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Forgas Band Phenomena - Soleil 12 CD (album) cover


Forgas Band Phenomena


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.52 | 20 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Bandleader Patrick Forgas has been described as 'the French answer to the Canterbury scene', and this album of his is proudly marketed as: 'for fans of Soft Machine, Pierre Moerlen's Gong, Bruford, National Health, Passport, Frank Zappa', but such a label is in fact misleading.

True, the music on SOLEIL 12 often resembles THIRD (and BUNDLES) era Soft Machine, and it will remind you of Pierre Moerlen's Gong at their gentlest (especially of the Gong albums that came after EXPRESSO II). Forgas reveals a preference for unhurried, repetitive, riff-driven compositions. His drumming style is close to Pierre Moerlen's, and also to John Marshall's. The sound of three brass players (trumpet and saxes) executing the main themes in unison is unmistakably Soft-Machine like. Also, lead guitarist Sylvain Ducloux tends to sound like an Allan Holdsworth-disciple.

But if SOLEIL 12 resembles (some) Canterbury music, it has to be Canterbury music with a straight face. Do you remember how, when Robert Wyatt left the Soft Machine, and when Daevid Allen left Gong, they took most of those bands' humour with them? Forgas Band Phenomena generally sound bright and cheerful, but I see no trace of Canterbury-style humour (or avant-garde leanings) in their work. (No trace of fuzz-organs either!) For this reason, and because Forgas' tunes are so simple and repetitive (the longest composition takes nearly 35 minutes), it makes little sense to compare this album with the extraordinary National Health or even with Zappa, unless you mean such relatively subdued Zappa albums as WAKA/JAWAKA.

I find it hard to dislike this music, but in my opinion other Europeans have come up with more convincing efforts in the genre of 'Small Big Band Jazz-Rock', most notably Michael Gibbs, Pierre Dorge and the United Jazz and Rock Orchestra, all of whom benefit from more outspoken soloists and more tuneful compositions. (Meanwhile, the greatest masterpiece in the entire genre remains Zappa's GRAND WAZOO.) However, I don't want to end this review without saying a few words in praise of violinist Frederic Norel, whose contributions are outstanding. Whenever Norel started playing, I pricked up my ears. If you're curious about the (non-electric) violin in a jazz or fusion context, do give this album a try.

fuxi | 3/5 |


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