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Crossover Prog • France

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Neo is an aptly named one-shot wonder from France that released a scorching 1980 album and promptly faded away completely. It has been a missing link on PA ever since and its presence here is long overdue. Everything about this release warrants admiration, from the extravagant green and yellow hues of its amazing cover artwork to the sensational instrumental compositions that literally sparkle and sizzle. With hints of the usual suspects King Crimson, Mel Collins period Camel as well as non-vocal hints of Atoll and carpe Diem in particular. What made their music so inventive was the effusive use of saxophone, wielded by band leader Didier Erard, formerly of French Kiss, as well as robust bass lines from Andre Paul. The eight tracks are all thrilling affairs that stand the test of time. If there is one long=lost treasure a true progfan should seek out, it's this monster. From the blistering intro to Osibirsk, you know this is one to reckon with. Neo's sole album is a rock fusion of high intensity, featuring lots of guitar and sax solos over a high paced rhythm section. It isn't really jazz-rock, although the intensity and great chops are somewhere in that realm... it's a pretty damn good album, nice and exciting.

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4.31 | 23 ratings

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 Neo by NEO album cover Studio Album, 1980
4.31 | 23 ratings

Neo Crossover Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars NEO were a six piece band out of France who played a guitar driven brand of instrumental music that is very melodic. A big thankyou to tszirmay who gave me the opportunity to hear this gem. This review has been long over due. "Neo" was released back in 1980 and besides the prominent guitar we get plenty of sax, upfont bass lines and energetic drumming. Also the synths add a lot of depth and atmosphere to this recording.

"Osibirsk" hits the ground running as the bass and drums support the scathing guitar melodies. Sax joins in as well and we're 2 minutes in before it all lets up and the sax takes the lead. There's a CAMEL vibe before 5 minutes which is pretty cool then it ends with a spacey calm. "Scene De Chasse" is led by the drums and synths early on and I like when the bass joins in, it's very chunky. The sax before a minute plays over top then the guitar takes over. The guitar steps aside but when it returns before 3 1/2 minutes he's ripping it up. Sax to the fore again briefly then the guitar starts to light it up once again. The synths and drums pretty much are non-stop on this song. Some beautiful guitar work around 7 minutes.

"Joiwind" is a spacey, windy track provided by the synths as we also get a steady bass line. The synths start to swirl after 3 minutes and we get a beat as well. "Neoplasme" features some nasty bass lines as the drums pound away. The guitar is grinding it out here as well. A spacey calm after a minute as the drums and bass continue. The guitar is back quickly though and there's sax before 2 1/2 minutes. "Sortie De Bain" is the longest song at over 10 1/2 minutes. A beat as the guitar and sax share the lead throughout this one. An impressive display put on by these guys. The synths add depth here. The tempo changes here often as well. "Plage 2" is the short closing track where the synths dominate along with the bass. Love the synths on this one.

This was such an enjoyable listen each time I put it on. If your a fan of guitar driven music you should check this one out. A solid 4 stars.

 Neo by NEO album cover Studio Album, 1980
4.31 | 23 ratings

Neo Crossover Prog

Review by Raccoon

5 stars First, I'd like to thank 'tszirmay' for locating and sharing this gem.

Now, I'll attempt NOT to repeat what tszirmay's already said, so I'll brief over these comparisons: Van der Graaf (because of the sax and sense of looming doom), Novalis (that synth!), Clearlight (not much, though), and DEFINITELY Nektar (just look at the cover!! Remind you of something...?)

Imagine A Tab in the Ocean mixed with the Canterburian-spaciness of Clearlight or Gong. That's what you have with Neo's Neo.

This isn't a clone in ANY way, I'll be clear: This is original, and hard-hitting. The crunch of Andre's guitar, the jazz-fusion-speed drumming, and, in the same regard, The Mad Sax (just listen to "Neoplasme"). What snapped my attention of tszirmay's review was the mention of that sax. And oh, don't get me started... (just check out "Sortie", goosebumps!)

Osibirsk starts with a BANG! One second of silence, guitar solo, steady and quick drumming, then... Sax. Keyboards floating in the background. From the first minute, you know you've hit gold. Second minute comes, the tempo slows down to showcase that impressive sax a little more. Don't get too comfortable. A burst of energy comes back, and this formula's continued till minute 4. The synths are flaunted, reminding me of The Colony of Slippermen.

By the way, all these songs are on Youtube. Deep within Amazon, you'll find this album for $8.99. It may be a little challenging to find this gem anywhere on the internet, being that both the album AND the band's conveniently named the same as: The One, Keanu Reeves, the emotionless dweeb from The Matrix, and the Progressive Movement in the 80's. So best of luck on your travels...

"Scene" starts in the same style, following the same pattern but focused on Schlapp's keyboards. Mr. Sax comes in to tease, but it's only background noise to the quick-paced riffs and cymbal-heavy drums. Possibly my least favorite song, for the sole reason that though the melodies are different, the song's played in the same style as "Osibirsk". Slow, fast, slow...

But don't fret!! "Joiwind" comes swooping in, a wave of synthesizer. One of my favorites. A synth wave, you lose track of time. You're lost in Neos' world. Towards the 2nd minute, the wave breaks and the melody appears. For some reason, I'm reminded of those quiet moments in Blade Runner while listening to "Joiwind." Such a captivating set of emotion, probably why I think back to "Rachel's Song" and "Love Theme." The drums start up, then stop. It's no momentous conclusion, a single synth key hits and the song ends. Though, it's a perfect ending, because you'll remember it. A desire for more. Again, one of my favorite moments in this album.

"Neoplasme" sounds like some psychedelic Santana; a belting guitar and thick keyboards. The pace quickens, the guitars have lost all sanity, and then... Sax. That Mad Sax. The song abruptly ends, then glockenspiel...

"Sortie" starts, and shoots for the stars. You think, "It can't get any better than this." Guess what? Soaring sax, higher than you could possibly imagine at 1:30. You SEE the stars. And you know what I see..? 5 stars. Guitar and sax take turns. A french melody comes into play at 2:40, though not for long. The keyboard gets impatient, every member of the band goes wild. How they keep up with their ever-changing pace is beyond me.

Finally, "Plage II" showers us with some much-needed synths. After that manic "Sortie," it's a sense of relief. Like if Jade Warrior tripped out and went to space. It ends with the sound of crystals smashing on the ground (at least, that's what I hear). Alien chimes.

And so, ends the 'regular' track listing. Altogether, it's like visiting an alien planet for 36 minutes. Everything's unfamiliar. Gone are the typical guitars, gone are the vocals of Mick Jagger. Gone is humanity. A mysterious recording, a sheer masterpiece. I'm not fond of writing reviews, nor am I skilled at playing an instrument. I just want to spread some awareness. Best album to come out of the 80's. 5 stars.

 Neo by NEO album cover Studio Album, 1980
4.31 | 23 ratings

Neo Crossover Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Please permit me this indulgence but when an astonishing one shot wonder stays buried for 34 years and you are the lucky one to add them onto our website as well as reviewing it, it feels kind of giddy! I have been waiting for 20 years to review this mother, one of my fave French prog albums. Oh what a feeling!

The band's name is Neo, they are from France and have absolutely nothing to do with either the prog subgenre or the exuberant hero in the Matrix, both of whom came much much later. Back in 1980 when punk was ruling the musical oceans (not for long, you bastards!) and the media had puked on the prog rock coffin, these resolute French musicians did the unthinkable by unleashing this instrumental monster on totally deaf ears. The liner notes tell the brief tale of a group of talented individuals led by bassist Andre Paul and saxophone player Didier Erard, who just wanted to create complex instrumental music that would encapsulate their influences, ranging from Yes, Pink Floyd, Weather Report, Blue Oyster Cult, Santana and Soft Machine, well, in fact, all the prog heavies from the Golden era. With keyboard maestro Schlapp handling a wide variety of synths and e-pianos, organs and such, while being ably assisted by firebrand guitarist Andre Pellerin and the nimble drumming of Eric Haven, the cast is set for a wonderful ride that will assuredly stun everyone who sets their ears to this masterpiece. How to best describe the glittering music? Well, imagine a space rock /fusion version of vocal-less Gong (the Daevid Allen period) with touches of Isotope (a rockier jazz), some slippery Santana guitar and of course, lots and lots of saxophone.

From the twirling raucousness of Pellerin's guitar on the nearly 7 minute "Osibirisk" , sounding like a cross between Jeff Beck and Donald Roeser (aka Buck Dharma) , you will start exhibiting nervous giggling, totally unexpectant of such whirlwind playing. Didier Erard comes in with the greasy sax as if clearly taking his place on center stage as well, booming bass and prominent drumming sliding right in as if a well-oiled machine. This is splendid progressive rock of the highest caliber, exalting, fresh and quite delirious. Schlapp glitters ivory gold with utter control and intelligence (seems like that lovely Elka Rhapsody 610 sound again so particular to French prog). Just a glorious opener.

What distinguishes this band from many others is their insistence on hitting you from the get go, no wimpy intro fluff from these boys! Boom, there you are, immediately catching your attention as proven by the seductive "Scene de Chasse", another similarly sized bass- fueled Godzilla. Pellerin really pulls some California-trippin' from his axe, the Santana influence clear and dear. Sax ripples in the breezy wind, shoved along by the remaining crew, all in tight unison. Neo enjoy the volcanic experience, going from eruption to gentle flow, turning on a dime seemingly at will. All these gymnastic moves do not sway the melodies, which are, outright memorable.

A couple of shorter exercises simply blur any expectations, as the highly contemplative "Joiwind" swoons in gently with a synthesizer that seems to have ridden the "Midnight Express" without sounding like disco/electronica , just content to show off some powerful prog rock moves. Serene and unforgettable. Pretty much Schlapp thinking he is Tim Blake, Paul rolling his bass and some slick drums. Damn good! While its cousin "Neoplasme" veers into spacier confines, a platform for some cosmic guitar rambling that are from the Steve Hillage/Christian Boule School of galactic picking.

As if that was not enough to persuade and subdue, the "plat de resistance' is judiciously placed in the core of the album, the epic "Sortie de Bain" being a splashing 10 minute workout that will leave you breathless, owner of a remote heartbeat that just keeps embracing all the progressive divinities we all enjoy so deeply, namely sound, technique, emotion and paroxysm. From serious to playful, pastoral to incandescent , Neo delivers with limitless fury, as Pellerin, Erard and Schlapp trade massive blows, secure and confident in the tremendous rhythmic support that is closer to jazz-rock than anything maudlin. A brief drumbeat half way through ignites a bass frenzy that chooses to waltz with a deranged sax blurt, hurtling along like some bulldozer thinking it was a Maserati. Wow! I need a glass of chilled Montrachet, phew!

Decompression comes via "Plage II" a brief synthesizer etude that has a spirit like no other, a respite in order to refresh 'la bouche' et 'les oreilles'. This ends the normal programming, as two bonus tracks are included for your listening pleasure.

"Jazz n Roll" is exactly as described, a bouncy longer number with a wicked elastic bass that would make Pastorius, Babbington/Hopper very green with envy , a boom-boom-tchak drum fill and keyboard flexes that will astound and sensually influence your audio experience. The technique displayed here is almost eerie, so utterly relaxed and confident, the mind boggles at times it's that powerful and impressive. Who are these guys, you will ask yourself? Jaw-dropping piece, easily!

"Song 4 Miles" needs little explanation, a tribute to the jazz/fusion legend, a jungle rhythm lush with soaring percussives, a clear and resonant melody with some Weather report-like feel, funky and shake your ass fun. An upbeat finale to a stellar piece of music. If you ever wondered which album you would need to make your collection utterly unique, well it's this one. Available from all fine prog suppliers because they know this is a concealed gem! Go hunting now, y'all ! I am still giggling at the sheer thrill of it all..

5 buried treasures

Thanks to tszirmay for the artist addition.

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