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Serge Fiori - Seul Ensemble CD (album) cover

SEUL ENSEMBLE

Serge Fiori

 

Prog Folk

4.19 | 66 ratings

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bertolino
5 stars "Tout change, tout me dérange Je me reconnais plus » - Serge Fiori, opening words of L'Exil" from l'Heptade.

"All changes, everything bothers me. I don't recognize myself anymore". This would summarize Serge Fiori's thoughts at the result of a tribute album in honor of his oeuvre under the guise of Harmonium. Hopefully this is not, because he has been involved, low and behold, in the recreation of "Serge Fiori, Seul Ensemble", a double-cd set resuming the three records of Harmonium plus few additions. Few words about it later. But I won't delay my conclusion further: it's a thing of amazement, and a triumph!

I did report on this blog's site, a few years back, about the parution of a new solo album, simply titled "Fiori". Short of the "Prog Principle" it still had plenty to taste and rejoice, the quality of his voice still intact, within a simpler format, not too far from the first eponymous Harmonium record. Did look for a way to have it added here, and left the plot unfinished. Much had been said since about Fiori's psychic recovery and that, at this point, he would even dare to dream of going back to stage, at well past his sixties! To add to these considerations ,I strongly recommend , to anybody not being aware that Harmonium had been celebrated last year at the Quebec "Gala des artistes" , local equivalent of anyones' Grammies and Junos, to go to youtube and enjoy the ten minutes symphonic medley celebration, and further, the climbing on the scene off all the past members of the band. But be prepared to swallow your tears!

And then, as a Quebecois far from home, I stumbled on a cheap copy of l'Heptade in a (now rare) record store and was happy to refresh my cd version. Looking to few more info about the record, I went to my favorite archive site (here evidently) and stopped cold dead in front of the picture of "Fiori Seul Ensemble" DOUBLE CD SET full to the brim of nearly all the three original albums. Quick research toward my virtual Quebec thought me that Fiori and a trio of young contemporary musicians had agreed to the task of adapting Harmonium's music to a conceptual show by "Le Cirque Eloize", one of these clever modern versions of the traditional circus now firmly a trademark of Quebec with "Cirque du Soleil" and beyond. Physical copies being elusive out of Quebec, I paid ten european bucks for the download and here I am. So, few words for the wise: this is an adaptation for a visual show's purposes. In consequence, as overall changes and recreation matters, you will be confronted with more concise and dynamic versions of the songs. In many instances a new rhythm section is mixed as the song progresses, some aggressive electric guitar sometimes appears and you may feel it is done in order to add a "oomph factor" to the artistic / athletic performance on stage. Don't be worried though, as it truly doesn't butcher the songs. Still there will be place for debate (on some nation's fate). Main critics could converge toward the cutting of "magnum opuses" durations. On that I won't take a clear position, simply saying that some of the reworking had been so cleverly done that indeed I could take a few minutes more of these new versions?

Before I go for the song by song review, owing it to you all by the fact that I will be the very first reviewer, I will just resume by that amazing calculation: You will have onboard four out of eight songs from the first self-titled album, all five glorious ones from "Si On Avait Besoin D'Une Cinquieme Saison" and all but one (the often neglected "Lumieres De Vie") from l'Heptade, even adding for good measure two songs from his duet album "Deux Cent Nuits a  l'Heure". A massive covering aficionados only could have dream of. So here we go:

I-1. Vert (6:24) What a nice way to open the project ! "Vert" is the overture of "Une Cinquieme Saison". The integrity of the song is preserved, better leave it pretty untouched anyway. Still there is something brilliant added here. The atmospherics and vocals of the title cut of "Deux Cent Nuits a  l'Heure", a Fiori album with Richard Seguin right after the dissolution of Harmonium is mixed within the first minute. Clever! Already, one of the features of these new versions, a "drum'n bass" section during the middle section of the song adding some edge and bravado. A less wandering closing left the song cut by a minute.

I-2. Comme un fou (7:40) First real song from L'Heptade, it's probably in that position to open the show in fashion. Pretty much untouched, by separating it of the orchestral overture of origin and trimming it from it's classical arrangement's, the song feels more concise and dynamic. More a matter of context than actual modifications.

I-3. En pleine face (5:28) A strange feature here: a longer version! The opening of face two of "Une Cinquieme Saison" is yet close to the original, but much clearer, Fiori's voice triumphant, with choir added. This becomes the definitive version! One feel that in the context of the shows, Fiori and cohorts, being prudent, have chosen to present the initial songs with not too much altering.

I-4. De la chambre au salon (5:25) Following "En pleine face ", this demonstrates how well the pacing had been thought of. Similar light folk feeling, a continuation of the preceding one. Like other songs of the first eponymous disc, this one truly benefits of the new recreation. Here we are treated with the string quartet chamber like version. And this is one of the songs where we may hear new lines of Fiori's singing. A better diction, and less Quebecois accented or so it seems. This is now the best version available without a doubt, lighter and more joyful.

I-5. Ca fait du bien (8:31) This one seems to continue the « happy-go-lucky » segment. His origin is interesting. Never recorded by Harmonium, but finally served on "Deux Cent Nuits a  l'Heure", this maybe secondary to ProgArchives followers, but not for any Quebecois who did attend Harmonium shows, more mass or rituals actually, as this was the closing song of l'Heptade concerts. One can imagine the crowds singing in unison, a cappela for a while, often in tears of happiness, 'till Denis Farmer would bang his drums for the coming back of the band and the final wham! Still unforgettable souvenirs, forty years later.

I-6. Viens danser (5:16) If the attendance is not up on their feet at this stage of the show , this is a desperate cause! It is the second in a row of the songs added from the Fiori/Seguin album. The funny feeling and upbeat rhythm is in direct contradiction with Fiori's lyrics about the distress and disillusion of a pop star. Sweet and sour for that effect when one remember that he will then soon disappear for nearly thirty years from the music front. The song has new power added, in line with the show's purposes. But i doubt many here may compare.

I-7. Chanson noire (4:14) Keeping in with the feeling of happiness, the third song of l'Heptade, being cut by half, seems more effective for that matter. One can regret the Subirana's gymnastics on varied winds, but a more soulful version is offered in compensation, gospel choir included, and works nicely at this stage.

I-8. Depuis l'automne (9:36) A better way to close the first disc in beauty? If many may think that "Histoires sans paroles" is the chef-d'oeuvre of the second album, for me this is it. And still mostly preserved in due respect, losing a light thirty seconds in his new fashion. The middle atmospheric break truly gains, if possible, by the addition of a drum pattern and a trumpet solo reminiscent of the title cut of the first album, over the celebrated mellotron kept intact. And the remixing brings Fiori's chant and vocalese to the front, like in most of these new versions. The closing "Si c't'un reve reveille-moi donc", since recognized like a true national anthem, is augmented by a new rhythm section to close with vigor. A triumph!

II-1/ 2. Prologue (4:19) / Le premier ciel (7:16) Evident as an overture to the second disc, the orchestral intro often despised by those who don't like their prog "chamberised". Interestingly, the opening of l'Heptade is coupled here with the fourth cut of the original album instead of « Comme un fou ». "Le Premier Ciel" is chopped from four minutes of fat (moog), in the most effective way. Apart of this more concise version, few changes would be objects of discussion. Nice to have in the flow, especially in regard of what's following.

II-3. Le corridor (7:17) This one came to be my most revered song of l'Heptade, thanks to the celestial singing of Monique Fauteux. Here they decided to chop and cut the song. And I like it! The song opens with the closing of the original version. How did they dare? Following then, the second solo part of Fauteux, and entering a new instrumental segment, we're treated to a crescendoing moog solo lying over a now usual added rhythm section. The ending, having been used at the opening, is replaced by one of these deviled Chotem orchestral segments, augmented by electronics effects. Nicely done. II-4. Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjour a la vie (7:09) This one is at a strategic place, right in the middle of two revered songs, spiritual anthems of sorts. So it's interesting to have one song of the first album, following one from the third, and opening to one of the second. And it doesn't disappoint! For that purpose a longer instrumental guitar closing, nearly a minute and a half of atmospheric and yet heavy jangling acoustics does the job. Another one of the first album which seems improved.

II-5. Histoires sans paroles (7:07) Now, in a way this one could be the main offender of the whole project. Imagine the revered magnum opus of "Une Cinquieme Saison" chopped of a whole ten minutes. But how do it otherwise, in order to fit all the material on a double cd? And still it works. As long as you can accept one of these drum and guitars crescendo added right in the middle of it. Still some things have been improved. The closing female singing being added some choir like effects. At the end one can feel cheated but it's still a work of mastery.

II-6. L'exil (9:21) Nowhere else the cutting is more effective than on the last song of the first record of the double 'L'Heptade". At nearly four minutes less, you can still enjoy a whole plus nine minutes of it. Fiori's voice upfront, never may you feel more the distress and resentment which will lead Harmonium to counted time. A sense of alienation rendered more touching by a mostly preserved version of the original, apart of the mixing of the voice, until the strangely joyful ending -but more poignant for that! benefits from a more powerful mixing of the rhythm section.

II-7. Dixie (3:31) A sense of loss and depression had altered what should have been a matter of rejoice, not talking of the perspective of a circus show. So what better antidote than "Dixie" 's depicting summer from "Une Cinquieme Saison" The overall feeling left intact, and still all's changed, or so it seems. A banjo added, spoons removed, clarinet being cut but a whole wind section "A  la rescousse". So you guess, the pleasure is great to have now two "Dixies" for the price of one.

II-8. Harmonium (5:40) Closing the one/two punch with « Dixie», one may imagine the curse of the show following a growing intensity. In 1974 Harmonium happened to the world with a bang with this swinging, almost bossa-novaed eponymous song. A rare one of the first album mainly left untouched, with his melodious trumpet preserved, and from which the "Depuis l'Automne" addition is inspired.

II-9/10. Comme un sage (5:13) / Epilogue (2:44) L'Heptade closing has been amputated of ten minutes of variations on the famous melody. Here on this site many had expressed that they felt it was wandering and overlong so this shouldn't bother too many. Me I'm kind of devastated though. Yet I understand the reasons. At least we're left with the nicest part of the singing, and a clearer Fiori. As a gift, in the closing segment, being added to the choir, we're treated to small extracts of other Harmonium singalong sections which make for a nice addition. A rousing electric guitar solo reminds us of the live version of "Harmonium en tournee". And the orchestral coda is augmented by nice additions of instruments, percussive and acoustic guitar. The door is thus left open for

II-11. Un musicien parmi tant d'autres (4:13) The ending of the record is the most evident thing for any Quebecois, and very understandable in the context of the show for which the music is adapted. This is the celebrated anthem of the first, self-titled record and thus may be less revered by adepts of this site. They choose to cut the song of his first segment, open with the singalong one "On a mis quelqu'un au monde on devrait peut-etre l'ecouter" (freely translated by "We've gave birth to one, maybe we should listen to him"), and close with the ringing acoustic guitar. A very fitting end for a show.

And to an overlong review. But I thought this should deserve it, as a first review of a great achievement, maybe conceived as a testament. May I dare it's not?

bertolino | 5/5 |

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