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Harmonium Harmonium album cover
3.67 | 277 ratings | 31 reviews | 14% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1974

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Harmonium (6:37)
2. Si doucement (4:26)
3. Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjour à la vie (5:45)
4. Vielles courroies (5:48)
5. Attends-moi (4:40)
6. Pour un instant (3:21)
7. De la chambre au salon (5:43)
8. Un musicien parmi tant d'autres (7:06)

Total Time 43:26

Bonus track on 1992 CD edition (placed in 5th position):
5. 100,000 raisons (3:43)

Harmonium XLV (remixed/remastered in 2019):
1. Harmonium (6:25)
2. Si doucement (4:25)
3. Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjour à la vie (6:27)
4. Vielles courroies (5:36)
5. Attends-moi (4:40)
6. Pour un instant XLV (3:06) *
7. De la chambre au salon (5:43)
8. Un musicien parmi tant d'autres (7:06)

Total Time 43:28

* alternative version of "Pour un instant"

Line-up / Musicians

- Serge Fiori / 6- & 12-string acoustic guitars, flute, lead & backing vocals
- Michel Normandeau / acoustic guitar, backing vocals
- Louis Valois / bass, piano, backing vocals

- Alan Penfold / flugelhorn (1)
- Réjean Émond / drums
- Bob Morten / congas

And on "Harmonium XLV" edition:
- Michel Normandeau / harmonica (6)
- Guillaume Chartrain / tambourine
- Louis-Jean Cormier / acoustic guitar
- Alex McMahon / Hammond B3 organ

Releases information

Artwork: Drawing "Habit de musicien" by the French artist Nicolas II de Larmessin (1632-1694)

LP Celebration - CEL 1893 (1974, Canada)
LP Gamma - 7 8521 (1974, France)
LP Polydor - 833 991-1 (1987, Canada)
CD Polydor - 833 991-2 (1992, Canada) with 1 bonus track
LP Classic Reissues - CRLP 001 (2010, Canada)
LP Polydor ‎- 0253778132 (2014, Canada)

LP Universal Music - 602508162312 (2019, Canada) "Harmonium XLV" edition
CD Universal Music - 0816218 (2019, Canada) "Harmonium XLV" edition

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy HARMONIUM Harmonium Music

HARMONIUM Harmonium ratings distribution

(277 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(14%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(48%)
Good, but non-essential (30%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

HARMONIUM Harmonium reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars This album is really the start of it all: superb vocals harmonies, two acoustic guitars and an electric bass; not your standard prog lp but splendid songwriting in French, sung with a mild Quebec accent. This is of course one of my fondest memories but this does not alter my judgement, as this is in my first ten records ever bought and I still listen to it now and then although I know it by heart. The latest edition comes with a bonus track, although not on the same level of this album, it is still worthy.

The title track is really superb and ends in a great moment of energy and is the only place on the album where drums are present. Chambre Au Salon and Bonjour A la Vie are personal tracks and about quitting drugs. Vieilles Courroies is another highlight (although some of those harmonies on there can sound ..... weird). Attends-Moi is simply the best pieces on here and the lyrics reach almost Gabe quality. Pour un instant is their best known number and is about forgiving and holds some superb guitar lines. The last number is also a highlight bit the finale is rather long, repeating one of their best two-liners: "On a mis quelqu'un au monde , on devrait peut-être l'écouter">> Somebody was brought into the this world, maybe we should listen to him.

Clearly not all that prog, more of a folk album, but if you loved Cinquième Saison, it should be just as cherish-able

Review by belz
5 stars 4.6/5.0

Harmonium is not only a group; it is an experience. It is the wake of a people, coming from old times to modernity with magic noise and sensitive words. Melancoly is the word if such a word can be described: the image of something that has been and will never be again. Harmonium is THE group of the 70's in Québec country and its work is not only musical, but also political. It represents not only the aspiration of the people to be free but also nostalgia and deception of a new world that is not always what you wanted it to be.

When you first listen to this album, you may not even notice that they do not have a drummer. Why bother? Why would this band need a drummer with so much rhythm and imagination? You have to focus on the words, on the stories in each of the songs. Enter this world and when you will leave you will be someone else.

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This progressive folk album is rhythmic acoustic guitar oriented. The bass often sounds like on the Genesis' "Nursery Cryme" album, especially on the "Fountain of Salmacis" song. Serge Fiori's catchy lead vocals and the backing vocals themselves are excellent, and they are an important aspect of this record: Fiori sings in French with the true Quebecker accent. There are some very good flute parts. There are no drums on this record: only bass drums that are played by Fiori himself. This record is not very progressive: the next albums are much more progressive and elaborated. The keyboards are very rare & discreet: piano and electric piano in one or two bits. All the tracks are at least very good; "Pour un instant" was a major hit in the 70's here in Quebec, and it is still played nowadays. "Harmonium", "Vieilles courroies" and "Musicien parmi tant d'autres" have very impressive lead & backing vocals. "Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjour a la vie" has a beautiful mix of delicate acoustic guitar sounds, birds sounds and kids playing.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by hdfisch
3 stars HARMONIUM's debut is still dominated by folk-ish songwriter-typical songs mainly presented on admittedly excellent acoustic guitar supported by bass and drums. Every now and then we have as well some piano, flute, sax and horns. Actually the line-up description here is looking more impressive than what I can confirm by listening. The compositions on here are not very intricate, nevertheless the album is a very versatile one. It's really showing the basics where this Franco-Canadian band were starting from to become one of the best ones in mellow symphonic prog. I listened as well to their two following albums, but I've to admit, none of them ever became one of my favorites. This fact might explain why I can't rate this album here as high as my co-reviewers. Probably one should be a lover of chanson and songwriter stuff to be able to really appreciate the dreamy and soaring music of this band. Unfortunately I am not and I'm missing a bit the rock element in it although I'm anything else than a "Metalhead" I would say.

Best song IMO is Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjour à la vie giving already a premonition of what to come from them on the following album. Really beautifully played filigree acoustic guitar added up with some harp. Vielles courroies is a rather melancholic emotional piece with piano, flute and guitar. The perfect sound for relaxing moments. In the song Attends-moi ("Wait for me") they've used obviously the sound of a metronom as a kind of clock, actually quite a nice idea. All songs here are really very nice and an enjoyable listen in quiet moments.

As a CONCLUSION I'd like to say that this album is a rather good debut but only a must-have one for lovers of french chanson music and fans of the band.

Review by Philrod
4 stars This is the beginning of it all: Harmonium's eponymous album is a mix of sweet acoustic guitars, impressive lyrics, the beautiful voice of Serge Fiori, and great songwriting. This is album is not necessarily progressive, though. This much of a Quebec Folk Album with some progressive aspirations, but realy they still are not there . Mostly, this albums contains touching songs in the most simple way. No drums here, wich adds to the subtlety of the guitars and the whole atmosphere. The bass is always well used, giving a great rythm for the leading parts. In Quebec, this albums was the most popular by the band, and to this day is still a classic. Most songs were hits, and are still played in a lot of houses. For any progressive fan, this band is a gem, and needs to be known a whole lot more. Better things were still to come, but still a great debut album. 4/5
Review by Atkingani
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars "Fantastique! Extraordinaire! Incroyable!" (Amazing! Outstanding! Fabulous!)

Thanks to ProgArchives to refresh my memory and send me back more than 25 years ago when I noticed the existence of Harmonium and also had the pleasure to hear many songs in an old tape recorder. Really the tape was not mine and when the owner took it back I lost contact. Well, but those moments were great indeed.

Now, I had to make a sort of pilgrimage to recover the band's material; a hard work, fellows! But worth the price and here I am pleasantly hearing this little jewel and writing this review. The first thing that touches me is the cultural link with that Quebecois band; there's some smell of Latinity, the real one, original, back to the same roots, the same background. The other thing is that in many points their music reminds me some ballads and modinhas* from my own country that have been composed from more than 2 centuries until now - but again the roots are the same.

The songs:

'Harmonium' is a catchy opening track, good guitar and good vocal with exquisite French accent with good choir and voices. The fastest part remembers some enjoyable soft rocks of the 60s.

'Si doucement' is also fair, now guitar seems to offer some bossa nova tunes, just like the almost soothing singing. Refrain is rich with chords and a drum beat, very characteristic. A flute sound appears suddenly and it's like Ian Anderson was a guest.

'Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjour à la vie', an apparent optimistic song with some sad moments. The voice rises from soothing to exciting. Guitars sound great, too.

'Vielles courroies' seems a continuation from previous track, but now the piano and the flute are more present.

'Attends-moi' is animated, amusing, average.

'Pour un instant' is like Beatles singing in French, the beginning is very similar to Harrison's 'Here comes the sun' and the tune hovers over again along the song.

'De la chamber au salon' is the best track, although acoustic is also the most prog song of the album with changes in tunes, fascinating atmosphere, marvelous singing.

'Un musicien parmi tante d'autres' is a good ending track, the strong bass and guitar give a rocky environment together with funny and catchy vocal.

Well, my CD copy has also a bonus track, '100,000 raisons', a fair song where rhythm transits from the French chanson to a soft rock and then to a folk tune.

One will ask: 'and where are the moog, the mellotron, the electric guitars, the heavy percussion to make this album a real prog work?'. I don't mind if Harmonium is pure prog, folk-prog or prog-related or whatever; the soul of this namesake album is totally progressive.

I observed some production flaws but as a whole the work is excellent. Total: 4 stars.

* a gentle Brazilian musical style which origins can be traced to Middle Age's minstrels.

Review by Zitro
4 stars 3 2/3 Stars

What a beautiful debut from a beautiful band! This album reminds me of the beginning of Charly Garcia's music career: melodic folk/rock that anyone could like. The prominent instruments are only acoustic guitar, bass, and singing. Don't get put off by the fact that it is sung in French. Maybe I'm the guy who does not pay attention to lyrics. If you are like me, then you'll find that good vocals are more important than lyrics.

The title track tells you how the album will sound like. Catchy bass guitar, pastoral acoustic guitar playing, and absolutely gorgeous vocalizations often appearing in harmony. The ending of this song is excellent. In short, the opener is a pop masterpiece and the highlight of the self-titled album.

However, don't feel that the rest is inferior folk/rock, because it is not. Listen to a song like Aujourd'hui which features an orchestra of acoustic guitars playing rhythm, counterpoints, solos, everything. After listening to this song just now, I don't know if I can call the opener the only highlight. You got Veilles Courroies' catchy "na na na" vocalizations. The famous "Por un Instant" that has a great instrumental break is also not to be missed. De La Chambre is yet another track where there are many acoustic guitars playing with a very rich sound. "Un musicien parmi" is the longest and most complex song here featuring deeper instrumentation, including some electric piano. The vocal harmonies near the end are like a Canadian anthem. This song kind of foreshadows the masterpiece that was about to come.

In conclusion, this is a magical album, and one of the best albums I have heard in last 6 months. It is hard to believe that they came up with something even better in the next album.

Not Prog ... It doesn't have to be.

Again: Magical. Go get it! If you remotely like folk, you'll fall in love with this album.

Highlights: Harmonium, Aujord'hui, Un Musicien parmi Let Downs: Maybe Si Doucement (but It is still good)

My rating: B-

Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars In three short years, Serge Fiori and his cohorts in Harmonium broke new ground and wrote their way into the hearts of millions. While the two other studio albums Si on avait besoin d'une 5ième Saison and L'Heptade deservedly have their fans, this debut is by no means to be ignored. It is less progressive, and folkier than the works which followed but a throughly pleasing album nonetheless.

I admit that I was totally hooked by the sheer exuberance of Aujourd'hui Je Dit Bonjour A La Vie, apparently a track written from the point of view of a recovering drug user who observes the simple joy of children at play. It rides first on a folky melody, and then a lovely acoustic guitar jam featuring the talents of Michel Normandeau. Other highlights include the melancholic title track, with its upbeat bursts and nice brassy outro. The description that came to mind was that of a cross between Lindisfarne and Barclay James Harvest with a little bit of America thrown in!

Elsewhere there's Si Doucement which mixes a light jazzy Latin feel with a Tull-style flute from Pierre Daigneault, Vielles Courroies (the only track with drums ... courtesy of guest Réjean Émond) which also has lovely flute from Daigneault and an excellent oh-so-mellow outro. Pour Un Instant is another joyous piece (with hints of The Beatles' Here Comes The Sun just for a second or two) and lovely interplay between the guitars ... I believe it was an actual hit at the time.

It never gets very complex on this album, and generally each piece has quite a similar style to the next ... Un Musicien Parmi Tant d'Autres is perhaps the most diverse sounding piece (and at 7 minutes it's the longest) but actually I don't like it as much as some of the others, and that's despite the singalong chorus that closes the song out!

This is an excellent folk-rock album, but from a prog perspective, I can hardly call it a compulsory purchase. Yet, once you do immerse yourself in the second album, which is indeed an essential work, you'll really want this to see where it all began. ... 58% on the MPV scale

Review by kenethlevine
2 stars This was SO all over the FM airwaves in Quebec for years after its release that it's hard to listen to it without still feeling like it is overrated and overplayed. Yet it struck me even then how self indulgent Harmonium was, and those flaws are magnified 10-fold in the post-punk era. Indeed, this is a singer songwriter album more than a band album, with Serge Fiori having a hand in the lyrics of 5 of the 8 songs, grabbing onto one navel gazing reverie after another, and surrounded in general by the blandest of accompaniments - the strummed acoustic guitar and syncopated bass.

Apart from Fiori's affirming "Aujourd'hui je dis bonjour a la vie", the better songs tend to be those with lyrics written by Michel Normandeau - the lovely "Vieilles Courroies" and the anthemic "Pour In Instant" with its gorgeous melody and guitar technique. These three tunes represent the best of Quebecois folk rock of their era. Unfortunately they are more than offset by mundane efforts like "Attends moi" and "Si Doucement", while the finale latches on to one interesting phrase and tries to turn it into a mantra. In the end, it sounds like a plea to have us listeners pay attention to the musician just because we brought him into the world!

The fact that the self absorption on display in Harmonium's music might represent that of an entire generation of young Francophones during the early 70s might make this more valuable as a historic document than for any artistic merit. But, even there, the level of songwriting is not consistently high enough to warrant three stars.

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Harmonium chapter 1

While this is a quaint and charming collection of folksy soft rock songs it must be pointed out that this is significantly less stunning than the masterpiece that would follow it, the wonderful Saisons album. It is not awful by any means though. If you enjoy simple melodies strummed pleasantly on acoustic guitars with great vocal harmonies this might be right up your alley. There are occasional flashes of the gem that was coming especially in the ability of the music to convey a range of emotion both sad and sunny. There are some lovely flute and piano passages. Some of the tracks feature tasteful but reserved drumming. While certainly recommended to Harmonium fans who want to hear their entire musical journey, I feel it is harder to make the case that this album is essential to the wider progressive rock community. 3 ¼ stars.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars Living on the other side of the Atlantic (Belgium), I had never heard of this Canadian band in the mid seventies. I discovered it almost four years ago thanks to PA.

This album is essentially (if not all) folk-rock oriented. Acoustic, peaceful and at times melodic. Prog is not yet on the rendez-vous, I'm afraid.

Of course, I have never been into true folk music (which this album is), but since the band was referenced in the symphonic genre, I decided to give this band a try and it was rather a deception. I really wonder what's all the fuss about this release.

Some pleasant acoustic songs like Aujourd'hui Je Dis Bonjour à la Vie or Pour un instant but nothing to write home about. This album sounds different from the others of Harmonium which will be more progressive in their essence. This one is not IMHHO (in my humble and HONEST opinion).

It is fully melancholic, even a bit sad at times ("De la Chambre au Salon"). The closing number, Un musicien Parmi Tant d'Autres on the contrary is more joyful, positive. It reminds me of the quiet parts of Stagnation (From Trespass).

Two stars.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The self-titled debut album from French Canadian ( Quebec) progressive rock act Harmonium was released in 1974. Lead vocalist and guitarist Serge Fiori met Guitarist/ vocalist Michel Normandeau at a theatre music meeting in 1973 and later that same year they met bassist/ vocalist Louis Valois and they formed Harmonium.

The music on Harmonium play on this debut album is light jazzy and folky pop/ rock with progressive elements. Outstanding and beautiful vocal melodies ( and harmonies) are the main focus in the music. The music is mostly acoustic guitar driven and the two guitarists and the bassist compliment each other in an excellent fashion. There are very little drumming on the album. Besides the very simple basic instrumentation there are also occassional moments where flute, accordion, electric piano, Flugelhorn and zither harp ( whatever that is?) are present in the music. Those little changes are great for the diversity of the music.

The lyrics are in French and Harmonium really make me wish I could understand more French than I do. It doesn´t ruin the music for me that I don´t understand a word ( well a few but not enough to get the meaning), but I can understand if others feel it´s a problem. I might be missing the last dimension in the music because of my lack of French language knowledge but the music is so great it doesn´t feel like a loss. As always it´s an aquired taste if you can enjoy lyrics sung in other languages than English though.

The songs are all pretty simple but beautiful and at times even moving. At least that´s my personal reaction when I listen to the album. Songs like Harmonium, Vielles Courroies and Un musicien Parmi tant d'Autres really touches me and gives me special feeling of joy. The CD version has an extra track called 100,000 raisons which is not the best song on the album but still a welcome addition. It´s not that the music is especially challenging and on initial listen I wasn´t as happy about the album as I am today. I found it to be a pretty simple pop/ rock album. I gave it the neccessary spins though and it has payed off. The more I listen the more I enjoy the Genesis like guitars and the beautiful vocal melodies/ harmonies that makes Harmonium´s music so special.

The musicianship is excellent. Both the instrumental side of the music and especially the vocals are very well executed. Serge Fiori has a beautiful voice. He can be both deeply emotional and good humoured which is a great quality IMO.

The production is outstanding IMO. The guitar sound is so clean. One of the best acoustic guitar sounds I have ever heard on an album. Just beautiful. The sound is generally warm and pleasant. I´ve been really pleasantly surprised by this debut from Harmonium and if the music on this album is any indication of what´s in store on their second and most known album Si On Avait Besoin D'Une Cinquième Saison ( 1975) I think I´m in for a real treat with that one. This album fully deserves a 4 star rating from me.

Review by stefro
4 stars Harmonium's 1974 debut reveals the band's strong folk roots and, although it lacks the expansive style of their next two albums, it still retains the beautifully-constructed melodies that have become their trademark. Fans of Harmonium bemoan the fact that their career contains just four releases but, in truth, music lovers couldn't possibly ask for anything more. Each album displays a marked progression from the previous one and 'Harmonium', with it's softly-peddled acoustic guitars, soulful vocals and lovingly-crafted rhythms shows just how adept the band were at combining various disparate genres without ever sounding quite like anybody else. Progressive rock fans may find 'Si On Avait...' and 'L'Heptade' more to their tastes, with both of those albums building upon the original folk-orientated sound with layers of keyboards, synths and some electric guitars, but once you have explored those albums fully the next logical step is to uncover the band's simpler origins which, after several listens, prove just as exhilarating. Imagine Nick Drake was French and trapped in a lift with 'Songs From The Wood'-era Jethro Tull and a classical folk trio in love with early Genesis and Fairport Convention and you get the idea. Progressive rock in the classic sense it may not may fully be, but the scope and style of the music is highly impressive, showing exactly why Harmonium harbour legendary status amongst both the citizens of French-speaking Canada and in the progressive rock community in general.
Review by Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Harmonium' - Harmonium (6/10)

Before they became a full-fledged progressive rock act with their second album, the French Canadian act Harmonium was married to a style of folk rock, as can be hear on this debut. In 1974, the band had not yet developed their style into anything really innovative, but instead took a much more songwriting-based approach to the sound. The result is an album that has a few really good tracks and great vocal work, but doesn't come close to the perfection Harmonium would achieve with their second album.

Listening to this from a relatively more modern viewpoint, the sound here is somewhat reminiscent of the recent indie folk movement; acoustic guitars and warm vocals, with the occasional horn or flute thrown in to keep things interesting. Although this is technically a band effort, it does have the feeling of a singer-songwriter album, most often being driven only by acoustic guitars and the vocals of Serge Fiori. Of the better songs here, the title track 'Harmonium' is a really perfect way to start off the album. Organic guitar strumming and bass are the only instruments starting off, before a bouncy drum backing touches things off. A thing one really notices here is that the bass and percussion are both highly underrepresented when compared to the vocals and guitars.

Another great track here is the single 'Pour Un Instant', which was coincidentally the first song I had ever heard by this band, before I even knew they were progressive rock! Some interesting details and flourishes in the acoustic guitar work really gives an added depth to what is otherwise an already pleasant track. Unfortunately however, many of the songs here do not have the melodic tact of the single, and instead feel a bit too long for their own good, without the sort of attention that would have made them (and the album as a whole) a really good experience.

Certainly not a balanced band effort, but a charming piece of pastoral pop folk from this fine Canadian band.

Review by colorofmoney91
4 stars Harmonium is among my absolute top 5 symphonic progressive rock bands of all time, no doubt about it. The rock element here is almost nonexistent, however. This is acoustic folk composing at it's best. Though this album isn't as elaborate on their sophomore album, the music here is equally as fantastic considering that this is their debut. The mood ranges from happy to sad quite easily, and moves from slow to fast passages with ease. Did I mention that this music is beautiful? 'Cause it is. This music isn't super progressive or epic like Harmonium's later work, and this album has absolutely no connection to bands like Genesis or Yes. This is most just extremely sophisticated folk tunes sung beautifully in the French language with a Français québécois accent.
Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I am finally owner of a copy of Harmonium's debut album--one which I first heard over 25 years ago and whose magic has never been far from my internal 'wish list.' My impressions from then--which have definitely been borne out with my recent acquisition and repeated listenings--is that this is a wonderful album with an energy quite similar to that of the debut album of AMERICA, only with its lyrics sung in French. With deepened familiarity, the album has an almost too familiar feeling to it--as if it is too similar to the America album. Throughout the album there is wonderful musicianship, nice song structures, enough interesting instrumental variations (e.g. trumpet in "Harmonium," the flute in "Si doucement," children's playground voices and guitar harmonics in "Aujourd'hui...," piano and flute in "Vielles courroies," electric piano in "100.000 raisons," metronome in "Attends-moi," zither harp in "Pour un instant," ) and, of course, as always, great vocals (both Serge's leads and the group's harmonies), but all in all there is not enough really catchy, memorable melodies, lines, or riffs to make this album anything more than a good album--and certainly not one to be highly recommended for its contributions to progress, progressive music, much less prog rock (though I cannot judge its contribution to the music development within Québec). A very nice French Canadian pop album with one extraordinary song, but nothing on the par of America's eponymously titled first album.

5 star song: "Un musicien parmi tant d'autres"

4 star songs: "Si doucement," "Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjours,"

Review by Warthur
4 stars Playing prog-folk with a strong emphasis on the folk (the prog side of their formula would become stronger on Les Cinq Saisons, and dominate L'Heptade), Harmonium's debut album is charmingly beautiful, with perhaps the best treat being Serge Fiori's exceptional lead vocals. True to the Quebecois pride that underpinned their work, the unit sings in French and looks as much to French folk music as to more North American folk rock sounds in constructing their particular blend. If you are mostly here for the prog in their sound, I would suggest leaving this until after you've sampled Les Cinq Saisons or L'Heptade, but if you are coming at them from a folk rock perspective I would say this is definitely worth a try.
Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars HARMONIUM was one of Quebec's top progressive rock bands in the 70s. Started by lead vocalist / guitarist Serge Fiori and Michel Normandeau on vocals and guitar, the duo who met in 1972 decided to form a band after meeting bassist Louis Valois in 1973. Starting out as a folk rock band that sang in their native French language it didn't take too long to find airplay on a local radio station and immediately found a hit with the song "Pour Un Instant" which propelled their self-titled album which came out in 1974 in the limelight and instant success at least on a local Canadian level.

While better known for the much more progressive albums like "Si On Avait Besoin D'une Cinquieme Saison" which blended their folky stylistic approach with the benefit of sophisticated symphonic prog, this debut is by far the band's album most steeped in traditional folk flavors with the simple instrumentation of acoustic guitar, bass and only an occasional trace of drums and flugelhorn. Also an uncredited piano player joins in but for the most part this is truly a folk album with only minor aspects of rock music at all.

All tracks are sung in French which gives it an interesting ethnic vibe since the music itself sounds more like typical American folk rock with some tracks reminding me of Chile's Sui Generis but is probably most similar to another folk band called Beau Dommage. The band was quite popular in small clubs and cafes which led to this all acoustic debut album. While basically a trio of two guitars and a bass, drummer Réjean Émond joins in on about half the tracks. Like most folk music of the era, the lyrics deal with social issues and craft an emotional display of chord progressions accompanied by passionate vocals. Some even claim a Fairport Convention similarity but personally HARMONIUM was a bit more earnest in its delivery, at least at this stage.

While "Pour Un Instant" became a big hit and remains the band's most successful single, the rest of the album is actually more interesting with tracks like "Vielles courroies" and "Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjour à la vie" crafting much more adventurous harmonic interplay. While French often doesn't make the best folk rock linguistic experience, band leader Serge Fiori delivers a passionate display of vocal expressions and amazingly adapts the French lyrical flow to a more English sounding style of folk music without missing a beat. The tunes are generally mid-tempo and intently catchy and probably perfect for French speakers to sing along to which is why the album has remained their most popular in Quebec while the more progressive albums that followed have become most revered in larger circles.

This album is also interesting in that the first track is called HARMONIUM on an album of the same name from the band of the same name. After this the trio would expand into a quintet with the addition of Serge Locat on keyboards and Pierre Daigneault on flutes and clarinets. Don't expect a prog behemoth on this debut but rather a nice pleasant album of catchy melodic folk tunes sung in French with nice song structures and less developed ideas than what came after. Still after and is said and done, as a folk rock album, the HARMONIUM debut more than holds its own against the wealth of British and American folk that emerged throughout the 60s and 70s only the French connection gives this one an interesting ethnic edge that artists like Bob Dylan clearly lacked. Oh, and way cool colorful album cover art. Really stands out.

Review by Hector Enrique
4 stars Despite their brief recording career, with only three studio albums in three years (1974-1976), the French-speaking Canadians Harmoniun left a deep mark on the history of modern music in their country. Reclaiming French folkloric currents tinged with similar North American roots and a slight touch of bossa nova, the Quebec natives began their adventure with the homonymous album "Harmonium", a proposal in which acoustic melodies wrap the songs from beginning to end in an environment of peaceful harmony that is almost palpable.

The relaxed vocal register of Steve Fiori and his acoustic guitars, complemented by the second voices and the acoustic counterpoint of Michel Normandeau, form a remarkable duo that structures a content of great musical cadence not at odds with simplicity, correctly supported by the bass and the piano touches of Louis Valois.

Particular highlights are the opening "Harmoniun" with its variations of rhythm and the sweet contribution of the flugelhorn (similar to a saxophone) of guest Alan Penfold, the fluidity of "Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjour à la vie" with the enveloping introduction of birdsong and the bustle of frolicking children, and where Valois's marked bass lines support the huge instrumental acoustic development of the second half of the piece, Valois' delicate piano notes and Fiori's flute on "Vielles courroies", the beatlenian "Pour un instant", one of the album's most successful tracks, and finally the festive "Un musicien parmi tant d'autres", for whose choral harmony a dozen people were recruited on its last day of recording. A very good closing.

"Harmonium" had a more than acceptable production job despite its meagre budget (6,000 Canadian dollars (CAD) at the time, equivalent to approximately 33,000 CAD today or US$ 24,000 for a better global reference). The 2019 remastering enhances the musical appreciation of the album and pays a fitting tribute to it.

3.5 stars

Latest members reviews

3 stars 3/5 The first Harmonium album and by anyone's standards as debut albums go this is a great start and the band went on leaps and bounds for their second album 'Si On Avait Besoin D'une Cinquieme Saison' which rightly so is one of the highest rated Prog albums of all time. The eight compos ... (read more)

Report this review (#614688) | Posted by Canterzeuhl | Saturday, January 21, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Harmonium's second album Si On Avait Besoin D'Une Cinquième Saison has got a very deserving listing in ProgArchives top ten albums list. That is a truly remarkable album. So I turned my attention to this, their debut album. In fact, I have turned my attention to everything from this band. The ... (read more)

Report this review (#282869) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Friday, May 21, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars If ever genius was a word applicable to songwriting, then this is as prime an example as one is likely to encounter. One after another after another ... does this album ever stop!? It's just certified classic after certified classic. Vielles Courroies might well be in the top 20 most gorgeou ... (read more)

Report this review (#191699) | Posted by Jeff Carney | Wednesday, December 3, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Harmonium's eponym debut album is a total classic piece of art in Quebec. It is believed that every house in Quebec did have his own copy of the vinyl version of this album. As it was said before, it is not really prog-oriented but more folk. The feeling around the album is about having fun play ... (read more)

Report this review (#165094) | Posted by Ziraffe | Wednesday, March 26, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 8.5/10 Great This is a great debut, of which I heard after the incredible "Si on avait..." (5th Season). Despite how drastically different this sounds to the aura of "Si on avait...", the music on here is actually really great and highly enjoyable. The voice and great guitar work is all the ... (read more)

Report this review (#145431) | Posted by The Lost Chord | Wednesday, October 17, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars If you were of a certain age in Quebec or the Acadian part of New Brunswick, chances are that you had this album or knew someone who did. Imagine America with intelligence, jazz sense, guitar mastery (especially 12 string) & a way with melody that brought to mind symphinic prog, without the mello ... (read more)

Report this review (#113438) | Posted by | Saturday, February 24, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars One of the most beautiful, joyous and perfect albums ever. I first experienced "5ieme Saison" which kept me occupied for a couple months, several plays per day, and it was literally the only music I listened to in that period. A few weeks after the bliss subsided, I ordered this album, and "L'Hep ... (read more)

Report this review (#104983) | Posted by OGTL | Saturday, December 30, 2006 | Review Permanlink

2 stars This album, along with the following one, were lent to me by a French teacher in Grade 8. I listened the the first track, and wasn't amazed. After a few months, I began to listen to all my songs without a play count on iTunes, and discovered "Si on avait Besoin D'une 5ieme Saison", namely the trac ... (read more)

Report this review (#89882) | Posted by Shakespeare | Sunday, September 17, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Like i said in my review of "Les Cinq Saisons", i was raise with Harmonium, being my father favorite band, i had no choice, i could not avoid their music. The first one, out of three, may not be the best but, it's still a excellent album. Musically it's closer to folk, à la Shawn Phillips, but s ... (read more)

Report this review (#78266) | Posted by Fido73 | Monday, May 15, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars First album by the most known Québec prog act. First of all, I'd like say that this album isn't really prog. Maybe some prog elements are scattered troughout the songs but Harmonium is mostly a folk album... but what a good folk album it is! It doesn't have to be prog to be excellent. On with ... (read more)

Report this review (#77775) | Posted by Bern | Wednesday, May 10, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The reason why I didn't rate this album five star it's only because we are on Proarchives and this album from Harmonium is the less prog album from the band. But it's clearly a masterpiece from Québec province and should be listen by any melodic music fan. As a reviewer said: Harmonium is not ... (read more)

Report this review (#68030) | Posted by | Thursday, February 2, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars On their first album, Harmonium had already their own sound, acoustic guitars and bass with sometime flute and keyboard. If you live here in Quebec, there's a lot of chances that you already know most of these songs without even knowing who made it. This album feature awesome rythm guitar with l ... (read more)

Report this review (#41084) | Posted by White_Cluster | Sunday, July 31, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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