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Garolou - Lougarou CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.53 | 17 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
4 stars Having a rare distinction of two self titled albums with different names, GAROLOU, or LOUGAROU as they were initially known, hit the ground running with this 1976 release. The combination of muddy production and ragged arrangements offers rustic charms that were largely smoothed over on this album's highly accomplished successor, which means that both are sine qua non in the realm of Francophone prog folk of the 1970s.

This debut focuses on story songs that are both near and distant variations on traditional tunes, but nary a traditional instrument is used, with the group relying on with vocal harmonies and meters to convey connections to the past. The instrumental arrangements are decidedly rock oriented, with versatile and occasionally aggressive electric guitars, economical pianos, and occasional synths announcing their intentions. While every track has merit, the lengthiest are those that best fulfill the band's promise, namely "La Belle Francoise", the surprisingly hard rocking "La Partance" and the brilliant adaptation of "A La Claire Fontaine". In the latter case, the band parlayed a tune that everybody at the time and place knew by rote, yet effectively obliterated all memory of the original.

The shorter pieces are hardly less impressive, as young sibling Bobby Lalonde contributes violin to the lively "La Vendee", with nimble plucking and sublime call and response vocals that rival the best of what TRI YANN was on about at the time. "Ah Toi Belle Hirondelle" might be my favourite of the lot, exuding a breezy mid 1970s ambiance, with an ultra catch riff and propulsive rhythm section that seems to presage the imminent arrival of DIRE STRAITS on the scene, although concurrent Laurel canyon artists and their ilk might be a more apt comparison. It's the sort of arrangement that might help warm a sub zero Northern Ontario night, if only by getting you out of your seat,

It is far from hyperbole to suggest that GAROLOU were the closest that any Canadian act came to attaining the highs of overseas Celtic prog folk artists of their day, which makes them pretty much essential if your wheelhouse boasts a Celtic cross.

The re-release business being what it is, you might have trouble finding this on CD, but I recommend it in any form you can manage, including as part of "Tableaux D'Hier" Volume 1, where only the final track, which happens to be one of the two weakest, is omitted. It's an album I never had much time for when it was current, having satisfied myself with the next album by these talented guys. Well, there is no time like the present to right old wrongs, and let the (were) wolves bay at your door for a spell.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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