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Maneige - Les Porches CD (album) cover

LES PORCHES

Maneige

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.27 | 259 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars I have to confess that every time is see the title LES PORCHES (which is exactly what it looks like it means, French for "the porches") i want to add "Swing" to the title which naturally leads to that famous moment in the Wayne's World movie where Wayne and Garth get all nerdy and yell out "SCHWING!." However i digress before i even start but hey these are the things i think about! MANEIGE of course was one of Quebec's top dogs in the prog world for the 1970s and often considered the best of the best and it's no wonder why after hearing the first couple albums that these Montealeans (is that the right term?) cranked out just after the peak prog years were waning. Yeah, prog was alive and well, just not anywhere where Sid Viscous was spouting his venom.

Formed in 1972, MANEIGE took a few years to craft their vision of what real jazzy symphonic prog should sound like. The band was so prolific that it released two albums in the year 1975 and if that wasn't enough there was even more material than would fit on the two albums and had to wait to find a home on the "Live Monteal" albums that wouldn't see a release until the late 90s with tracks like "La Balloune" having to wait to see the light of day. What should've been part of the third album was instead scrapped due to the fact that MANEIGE's first two albums, "Maneige" and LES PORCHES were much to complex and avant-garde for the changing times and starting with the third album "Ni Vent? Ni Nouvelle" a much more accessible style of crossover prog was adopted which the band would stick to until its ultimate demise in 1983.

LES PORCHES is a completely different album than the self-titled debut. The main differences result from the fact that the debut was chiefly created by Jérôme Langlois (piano, organ, clarinet, guitar) whereas LES PORCHES found the less avant-garde and more symphonic touches of Alain Bergeron (flute, sax, piano) in the driver's seat. The second album of 1975 consisted of only four tracks but two of which "Les Porches De Notre Dame" and "Les Aventures De Saxineette Et Clarophone" both containing several suites and both clocking in over the 15 minute mark. That only leaves the tiny little track "La Grosse Torche" which doesn't even hit 2 minutes and the save-the-best-for-last musical powerhouse "Chromo" whose two parts just squeak over the 4 minute mark.

The opening "Les porches de Notre-Dame" with its six suites is the longest track on board. This is the track that truly puts the symphonic pomp in the prog world and showcase wickedly wild virtuosic piano performances inspired by Back, Haydn and other classical wizards of the past but as exciting as the debut album was in all its predictability, this one may bedazzle the listener with incessant breakneck finger workouts but fails to evoke the same sort of wow factor. While not exactly a bad track, it unfortunately sets a disappointing tone for the album as it feels more singular in its approach."La Grosse Torche" only adds to the ho hum factor and provides a nice little walk into the world of Baroque paradise with a string quartet and a clear nod to Bach but really lacking any sort of original stamp.

Luckily the album picks up with the second half of the album. The phenomenal "Les Aventures De Saxineette Et Clarophone" and its five segments deliver a stellar jazz-fusion workout that includes not only the symphonic touches that trade off with a seemingly infinite amount of variations, dynamic changes, tempo shifts and time signature workouts that are the wet dreams of progger's paradise, however it's the closing "Chromo" that gets my vote for best track on this sophomore release. Completely different than its predecessor's it mixes a beefy zeuhl-ish bass groove with a flurry of folky flute and clarinet with some jazzy sax attacks. Add to that some seriously challenging Henry Cow types of avant-prog harmonies and a wickedly wild ride of atonal turbulence that adds more excitement in this one track than much of the rest of the album combined.

LES PORCHES may be a step down in terms of creative free license but is nevertheless a beautiful album in its own right. While parts do tend to drag on a bit for the sake of symphonic excesses, the sheer skill of the five band members and seven additional guests ensure that this album will please the most hardened proggers who crave challenging workouts infused with creative harmonic approaches. At times this reminds me a lot of PFM's early years except the sugary sweet melodies are infused with more abstract jazz supplements with all the avant-prog rhythms and virtuosic outburst. MANEIGE dished out a worthy successor to the flawless debut but unfortunately this would end the prime years of this band. Soon after the release of LES PORCHES, Langois would leave the band while the rest of the members would carry on only in a slightly more commercial direction. While the following albums aren't bad at all, the first two are where all the major risk taking and flirting with ambitious complexities take place. All in all, 1975 was a great year for Quebecois prog and MANEIGE was one of the major reasons why that was so.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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