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Emmanuel Booz - Clochard CD (album) cover


Emmanuel Booz


Eclectic Prog

3.73 | 17 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars EB's third album stands a bit apart in his musical direction, often proposing a folkier style that seems to point to a return (a tiny bit, no more) to Restaurant d'Alice, but that seems odd when considering where his surrounding albums of Le Jour and Dans Quel Etat are heading. Not that you'd classify this album in the folk category, because its very eclectic nature guides you from electronica to rock to singer songwriter-type songs and more. Although this album would also fall in the concept category, I'd rather think of it as a collection of themes around poverty (Clochard means tramp) and alienation. With a fairly bland (and blank) artwork that does evoke the "concept" a bit, EB only kept violinist Ripoche from the previous album, but integrates the unavoidable Dugrenot on bass, the rest being studio haunters. Lyrically the album is again within the scope of a beat poet, but in a very different way than it was so with Le Jour, both albums denouncing society's failings.

The album-opening Dugrenot-penned cut, the 6-mins Un Jour Vous Partirez (one day, you'll leave) starts on electronic noises and drones, before EB starts declaiming his texts over a Terry Riley-type of synth layers (think Rainbow In Curved Air) over a Mel Collins sax line. This track is easily the only one that is reminiscent of the previous album, as the remaining tracks have an almost "punky" atmosphere: Clochard is a minimalist guitar strumming pop ditty with Booz turns in a funny yet impressive vocal performance. The following Mr Le President is another socially engaged track, but this time more complex and closer to the proghead's taste and leaves much room for instrumental interplay. The side closing Chanson Des Pendus (song to the hanged) directly warns you that the mood will be solemn, starting with a folky guitar arpeggio, and Booz returns somewhat to his Cabrel and Manset-type of singing, with only his near-medieval guitar to accompany. Awesome and poignant, almost like Bert Jansch.

The flipside opens on the breathtaking beautiful Sitting On My City's Sidewalks with some lo-freq layers, most likely coming from their Ondioline, maybe Booz' weaker vocal performance of the album, but the group's constantly changing music (Haouzi's drumming is excellent throughout the album, when he's asked to play) with Jeanneau's sax soaring up in the sky. A Vous Tous (to you all) recreates the Chanson Des Pendus' formula with the same kind of success, but the surprise is gone and execution not as dramatic and slowly picking up energy around its close. Ma Vie is sitting on layers of bass drone (I suppose the ondioline again referring to Riley) that bring much to the track's depth as Chouard's guitar is offered vast grounds to expand on, but the track is IMHO weaker. One Hundred Thousand Years is yet another stunning Dugrenot-penned track in the same mould than Trottoirs (Sidewalks), and slowly crescendos to Booz's calm singing and Jeanneau's Collins-inspired sax and later Ripoche's Ponty-esque violin, but again Booz's voice seems to be weakening a bit at times, but this is a constant with him,all along his four albums.

For the longest of times, Booz albums were unavailable legitimately on CD (there were 3on2 pirates), but recently, both Musea and Belle Antique labels reissued them remastered and in a Mi-Lp format and added bonus tracks with an extended booklet, including lyrics and history. In this case, two of the three bonus tracks (not much info given as to their context) are not penned by EB, and the first A Quoi Tu Songes (what you thinking of) and Faut Changer Le Numéro (change the number) are rather shocking because of its synthetic nature that gives it a cheap 80's electro-pop flavour, very unfitting with the original album. The closing punky and rough Obsolete My Windows might have been a better fit on Booz's next album, as well. So the three bonus tracks don't bring ny kind of real added value to the already Directionless Clochard, with three acoustic tracks, two rockers, two mini prog masterpiece and one hard-to-define opener. Although not as even or flawless as Le Jour, it still manages to pull its act together as another essential album, despite some weaker vocals on side 2. As good as it is, it still misses a bit to shine with the same brilliance as Le Jour and Dans Quel Etat.

Review updated in may 2012

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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