona Lisa biography
Founded in 1973, in Orleans, this is a symphonic band in the style of Genesis, but with a distinctively French flair (Because of it's peculiar stage show they are labeled as French Theatric Symphonic in some sources).

Another close comparison is Atoll, with some references to Osanna and Premiata Forneria Marconi.

The first album was recorded with Christian Gallas on electric guitar and violin, Jean-Luc Martin on bass, Jean-Paul Pierson on keyboards, guitar and backing vocals, Francis Poulet on drums, percussion and backnig vocals, Gilles Solves on additional guitars, and Dominique LeGuennec on lead vocals, sax, flute, and percussion. Solves would not remain for the next album, and Gallas would be replaced by Pascal Jordan for the third release. This lineup stayed intact for two albums.

Disillusioned by lack of success, singer Dominique LeGuennec left the band. He was soon followed by Jordan. This led to a major reshuffling of personnel, and assignments. Drummer Francis Poulet pulled a Phil Collins, and became the lead singer for 1979's "Vers Demain." This would be the last of any semblance of the original Mona Lisa.

In 1998 Le Geuennec reformed the band with most of the members of Versailles. A younger band, who were influenced by Mona Lisa and Ainge. This Lineup recorded "De l'ombre à la Lumière," and "Progfest 2000" (with only one change in personnel).

The band is described as being highly orchestral, and very theatrical. Dominique LeGuennec receives constant comparisons to Peter Gabriel. They may not have had the notoriety of their contemporaries, but they are strongly recommended.

H.T. Riekels (bhikkhu)

Mona Lisa official website

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11-20-7911-20-79
Polygram Records 1996
Audio CD$18.00
$0.32 (used)
L'EscapadeL'Escapade
Import
Musea 1974
Audio CD$16.09
$10.50 (used)
GrimacesGrimaces
Import
Musea 1975
Audio CD$15.38
$80.14 (used)
Avant Qu'Il Ne Soit Trop Tard...Avant Qu'Il Ne Soit Trop Tard...
Import
Musea 1977
Audio CD$13.13
$7.50 (used)
You Said / You Can't Be Wasting My TimeYou Said / You Can't Be Wasting My Time
Single
Polygram Records 1996
Audio CD$9.97
$98.91 (used)
Le Petit Violon De Monsieur GrégoireLe Petit Violon De Monsieur Grégoire
Import
Musea 1976
Audio CD$12.63
$12.77 (used)
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MONA LISA shows & tickets


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MONA LISA discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

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

3.55 | 25 ratings
L'Escapade
1974
3.43 | 29 ratings
Grimaces
1975
3.61 | 57 ratings
Le Petit Violon de Monsieur Grégoire
1976
4.09 | 50 ratings
Avant Qu'il Ne Soit Trop Tard
1977
2.97 | 15 ratings
Vers Demain
1979
3.43 | 18 ratings
De l'ombre à la Lumière
1998

MONA LISA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.13 | 4 ratings
Mona Lisa - Progfest 2000
2000

MONA LISA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.95 | 2 ratings
Progfest 2000
2004

MONA LISA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

MONA LISA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

MONA LISA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Le Petit Violon de Monsieur Grégoire  by MONA LISA album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.61 | 57 ratings

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Le Petit Violon de Monsieur Grégoire
Mona Lisa Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars The second half of 1975 was an excellent period for Mona Lisa.Playing live next to Ange, Carpe Diem, Tangerine and Pulsar and having an original set full of dancers, mimes and slide shows led to the increased of the group's fame.However arguments between Jean-Paul Pierson and the rest of the line-up led Francis Poulet to disband Mona Lisa.During this short period they realized how hard it was to earn their daily bread and soon the group would reform with Christian Gallas refusing to return.He was replaced by a young and talented Pascal Jordan.Pieces for a new album were already composed by the former line-up and in 1976 Mona Lisa focused on finishing their next album as well as re-establishing their fame through numerous concerts.At the fall of 1976 the third album ''Le petit violon de Mr. Gregoire'' was recorded at the Tetra Studios in Antibes with Jean-Pierre Massiera as the sound engineer.Atoll's singer Andre Balzer, who was speding time in the same studio during the same period, participated in some backing and lead voices, although he refused to be included in the liner notes.The album was eventually released on the Crypto label, the renamed Artcane, in January 1977.

Despite the struggling circumstances the group went through, ''Le petit violon de Mr. Gregoire'' is yet another musically mature and competent album by Mona Lisa, much following the same Symphonic Rock attitude for which they were known for.However their new work, especially during the opening side, sounds a bit rockier and more upfront with less muddy directions and a more pronounced guitar flavor among the impressive keyboard parts of Jean-Paul Pierson.Excellent guitar-fronted pieces like ''Le chant des glaces'' or ''Solaris'' was not what the fans were expecting for, featuring a more bombastic and dynamice side of Mona Lisa, containing both impressive melodies and symphonic sections.The rest of the album goes along the typical Mona Lisa style of Theatrical Progressive Rock, highlighted undoubtfully by the sidelong eponymous piece, which is over 20 minutes long.This piece was already performed by the group just after the release ''Grimaces'' album and finds the group in a very consistent inspiration.Full of instrumental twists, ''Le petit violon de Mr. Gregoire'' is a great piece of French Symphonic Rock with even some punchy guitars next to the monster symphonic keyboards and the delicate flute themes of Le Guennec.Another example of a fine Prog epic, struggling to find its balance between melodious textures, dramatic instrumental exercises, pompous orchestrations and a theatrical lyricism.Extremely solid work with fantastic and creative keyboard alternations and some unique atmospheres, including both aggressive and more romantic soundscapes.

Propably Mona Lisa's most reliable album.Among the finest works of 70's French Progressive Rock with a vast palette of complex themes, striking melodies and powerful vocals.Highly recommended.

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 Grimaces by MONA LISA album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.43 | 29 ratings

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Grimaces
Mona Lisa Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Looking at the cover of ''L'escapade'' it seems like Gilles Solves had already quit from Mona Lisa, despite being listed as the guitarist of the group, and the band moved on with the remaining a five-piece line-up.Mona Lisa were though unhappy with the result of their debut, despite some majestic moments, and they changed studio, so the second album ''Grimaces'' was recorded at Azurville Studios with the help of Jean-Pierre Massiera and Bernard Belan on sound engineering.It was released in 1975, again on Arcane label.

The results of this change are clearly taped on the better production of ''Grimaces'', which sounds far from the muddy production of ''L'escapade'' (which however has its own charm), having an overall more powerful recording quality.Musically the style remains deeply rooted in the ANGE/GENESIS school of Theatrical Progressive Rock with strong symphonic themes, extreme lyrical performances by Dominique Le Guennec and a bit of folky attitude in the flute parts.The arrangements are rich with plenty of grandieur and multi-instrumental textures with a strong balance between electric guitars and keyboards.The atmosphere is still very dramatic, either created by Le Guennec's impressive yet excessive singing parts or the haunting organ themes and fiery electric guitars.As with ANGE's early albums, ''Grimaces'' even contains light psychedelic influences here and there, but the vast majority of the album is characterized by symphonic orchestrations and numerous instrumental soundscapes next to the more gentle flute-based passages.

Great follow up to ''L'escapade'' and another good example of 70's French Symphonic Rock, though far from original.Still strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

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 Avant Qu'il Ne Soit Trop Tard by MONA LISA album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.09 | 50 ratings

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Avant Qu'il Ne Soit Trop Tard
Mona Lisa Symphonic Prog

Review by Obersturmbannprogger

4 stars French theatrical symphonic progrock at its best! This is the best album of this French group and my most favourite from them (i have Le Petit Violon... too). Simply said, i really like this album. It has so much great melodies and catchy vocals, that some are really staying in my head a long time after hearing of this album.

Yes, this is some sort of Genesis influenced progrock, but i think most reviewers are forgeting to add, that this group together with Ange is at least so or much than with Genesis and Gabriel- like singing influenced with French chanson music and their old musical traditions. French are very proud of their country, their culture and their language and we can see it (or hear actually) on these albums. Perhaps for British or American progrock fans are the vocals too theatrical and affected, but this is really French as it can be.

The music on this album is very synth heavy, pompous and often a bit dark too (darker than on their predecessor). I simply like this kind of late 70s tone (a bit different than from early 70s), production and big amount of analogue synths. Sometimes we can find here a nice and melodic guitar solo from Pascal Jordan too, coupled with omnipresent punchy and growling bass. Despite of some musical simplicity, some 70s cliché and perhaps for some proggers rythmical minimalism, the music slowly absorbs you.

My most favourite tracks are first three and the last one. Especially second and third track have really great and interesting vocals like for example on "La Peste" song, where the singer Le Guennec growls some staccato phrases like he was possessed or threatened of something. Really efective... Another interesting moment is the finale of the last and longest song, which ends in sort of avantgarde and electronic way, which could remind you some sort of weird marionette theater. Interesting and fairly original album ending.

The tone on my Japan SHM Belle Antique reissue is lush, colorful and bold. Overall, its great and must have album for all 70s French progrock lovers or for 70s symphonic progrock afficionados too. 4 stars easily...

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 Le Petit Violon de Monsieur Grégoire  by MONA LISA album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.61 | 57 ratings

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Le Petit Violon de Monsieur Grégoire
Mona Lisa Symphonic Prog

Review by Life Line Project

5 stars One of the highlights of seventies' French symphonic rock

Undoubtedly "Le Petit Violon de Mr. Grégoire" by the French band Mona Lisa is one of the major classics of French symphonic rock. As with lots of French bands of that period one of the hallmarks are the almost hysterical and very expressive vocals adding to the dramatic effect of the music. As with so many French bands of this period, the playing abilities of the musicians doesn't surpass the average, so you won't get neck braking solos and overcomplicated musical intermezzos. The strength lies in the collective playing and the most important thing here is the joining of the instrumental forces to create a complete musical product. No ego tripping but musicians who play at the service of the story line.

Major work on this album, originally released in 1976, is of course the title piece "Le Petit Violin de Mr. Grégoire", a three part suite of more than twenty minutes. The story tells the tragicomic adventures of the Grégoire, a gifted violin player who is completely obsessed by his music, by which he tries to enjoy pleasures that can be reached by his almost diabolical music alone. The composition ends in a sparkling and a contagious musical feast.

The story is magnificently performed by lead singer Dominique le Guennec who really brings to life the dramatic adventures of Grégoire. Like Ange front man Christian Decamps, he knows to charm the listener in a compelling way, making you forget everything else. The story line is supported in a more than effective way by the band, colouring the adventures of Grégoire with melodious guitar solo's and well-chosen synthesizer parts, executed with lots of pleasure over a sometimes pumping rhythm section.

The album is completed with four shorter compositions. Two of them, "Le Chant Des Glaces" and "Solaris" are completely instrumental and show us the love of Mona Lisa for very melodic and light footed symphonic rock. The music is uncomplicated and very pleasant to listen to. There are lots of two voiced melodies between keyboards and guitars to enjoy and the characteristic orgue aux effets spéciaux (used instead of a Hammond and a mellotron), so frequent at French bands of that period is omnipresent in both titles.

"Allons Z'enfants" is even more French than de Gaulle, dealing with the delusions of grandeur, again showing Dominque le Guennec as one of the greatest performers in French progressive rock.

The strange song "Le Publiphobe" deals with the petty-mindedness of a lower middle class Parisian worker in the Moulinex factory.

Le Petit Violon is an extremely well succeeded and very attractive sonic product that has all characteristics that distinguish French symphonic rock from all other symphonic rock. It's probably the best album in the genre, so if anyone is interested in trying an album of early French progressive rock he may well start with "Le Petit Violon De Mr. Grégoire". Both the band playing and the vocals are great, so you won't get disappointed there.

"Le Petit Violon De Mr. Grégoire" being a true and essential classic of international symphonic rock, I can't deny it the well deserved five stars!

Erik de Beer.

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 Le Petit Violon de Monsieur Grégoire  by MONA LISA album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.61 | 57 ratings

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Le Petit Violon de Monsieur Grégoire
Mona Lisa Symphonic Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars Some recording artists are like musical painters, or even better, sculptors. Others are more like theatrical performers, not as much to my taste but still occupying a niche that some favor. Among these are practitioners of the baser arts of the stage. I'm speaking of course of overwrought melodrama, and nowhere is this redundant phrasing more appropriate than in the ANGE-influenced school of symphonic prog. If I may extend this train of thought beyond the end of the tracks, I might add that this MONA LISA album could be held up as Exhibit A, not because it is terrible, but rather, conversely, because it is musically so strong that the vocal histrionics sabotage it at every turn.

Eight tracks, the three good ones all being instrumental, and the remainder offering a few glimpses of ....gasp...tasteful understated playing and even singing, particularly in Part 3 of the title trilogy. The rest is quite simply sabotaged. This isn't like ECLAT, who actually are wise enough to tend mostly to the instrumental end, or ANGE, where even the music isn't that interesting, or PENTACLE, whose melodies fairly sparkle. This could have been a major achievement, granted that its appearance in 1977 does not work in its favor, and that some of the best instrumental parts remind me eerily of JANE's concurrent work.

This is smack dab between 2 and 3 stars but loses out because clearly the lyrics are significant to the concept yet they are couriered with haste and arrive as damaged goods. Hence I must pull out my replica of the world's smallest violin while I round down.

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 Le Petit Violon de Monsieur Grégoire  by MONA LISA album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.61 | 57 ratings

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Le Petit Violon de Monsieur Grégoire
Mona Lisa Symphonic Prog

Review by scandosch

4 stars I recently posted a reply on a tread about 70's music and mood of the period. It was mentioned more than once how at the time many did pick up a record onlz because the cover art was apealing...Well, I did it again. Since I was one of those guys, and I discovered bands like Gentle Giant and Eloy, to name a few, doing that. This time I bought Mona Lisa "Le petit violon..." , ang guess what? I love it. It's not that strange, if you think...the cover of an album is like the face of a person: if the eyes are the mirror of the soul, then the cover is the mirror of the style in your music. If you choose the right cover you will attract the people interested in the kind of music you are doing...Fair enough! Back to this album, I have to say this is really typical of the seventies. To begin with, the bass sound is great, like only heard in Yes and Renaissance records: Rickenbacker 4001 all the way ( played in a majestic way too ). I miss only the mellotron, but I guess in France this was not available or too expensive, since even Ange didn't use it. Oh, yes, Ange...I don't find the music similar to Ange in any way. Common ground of course, same influences from the great bands of the past, but not a copy at all. I always felt that Ange was too soft, mellow and the full symphonic passages too short. Mona Lisa delivers a well balanced mix between symphonics and ambiance music. There is a lot of spocken words, and I know it's not everyone's taste. But having felt in love with Banco's first album which beginns with a spocken track, it's quite normal for me to have those kind of passages in prog music. There's a reason why at the time the difinition "art rock" was created. A really nice jump back to the past with a record I didn't even know the existence of back then. A sound and a structure that many bands in the actual prog scene should discover, at least learn and take advantage of. Four solid stars.

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 Avant Qu'il Ne Soit Trop Tard by MONA LISA album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.09 | 50 ratings

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Avant Qu'il Ne Soit Trop Tard
Mona Lisa Symphonic Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This album and MONA LISA's previous one are both classics as far as i'm concerned.The title of this album means "Before It's Too Late". Apparently the concerts in support of both of these albums were very elaborate and theatrical much like GENESIS were in the early days.

"Avant Qu'il Ne Soit Trop Tard" opens with the synths rolling in as some heaviness joins in rather quickly. Spoken words replace the heaviness then a beat arrives before 2 1/2 minutes as the spoken words get more theatrical. It's building here. "La Peste" is uptempo with synths, bass and drums but it settles back some quickly.Vocals before a minute. Check out the fast paced vocals and sound 2 minutes in that really remind me of MAGMA. Great sound ! They stop after 3 1/2 minutes as it slows back down then the vocals return. "Souvenirs De Naufrageurs" opens with atmosphere as spoken words join in.The flute replaces the words as the atmosphere continues. Piano after 2 minutes as the mood brightens some.Vocals join in as the tempo picks up. Guitar comes to the fore after 5 1/2 minutes.We even get some mellotron late on this one.

"Tripot" is uptempo with vocals.Guitar a minute in when the vocals stop but the vocals return quickly. "Lena" opens with acoustic guitar as reserved vocals join in. It does build some then it picks up after 2 minutes.The flute joins in when the vocals stop.Vocals are back 3 1/2 minutes in. It turns instrumental again.Some crazy laughter ends it. "Creature Sur La Steppe" is mellow to start in fact spacey might be the word. Reserved vocals with bass, gentle guitar and a beat take over. I like the melancholic synths that follow. It turns heavier after 3 minutes and the guitar joins in briefly.The vocals return as well. Spacey synths come in as it settles from before 6 minutes to the end.

Just a great album for Prog fans who don't mind a little theatrics here and there.

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 Le Petit Violon de Monsieur Grégoire  by MONA LISA album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.61 | 57 ratings

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Le Petit Violon de Monsieur Grégoire
Mona Lisa Symphonic Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Mona Lisa is a french band that I had never heard of before finding this CD on an imported records store. Only recently I found out it was on PA. According to the other reviewers here they have a sound that is close to Ange, but since I really don´t know anything about that outfit, I´ll have to judge this one by just what I hear. And I liked what I heard a lot.

To me this group has some similarities to Genesis on the instrumental parts, althiugh the guitar here has more bite. Very well recorded and well performed. Vocals are all in french, sometimes sung, sometimes spoken, all in the traditional way of France´s popular music. Some people say singer Dominique Le Guennec has some Peter Gabriel´s ressemblance, but I see none of it here (maybe live with the masks and things like that?). He has an interesting voice that make me wish I knew some french to understand the lyrics. They sound interesting.

However, the music here is quite rich and pleasant. The songs are all good and quite symphonic. The musicians are great, specially newcomer guitarrist Pascal Jordan, who is very talented and creative. His solos are beautiful! the album is quite varied: it combines quite well the french tradtion with the english rock influences. Some people will have trouble handling all the theatrics of this band, but they don´t bother me at all, since the music is so good. All tracks are at least good and Plus loin vers le ciel, with its epic 9 minutes time, is probably the highlight here. Interesting enough several parts seem to foresee the neo prog style of the 80´s (La Folie is almost a blueprint for early Marillion).

Conclusion: a very interesting band indeed! Although far from perfect, it has some real great moments and it surely spurred my interest in knowing their other works and also something about Ange. For this one my rating is something between 3,5 and four stars. Recommended.

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 Le Petit Violon de Monsieur Grégoire  by MONA LISA album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.61 | 57 ratings

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Le Petit Violon de Monsieur Grégoire
Mona Lisa Symphonic Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

3 stars Love the artwork.

Mona Lisa is a French symphonic prog band. As with everything from this country, the music here has it's very own identity. Take Peter Gabriel's Genesis and add even more theatrical effects to in particular the vocals and to the music. In this respect; we are talking about a scene which in addition to Mona Lisa also includes Ange and Atoll. A very interesting scene, in my view.

Having established that this album is theatrical symphonic prog drenched in French vocals, keyboards and guitars; we move on to the quality of the songs here. The music Mona Lisa does is an acquired taste and not for everyone. The music here is very good throughout. But even ten frustrating to good listening sessions does not convince me that this is a truly great album, I am afraid. But it is still a very good album...... but still an acquired taste.

3.5 stars

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 Avant Qu'il Ne Soit Trop Tard by MONA LISA album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.09 | 50 ratings

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Avant Qu'il Ne Soit Trop Tard
Mona Lisa Symphonic Prog

Review by ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This is the last of the classic "Mona Lisa" album. And as usual, the music featured is quite good and belongs to the best of the French prog genre. One needs indeed to be open minded while listening to this album and it is obvious that the formidable influence from "Ange" sits at every corner of this very good album.

The excellent and dark opening track sets the pace: it is somber, scary (both music as well as lyrics) and develops the feel that is available throughout this work. This album belongs to the best of the theatric French style. Each song is meant to be a piece of art. As I have mentioned during prior reviews, the lyrics are not as saucy as some of "Ange" ones, but they are quite well performed and they can be categorized as a good representation of the so special French style.

It is true to say that if you don't master the French language, you would probably miss a whole lot of the ingredients featured on this album. Once you have surpassed this difficulty, songs as "La Peste" or "Souvenirs de Naufrageurs" are such a pleasure to listen to that one needs to accept this French substance.

It is true that vocals are somewhat invading the music ("Lena") but this is the genuine "Mona Lisa" style. The best combination between lyrics and music is achieved during the epic "Créature Sur La Steppe" even if the closing part lacks of bombastic feel.

Three live bonus tracks from this studio album are featured on the CD release and are quite enjoyable as well. I guess that it all adds to my feel of not having had a live experience from this band.

Four stars.

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