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OFFENBACH

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Offenbach biography
Offenbach emerged in 1970 from the transformation of various bands throughout the 60?s, the last being "LES GANTS BLANCS" lead by the Boulet brothers who were then inspired by the psychedelia of the times and artists like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. The lineup is then comprised of Gerry Boulet (keyboard & vocals), Jean Johnny Gravel (guitars), Michel "Willie" Lamothe Jr (bass) and Denis Boulet, who left the band after the first record to be replaced on drums by Roger (Wézo) Belval. That year they meet with musician, poet and filmmaker Pierre Harel whom they integrated to the band as singer and author, and would then release the soundtrack to his movie "Bulldozer" in 1973.

The first LP came in 1971, "Offenbach Soap Opera" and became one of the first "rock" albums with songs in French coming out of Quebec. But with scarce success, the band searching for a way to gain attention, Pierre Harel proposes they present a "Mass for the Dead" at the St-Joseph Oratory in Montreal. The project is surprisingly accepted by the religious authorities and the Mass is presented November 30th 1972, attracting 5000 people to an eclectic performance of rock mixed with liturgical Gregorian chants recorded on a 16 track and released in 1973 as "Saint-Chrône-de-Néant". They spent most of the next couple of years in France touring and filming a documentary of the band called "Tabarnac", also released as a double LP with a certain success. Pierre Harel then left the band and OFFENBACH came back to Québec to find a new French music scene dominated by bands like HARMONIUM and BEAU DOMMAGE. The following albums grow more and more mainstream, although their sound can be likened to fellow Quebecois group OCTOBRE in La Maudite Machine.

In 1976 they released their first LP completely in English "Never Too Tender". After a few more lineup changes and 2 more albums in French they won a Felix Award in 1979 for best rock album of the year with "Traversion" and were joined by the Vic Vogel Big Band the same year for a tour of Québec from which the Theatre St-Denis performance was recorded and issued the next year as "Offenbach En Fusion". In 1980 they were subsequently awarded 3 more Felix Awards, for best rock album, best group of the year and best show for being the first Québecois band to headline the Montreal Forum.

After 3 more records and 1 live, they performed their last concerts in 1985 as creative tensions led Gerry Boulet to pursue a solo career.


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OFFENBACH discography


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

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

4.00 | 3 ratings
Offenbach Soap Opera
1972
3.08 | 5 ratings
Bulldozer
1973
3.06 | 3 ratings
Tabarnac
1974
2.18 | 2 ratings
Never Too Tender
1976
3.10 | 2 ratings
Offenbach
1977
3.14 | 3 ratings
Traversion
1978
2.18 | 3 ratings
Rock Bottom
1980
2.14 | 2 ratings
Coup de foudre !!
1981
2.14 | 2 ratings
Tonnedebrick
1983
3.50 | 2 ratings
Rock-O-Rama
1985

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

4.00 | 5 ratings
Saint-Chrone de Néant
1973
3.05 | 3 ratings
En fusion
1979
3.00 | 1 ratings
avec Plume - À fond d'train Live
1983

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OFFENBACH Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Offenbach by OFFENBACH album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.10 | 2 ratings

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Offenbach
Offenbach Prog Related

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars After their first English-sung album, Offenbach tried to make themselves forgotten to their Quebec public for this small "treason" (Quebec was in the throes of the sovereignty crisis), and they came back with a strong concise album that was very "rock-minded" and showed them in a down-to-earth and back-in-business form, but still inventive enough to please some progheads. The album was released on a major label (A&M) and featured a comic artwork, as if to show that they should not be taken too seriously.

Opening on rockers like Victoire d'Amour (don't be fooled by the meaningless title and lyrics) or on bluesier Voix Que j'ai (Boulet is now the sole singer since Harel's departure, but his voice remains close to his former acolyte), the album's songs are mostly short and fairly conventional in the chorus-verse structure, but there is some shining instrumental interventions, not least the sometimes searing & soaring guitar, but Boulet's always enthralling Hammond-playing, a good flute intervention on the Rêve A Lachute. Clearly the album's highlight (for progheads) will be A L'Envers with its excellent interplay between all members, while Dominus Vobiscum can be seen as a disappointment, as it seems to hint at the St Chrone De Neant era, but soon becomes a normal rocker with a good violin (more of a fiddle) solo in the middle.

The flipside opens on the all-time Quebec rocker song than a mid-tempo blues) and mostly repeats the formula of its opposite face, with sizzling guitar breaks (Blues), good (sometimes brilliant) instrumental interplay on the slow-starting Condamné A Mort (with its violin in the background and sizzling guitar) and on the second-best Jeune Lune. Not exactly the type of album I'd recommend for a proghead to start exploring this band's oeuvre, but this is a crowd favourite and it includes a few concert standouts and fan classic tracks. Still a few good moments on this slice of wax.

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 Tabarnac by OFFENBACH album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.06 | 3 ratings

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Tabarnac
Offenbach Prog Related

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars After doing the St Chrone mass, the group was approached by a French movie director that would convince the group to try its chance in France, tour the country, make an album and at the same time, he would film the band in order to make a full-blown movie. After the St Chrone shooting, the Bulldozer movie (still in the making), this was yet another video project. So the band headed across the pond and toured and partied and played and?. Lived the RnR life on film and this double album is a bit the result of that. With this minimalist but poignant claws artwork, this double album is probably one of the first French-speaking rockumentary, and it's filled with spoken or other interludes that are of little interest, unless you're one of Offenbach's unconditional fans. Since the movie's never received a commercial release, it's obviously the double disc release that will be reviewed.

Before the release of Tabarnac, the Bulldozer movie was finally finished and ready to release (along with the disc), prompting Pierre Harel (this was mostly his project) to come back to Quebec, while the rest of the band toured France and Europe, thus widening further still the gap (rift) between the multi-functional singer and the band. So the band is reduced to a quartet by the time they recorded and released this album, but the split was most likely not effective yet.

The album' opening side starts on the Quoi rocker, then on a Hammond orgy of Ether than a lengthy and fiery blues, to finish on another organ-driven rocker. Teddy opens up the side B and offers a sizzling fast-tempoed 8-mins improvised spacey beast, before paying homage to the Quebec town of Granby on Deep Purplish mode. Avery fine mainly-instrumental version of Marylin opens side C with a lengthy solo section (including the drum solo from Wezo) and two shorter tracks, both quite pleasant to undemanding prog ears. The Quebec rocker opens side D, with a spacey-psychy Jam following it, showing that Offenbach could also improvise nicely. They finish up this double set on slow organ-drenched bluesy hymn to love and rock.

The recent ProgQuebec reissue sees the first three sides of the vinyl crammed onto the first disc and opens the second Cd with the D-side and finds some five bonus tracks from the same European tour with only 1.5 repeated track, the 0.5 being a superb medley of Marylin and Rirolarma from their Bulldozer album. An interesting double album that should one day see a Cd reissue or even better, a DVD release of the movie, as it's likely to be of interest to many Québecois rock fans, but also a few progheads as well?. Something that ProgQuebec could evaluate, maybe? Done, thanks, Stephen & Sean!!

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 Tabarnac by OFFENBACH album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.06 | 3 ratings

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Tabarnac
Offenbach Prog Related

Review by maryes

3 stars Although it can seem strange, I will write on this disk "Tabarnac" in relation to the subsequent work (seen that there is little I posted a review on "Never To Tender"). And no matter how contradictory it can seem, I found this much closer disk of the progressive, because in my opinion, it presents larger creativity. Although it presents the same influences of the hard/blues/psych mentioned in "Never To Tender", the " machine" of OFFENBACH seems that it was more "increased" and with more open from various options. The albun opens with the track 1 "Quoi, quoi" with r beginning that reminded me the French band ANGE, the track 4 "Habitant chien blanc" with very close climate of DEEP PURPLE, the track 7 "Granby" an instrumental theme with 7,44 duration min or even the track 8 "Marylin' with a flute in JETHRO TULL'S style and the remaining of the track that in a lot of ELOY. My rate is 3 stars!!!

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 Never Too Tender by OFFENBACH album cover Studio Album, 1976
2.18 | 2 ratings

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Never Too Tender
Offenbach Prog Related

Review by maryes

2 stars The fourth studio album of the Canadian band OFFENBACH "Never To Tender", is a work much closer of the hard/blues?psych in the style of bands of the beginning of the seventies as for instance ALMANN BROTHERS etc... than properly progressive . To illustrate what say, I can begin for the track 1 "Never to Tender" that reminded me a lot some passages of the American band GOODTHUNDER or still the track 8 "High Down" that sent me to the characteristic hard/blues in JOHNNY WINTER or even FOGHAT style . Actually the only track that really approaches to the heavy-prog in URIAH HEEP'S line, is the track 4 "Edgar" with approximately 2 min hammond-organ introduction and a guitar solo that has as "backdrop" a "nervous" bass/drums section and the mellotron attendance making the choir sound., in my opinion the best moment of the disk. In spite of all of the musicians to be excellent, as prog-related disk cannot give more than 2 stars.

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 Tonnedebrick by OFFENBACH album cover Studio Album, 1983
2.14 | 2 ratings

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Tonnedebrick
Offenbach Prog Related

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

2 stars After having messed up again their popular appeal with Rock Bottom, an English-sung album, at the wrong time (referendum time), Offenbach came back with the average Coup De Foudre in 81, then this Tonnedebrick (tonofbricks) in early 83, amid constant touring, which took its toll, since drummer Harrison left the group to be replaced by ex-Aquarelle Pat Martel, thus bringing a first change to the second classic line-up of the band. If CDF brought a few regular tracks to the group, Tonnedfebrick was released in a boxing club (the group had also participated to a soundtrack of a boxing movie a few years back) and there was much hope and hype behind this one. Although the album came with that spectacular (but not original) boxing-glove artwork, and a new label (CBS), this is the start of the end, but the album sees multi-instrumentalist John McGale's songwriting role at its most, to save it from sinking. Boulet and Gravel only have one track each and not exactly the best either.

Tonnedebrick feature two tracks written with Plume Latraverse, which augurs the future live collaboration, but they're not exactly the most memorable tracks. The album is maybe the first where McGale gets a shot at singing with the good Sauve Qui Peut, which is welcome change to Boulet's now-excessive vocals, still in joual and still Charlebois-derivative. Another nice track are the Zimbabwe with an interesting percussion section that included ex-Mashmakhan and April wine Jerry Mercer and the ode to horned-husbands Pauvre Mari with the B-3 Hammond still going strong. Newly arrived Pat Martel gets his Juge Et Assassin track, which is above average but nothing to do with Aquarelle, despite strong interplay from everyone involved.

While Offenbach will remain popular until its demise in 85 (last show at the Montreal Forum was almost sold-out) after Tonnedebrick as the first album for CBS, there will be two live albums (the final show and the Plume project) and a final (uninspired) studio album? but Offenbach's most interesting albums were now long ?gone history. Casual progheads can hitch-up to Traversion, but confirmed fans can either stop here or chose the die-hard option and go to the end: it remains Offenbach worthy.

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 En fusion by OFFENBACH album cover Live, 1979
3.05 | 3 ratings

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En fusion
Offenbach Prog Related

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars This was a long-standing wish of Gerry Boulet as he was friendly with Vic Vogel and they'd played some gigs together. As the title suggest, this is the fusion of Offenbach with the Vic Vogel Big Band and the resulting is one hell of a slice of brass-rock. Recorded live At the St Denis theatre late March 79, the single-disc album presented only a part of the show, leaving the rest in a drawer. That particular drawer got raided in the mid-90's and the bottom-of-drawer tapes published in the double boxset that was released by BMG.

Actually it is definitely more of an Offenbach formation that was annexing the VVBB as its horn section, but the resulting repertoire cannot be considered as a "live best-of with brass", even if obviously a lot of the tracks are the better-known tracks with a "horn-ier" twist (I didn't say twàt ;o)p)))), such as their anthemic Caline De Blues re-arranged for the occasion. BTW, they threw in a four-female back-up vocal section as well, that included the well-known Christiane Robicheaux for better effect. Starting with the wild-paced Ma Patrie Est A Terre (my homeland lays on the ground), most likely referring to up-coming Sovereignty issue referendum, the group soon changes pace with Boulet's slow Faut Que J'me Pousse, where Gerry starts alone on piano, with Gravel soon in with discreet guitar wails, the music slowly gathers horns, bass, drums and then more horns, to end with everyone (that's 22 people) joining in by the end. Emotional, especially with Gravel's splendid guitar and Boulet resembling Procol's Gary Brooker.

Some tracks were probably played for the first time in a while that night, like 100 MPH Teddy or the 105 MPH A L'Envers, where the VVBB acts mostly as an enhancer with wild responses or superb underlining lo-brass lines, or even killer trumpet or sax solo. Although most of these tracks don't ooze "prog", there is plenty of drama and interplay, much like in the batter Chicago moments. Promenade Sur Mazrs is one of four tracks featured from their Tabarnac album, including the Piaf cover Hymne A L'Amour, not a wise choice, because breaking up the ambiance and by its overly-syrupy arrangements.

The tracks that were left off the original album are generally jazzier, like the Ellington homage Duke's Shuffle - the only VVBB track, along with Georgia on My Mind, which will be released in a studio version by Offenbach later on. These tracks are in general less biting, even though Gravel's guitar pulls a few mean solos (notably on Sad Song) and the horn arrangements arte very tasty.

What's amazing is that by 79, this type of music was still being released: organ-driven brass rock. Totally anachronistic, but in a few months, the prog scene of La Belle Province will get swept from the map. In the meantime, if you love a large brassy fairly conventional sound, this is exactly what you're searching for.

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 Rock Bottom by OFFENBACH album cover Studio Album, 1980
2.18 | 3 ratings

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Rock Bottom
Offenbach Prog Related

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

2 stars 2.5 stars really!!

Obviously confident of having re-claimed the public's interest, and with the help of the CBC's big budget (the English Canadian national radio), Offenbach returns to the English rock realm with hopes of making it nation-wide. Unfortunately the album will not only miss the outside-of- Quebec target, but the album will again get ignored in Quebec, as the Sovereignty and referendum issues are very close, and the time is not for English-sung rock.

Actually this project started when Offenbach befriended Vic Vogel and his Big Band; and soon the two fused to produce a few shows and a disc. But once that over, the project left a strong imprint on this album, since the least we can say is that it is reedy or brassy affair. While the songs are good and professional, the whole thing lacks the urgency of some of their earlier albums. While the songs are properly sung in English, they never really have a sharp edge and fail to drive hooks into your attention. Even the best tracks like the title track or Ride Ride Ride are just average would-be radio-friendly tracks, if they had received any airplay. The album longest track (just over 4 mins) Georgia On My Mind (yes the Ray Charles classic) is nothing worth writing home about.

Again Offenbach, while credible in singing in English, faced the public's indifference when singing in Shakespeare's idiom and the album would be a commercial failure in both parts of the country, despite the band's drive outside the province. Personally I find this album quite expandable, despite its professional sound and fantastic production, the problem being the average songwriting and maybe (just maybe) a tad of prejudice that Offenbach showed its best side when singing French. For fans only.

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 Coup de foudre !! by OFFENBACH album cover Studio Album, 1981
2.14 | 2 ratings

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Coup de foudre !!
Offenbach Prog Related

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

2 stars 2.5 stars really!!

Again on the defensive since the previous Rock Bottom's failure to sell, Offenbach returns to the tried and successfully tested formula and this album can appear as a carbon copy of Traversion, even if it doesn't hold any "hits", it will provide another important chunk of their live sets. While the four front musos remained put, the drum stool has suffered another change as Harrisson (ex-Dillinger) fell ill and was replaced by Jerry Mercer (ex-April Wine and Mashmakhan), but he returned in time for the album's recording. Oh yeah, although Boulet's raspy vocals (ala Charlebois/Flynn) are the front face of Offenbach, he still doesn't write his lyrics and with Huet gone, he's replaced by Pierre Coté. BTW, on this album he only contributes to two tracks, obviously thinking ahead to his solo album to come.

I haven't got much against this album, but I find it noisy and tiresome and bringing absolutely nothing new or essential to Quebec's rock scene or Offenbach's repertoire, namely Rock De Velours and Hit & Run. A bunch of short tracks (max 4 ½ minutes) that offer little than commercial rock with a sax as guest, rather than McGale's flute. Best track: Hit & Run, by far

A solid rock album with few weaknesses, sung in French, but there is not much for a proghead to put under his teeth and chew upon, except for, maybe Boulet's old Hammond B-3 organ.

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 Traversion by OFFENBACH album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.14 | 3 ratings

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Traversion
Offenbach Prog Related

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars After the great rift of Offenbach that saw Lamothe and drummer Belval leave to join forces with former co-leader Pierre Harel another group, the band managed to survive with ever- changing personnel and had to wait almost two years to return to the studio with a (more or less) stabilized line-up. Boulet is now the only original member with guitarist Jean Gravel, the new line-up is featuring a second guitarist John McGale, who also plays the flute and will provide a few tracks. New bassist LeBoeuf will soon become the glue to the new line- up, compromising and arranging the almost-finished tracks. But the group had lost all of its momentum at home with the erratic Never Too Tender, and they were facing an uphill battle in a Quebec scene filled with Harmonium, Beau Dommage, Maneige, Octobre, et many more. Even worse, we are in 79 and fairly soon the local prog scene will be wiped out by the disco craze (La Belle Province reacted a little late to it, but massively), but this album will score well with the public, who appreciate the texts of the new lyricist Pierre Huet.

The album is a succession of classic Offenbach tracks that will get not only major airplay on the radios, but most of them will the core of their concerts for years to come. Boulet's joual lyrics, sung ala Robert Charlebois or Pierre Flynn (of the rival group Octobre) crossed with a tad of Eddy Mitchell, are of course a major feature of the album, but his Hammond B- 3 is still the other audible landmark in years when its appeal was definitely on the wane. Gravel's guitar shines in passages, but mostly as a solo instrument (the solo in Coyote or the opening Ayoye) and in the good opening track Je Le Sais Bien. In some ways their sound is still more of an early 70's than a late 70's, partly due to Boulet's excellent organ. Generally the album is a short blues-derived hard rock tunes, devoid of much adventures or experiments, but still having some instrumental bravura, when the occasion arises (not enough to my taste) and the odd flute (in Deux Autres Bieres) provide short hard'ons for progheads.

Despite the local public's wariness, especially with some Anglophones in the band, Offenbah created the album that the Québecois public wanted to hear, and the group will find healthy sales and a a local fame. In fact, they will be the last of the 70's group to live well, surviving until 85 and rake in many awards of all kinds, but that's another story. This is an overtly commercial album and a good mastery of French might come in handy, but obligatory, because the blues-derived organ-driven hard rock is quite accessible (but certainly not groundbreaking) and certainly held up with the AOR "kings" of the era. Despite it's overt commercial nature, this is a classic Québecois album that still might interest the prospective proghead.

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 Saint-Chrone de Néant by OFFENBACH album cover Live, 1973
4.00 | 5 ratings

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Saint-Chrone de Néant
Offenbach Prog Related

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars Despite having released their debut album, called Offenbach Soap Opera, it didn't create any momentum; the band shortened its name to Offenbach. Through a series of event, the group finally got their break and received the OK for doing a rendition of La Messe Des Morts in their own terms in the Basilique De Montreal and later in other prestigious places in front of big crowds and rave reviews, which eventually lead them over to France via Falaldo's project. This was the group's big break and I understand that the show/concert was filmed as well, and broadcasted live by Montreal radio legend CHOM FM. The resulting album was released soon after, but only chosen parts of the mass were on the vinyl, for time restriction reasons. The ProgQuebec reissue not only reinstates all of the missing parts of the mass (including the non-musical bits), but adds the few unrelated non- mass tracks that were played as encores.

Named after a dubious play on words about Synchronization, Saint-Chrone De Neant is a rock mass, a bit like the Electric Prunes recorded back in 68 and Os Mundi will do the following year (73) in Berlin. The album was recorded live, Nov 30 in front of 3000 spectators inside the Basilique and another 2000 that couldn't get inside and were probably freezing their nuts off. (This writer would land a three months later in Montreal for his North Americans adventures). Those reading me for a while know that although fiercely atheist with a slight pagan side for provocation purposes, you should think that I would hate such a concept, bit from the EP, OM or Offenbach. Well guess again, the churches allowed many liberties during and outside the mass throughout that magic 70's decade. Don't get me wrong here: I'm not a huge fan either of such projects (that included a large choir in this case and the church organ), but it makes for pleasant listen if taken lightly and the group is talented enough to carry it out with credibility. Despite this project being Harel's baby, Gerry boulet and guitarist Gravel contribute quite a bit to the compositions

One of the reasons behind this successful but risky concept is that the Baslique's excellent aural capacities were used to full effect (the drums sound is absolutely perfect), and after a 5-mins Chaconne (from Couperin) played on the church organ by group buddy Asselin, the group launches slowly in an 11-mins Pax Vobiscum with a lengthy Hammond intro, slowly segueing to choirs under the demented drum rolls of Belval and ending in a cheesy church theme, aimed at softening the heart and the wallet's leather of the Christians fidels. The payers and religious monologue are not the most entertaining, but they're short enough, in three languages (Latin, French and English) and are always good for a laugh, or at least a chuckle. The mass goes on with many instrumental passages that allow for solos and individual bravura moments and many joys, much more than the few cringing more religious moments, making me wonder if and how much the clergy agreed. Fils De Lumière has an Ange dramatic and sonic quality with a tad of Sabbath in the guitar/bass/drum ending. After the "normal" mass, the group was called back for an encore and played Peanut (from the Bulldozer project) and the crowd requesting more, Rirolarma (pun intended >> laughing to tears) and J'me Pousse were performed, the latter despite a failing PA system, as you'll hear,

This "amazing" album gave Offenbach a push for an international career that very few Quebecois rock group would have (not speaking of singer/songwriter or divas, here) and they would head for Europe for the next two years, not even waiting for Bulldozer to finally gets its release. The group will play on until the mid-80's; which unique in Quebecois prog groups, although by then, there wasn't much prog left in the sound. This reissue will probably solve many Christian progheads about their Sunday morning choice of music. They might want to alternate it with Os Mundi and Electric prunes. Certainly worth throwing an, ear on it, but I'm sure this will be close to an essential piece on your shelves? it certainly is in regards to Quebec's prog boom.

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