Reviews:


Hugues Chantraine 8-Sep-2006 Overview

Harmonium

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 judgment, 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 were 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 piece on here and the lyrics reach almost Gabriel 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 and 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.

Si On Avait Besoin D'une Cinquième Saison

One of my top ten. This is simply the perfection made human. Listen to 'Depuis L' Automne ' or the last fifth season for uncontrollable tears of joy, shivers down the spine, and goose bumps all over. I think that Vivaldi and his Four Seasons are definitely as good as this album so he can go back to his eternal sleep. This is simply stupendous. 'Spring' is a standard Harmonium piece and 'Summer' is as the title suggest very swingy and festive but unusual for them. 'Autumn' is the first highlight and renders all the Indian Summer beauty (and sometimes sadness/melancholy) of that season. Side 2 starts with 'Winter' and as you might have guessed is somber and cold, but as you know that around the corner is ..... The fifth season: 'Histoire Sans Paroles'. The apex of the album: Mellotrons succeed to the Martenot Waves and comes in the twin acoustic guitars. This number is the longest and contains few vocals mostly wordless but the music is really enthralling consistently evolving, jumping from the flute to the clarinet to delightful bells to mellotrons to flute again. The fifth and last number takes you to unexpected heaven with no hope of coming back except than to play it again.

L'Heptade

Somewhat very different of the previous two in the sound but another full blown epic sometimes longish but unlike previously, very somber and depressing but with the same sense of harmonies and melodies. This however does not affect the musicianship and the artistic value of this great oeuvre. Just do not expect a "Sixth Season", this is far away from that album but in some way the subject is still the same - alienation. No wonder after this one they called it quits. Neil Chotem's orchestrations on the first disc are certainly beautiful but rather uneventful and therefore rather longish and does not survive intense repeated listening. Most of the better stuff is on the first disc and 'Comme Un Fou' and 'L'Exil' are superb. The second disc bears the same problem as "Lamb On Broadway" - the inspiration was waning by Side 3 and you get the feeling that there are fillers. This ambitious project was simply seen as the crowning achievement for Harmonium and Normandeau who was the second writer in the group left as the album was nearing completion not able to agree on the direction of the music.

En Tournee

“En Tournee” is “L'heptade” done in full in concert in 77, just released after the band stopped to exist in 1980. Strangely enough this was recorded in Vancouver where theoretically the band would have less support as the linguistic tensions were at a peak, but then again politics were the furthest thing away from youngsters into Harmonium. The orchestral arrangements are replaced with more keyboards and some numbers are longer, one even going into a jam session and another number is extended by a section that was not present on the studio album. Although the oeuvre is respected , the whole thing is a bit looser and jazzier.




Mike McLatchey 18-August-2001 En Tournee

Harmonium's swan song was the oft-forgotten, double-live album En Tournee. It's possible it was overlooked due to it being basically a live version of Harmonium's last studio album L'Heptade. In 1980, Harmonium's line up had changed substantially, losing two of the main songwriters, Neil Chotem and Michel Normandeau, but still forming a dual-keys, dual-guitar sextet large enough to reproduce the music live. While Harmonium are quite a different group from the days of their first two albums being, generally, less folky and sublime, they still could pull of an accessible yet elaborate symphonic rock with flair and do so throughout this live rendition of L'Heptade. There are really no big surprises to mention here as this is largely true to the studio version, and it might seem redundant to casual listeners who already own it. But for fans of the band, this will likely be a welcome, if duplicative, document. Newcomers to the group are urged to seek out either the studio L'Heptade or the less overtly mainstream, mellotron classic Si on Avait Besoin d'une Cinquieme Saison.



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