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Dionysos - Pionnier 1969-1994 CD (album) cover

PIONNIER 1969-1994



Eclectic Prog

2.17 | 8 ratings

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2 stars Dionysos was one of the earliest rock bands out of Québec who chose to sing solely in French. Their debut album "Le Grand Jeu" in 1971 was still deeply rooted in the heavy psyche / heavy blues sounds of the day and makes for an excellent proto-metal album just as much as a proto-prog album. Their second album "Le Prince Croule" is rated at 4 stars with 19 ratings on PA. They released one more album in 1976 and then disappeared from the map for a while. I'm not familiar with the history of the band so well but I can imagine members went their separate ways and took part in other projects as 1976 was the apogee of the Québec prog scene. Of their three albums, only the debut has been released on CD and the recording sounds like it came directly from vinyl. The sound is acceptable mostly due to the loud and scratchy nature of the guitar distortion and the Hammond organ. The other two albums have not ever been released on CD.

In 1994 they released this album "Pionnier 1969-1994". Eager to hear music from their two more progressive albums, I ordered it and only after did I learn that this is not a compilation of original studio recordings but an album of new recordings of old songs. With this there's both reason to rejoice and to be disappointed.

The first five tracks are from the debut and from the opening of "Narcotique" it sounds like the band are going to stick to the original as closely as possible. Vocalist Paul André Thibert doesn't seem to have aged at all as he gives a vocal delivery as powerful as in 1971. Of course it soon becomes apparent that this is a modern (1994) recording with a much cleaner and clearer sound reproduction. I'm not a fan of this song really because there are better songs on the original album but also because the Axis Records reissue of this, which as I said must have come directly from vinyl, has an interruption in the music from 1:56 to 1:58 when it sounds like someone bumped the jack from the turntable and bursts of static replace the music. I returned the disc to the seller the first time, explaining the problem and a replacement was sent with the exact same problem. Thus if you buy the Axis CD you'll have this problem too. The original song is over 12 minutes long but has had four minutes cut off here.

The other four songs are performed with close attention to representing the originals, and you'll catch some great Hammond organ, electric guitar, and even harmonica. However, Dionysos decided to add a brass section not present in the original songs. Hearing this, I recall once seeing on TV the Stones perform "Satisfaction" live in the 80's, and they had a trio of female backing vocalists and brass. The classic song was a hit with the audience, but I felt something had been lost. The original song had that youthful spit and grit, and the magic lamp found dusty and smeared in a desert cave had been polished all smooth and shiny and proudly displayed on the mantle piece. I have the same impression here. The music is still expertly performed and some of the heaviness, bluesiness, and psyche feeling preserved, but the long hair has been cut and styled, the scraggly beards neatly trimmed and the flannel shirts and denim replaced by pressed shirts and dress slacks.

Of course I was very excited about hearing songs from the other two albums and being able to compare the similarities and disparities between the debut album's songs and their reworked descendants, I was looking forward to at least discerning some of that 70's prog feeling. Unfortunately, the rest of the songs, no matter what the year of their original recording, all sound to me like mature adult-oriented contemporary pop music. That adventurousness and notion of creating something new that pervades so much of 70's music is replaced by visions of a mature band with their polished mature look playing for a mature audience. That doesn't mean the music is not good. It's excellent with talented and experienced musicians. Just listen to the instrumental "Ostie de problème". Great stuff! And this is where one can rejoice. Excellent production for wonderful performances. For me, though, I find it easier to identify with that shagginess, that hirsute 70's spirit that lead to the creation of so much incredible music where studio engineers and technicians had to improvise constantly in order to capture what musicians and producers imagined. This album of 1994 remakes is safe and smooth. And somehow I can't relate as well. I can't feel a lot of this music is part of my identity. In fact, the song by Dionysos that I would proudly play loud is "Agneau de Dieu" from the debut album, which was not covered here for better or for worse.

In conclusion, obviously I would have preferred a compilation of original recordings. The music is still nothing to scoff at. For me though, it's less my cup of tea than what is presumably on the releases from the 70's. I give it two stars not because of poor music or production, which is not the case at all, but because I think the discerning prog connoisseur would better enjoy the original songs than the offering on this disc.

FragileKings | 2/5 |


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