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Mona Lisa - Grimaces CD (album) cover

GRIMACES

Mona Lisa

Symphonic Prog


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Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Yay! Only 1 review before mine and it's 1 star! That's unfair and smells like bashing!

3.5 stars go to MONA LISA's "Grimaces" - the first album I heard from them. Interesting enough and even enjoyable, but beware - this is French Theatrical Art Rock, and acquired taste is needed to rate it fairly. Music is influnced both by shanson-like insane singing and cirkus perfomance atmosphere and songs. Add a huge pile of GENESIS here. and you'll get an album-long "Harold the Burrel" ;) Seriously, if you like QUEEN and GENESIS theatrical fleur and can imagine it on French (with a noticable dose of French avant as well), don't hesitate much. I'll definetely check the other ones from MONA LISA avalaible in my area and return with my further impressions. Recommended!

Report this review (#116015)
Posted Thursday, March 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars For their sophomore release, Mona Lisa handled their nuclear sound straying apart from the predominance of gloomy moods that had marked the framework of the debut album "L'Escapade": as a result, "Grimaces" exhibits a more extroverted colorfulness, even aiming at the build-up of merry-go- round atmospheres in many places. If Pierson's use of organ and synthesizers in the aforesaid debut effort was close to a "B"-horror movie with heavy Gothic undertones, now the keyboard layers and solos tend to become festive. Mona Lisa still bears the Ange-relation stigma, but by now you can tell that the band is going headlong for a particular treatment of the theatricals (especially regarding Le Guennec's vocal deliveries), as well as a more accomplished rocking sound in the instrumental structure that encapsulates each track's development. The album kicks off with a cover of one of Georges Brassens' most famous songs, 'La Mauvaise Reputation', the drummer's frenzy and the keyboardist's energy install the framework quite adequately, but this happens to be the least impressive track in the album, all in all. 'Brume' displays a more solemn spirit, using a strange sense of melancholy through the guitar arpeggios and the keyboard ornaments. 'Complainte Pour Une Narcisse' comprises complex resources in a most typically progressive fashion, an exhibition of musical inspiration in a 4 ½ minute span. From then on, the album reaches a sort of zenith whose constant splendor can be easily interpreted as a solid anticipation of the sort of magic that the following two studio efforts will comply with. Anyway, let's stick to "Grimaces" by now. 'Le Jardin des Illusions' and 'Accroche-toi Et Suis Moi' both state efficiently driven amalgams of various motifs and moods, with a convincing utilization of robust instrumental arrangements and an inventive handling of each track's basic unity across their respective variations: the latter features an interesting (albeit too brief) passage in which Gallas brings some Hackettian soloing. Le Guennec almost makes himself present in front of the listener, since his charismatic use of soliloquies (cynical, playful, angry.) seems to create a hologram of a demented frontman in the air. Well, now I'm letting my imagination run a little wild, I'm sorry. 'Au Pays des Grimaces' brings on a more Crimson-related attitude, in this way elaborating an ethereal environment that might as well remind us of Ange's 'La Cimetière des Arelquins': the featured mellotron layers and spacey guitar phrases are a big help regarding this particular matter, but none of them equals the relevance of Le Guennec's impersonation of a decaying and tired old man in the first sung passage. The arrival of a punchy rocking section adds an effective variety, even exploring that rough edge that is so important in the band's Gallas-era albums. Of course, there is also that theatrical side related to circus season and folk naivety undeniably omnipresent throughout the entire album. The closing track 'Manges et Chevaux de Bois' is the most delicious finale that this album could have. Picture a mixture of Genesis' 'Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging' and Ange's 'Beauvoic', plus an anticipation of Mona Lisa's own 'Petit Violin' concept, and I won't need to go any further. This piece is a complete celebration that is very likely to leave the receptive listener wanting some more; Mona Lisa skeptics might as well have this album as an example of the grasp and limitations of this band's contribution to the world of prog rock, but the attentive collector will fins "Grimaces" a catapult of the stylish excellence pursued in the next two releases.
Report this review (#190018)
Posted Thursday, November 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I have a certain tendency to appreciate the French prog scene from the early seventies.

Like the great "Ange" who covered a great song of one of the three most praised French speaking singer of all time (although Belgian ? Maître Jacques of course), "Mona Lisa" does the same with the opening song which is a good interpretation of a Brassens song: "La Mauvaise Réputation".

The beat is on the heavy side for the next song "Brume" but the French theatric aspect gets back with more grandeur during "Complainte Pour Un Narcisse": fine fluting, eccentric vocals and great rhythmic make it a very good song indeed.

The first truly symphonic song is "Le Jardin Des Illusions" which starts as a KC moment: dark, mysterious and complex. Keys are jolly good, but the guitar is also in unison. It is a fine song by all means. Convincing vocals and a superb and dramatic finale certainly contribute to make a highlight of this song. I really like it.

I can't find any weak moment during these "Grimaces", but I might be biased. Still, weird lyrics (but not saucy as "Ange"), fluting and great musicianship are such good ingredients that I can only be very enthusiastic about this work ("Accroche-Toi Et Suis Moi" is another example). OK, this is of course no masterpiece, but good enough in my books to reach the four star level without any problem.

The title song starts as a troubadour piece of art: maybe that some of you might get irritated by the extremely theatric vocals and the similarity with "Ange" is very, very obvious. But with some sort of a personality. Another great song for sure. The same can be said about the closing number which is again a very good exercise in this style.

This album is a great combination of "Genesis", "Ange" and "King Crimson" with a personal touch. Not too bad I would say. Very good indeed: four stars.

Report this review (#307888)
Posted Monday, November 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Looking at the cover of ''L'escapade'' it seems like Gilles Solves had already quit from Mona Lisa, despite being listed as the guitarist of the group, and the band moved on with the remaining a five-piece line-up.Mona Lisa were though unhappy with the result of their debut, despite some majestic moments, and they changed studio, so the second album ''Grimaces'' was recorded at Azurville Studios with the help of Jean-Pierre Massiera and Bernard Belan on sound engineering.It was released in 1975, again on Arcane label.

The results of this change are clearly taped on the better production of ''Grimaces'', which sounds far from the muddy production of ''L'escapade'' (which however has its own charm), having an overall more powerful recording quality.Musically the style remains deeply rooted in the ANGE/GENESIS school of Theatrical Progressive Rock with strong symphonic themes, extreme lyrical performances by Dominique Le Guennec and a bit of folky attitude in the flute parts.The arrangements are rich with plenty of grandieur and multi-instrumental textures with a strong balance between electric guitars and keyboards.The atmosphere is still very dramatic, either created by Le Guennec's impressive yet excessive singing parts or the haunting organ themes and fiery electric guitars.As with ANGE's early albums, ''Grimaces'' even contains light psychedelic influences here and there, but the vast majority of the album is characterized by symphonic orchestrations and numerous instrumental soundscapes next to the more gentle flute-based passages.

Great follow up to ''L'escapade'' and another good example of 70's French Symphonic Rock, though far from original.Still strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#876572)
Posted Sunday, December 16, 2012 | Review Permalink

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