Harmonium
Harmonium


4.0
excellent

Review

by JP Patino Izquierdo USER (17 Reviews)
July 7th, 2015 | 32 replies


Release Date: 1974 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The beginning of the career of one of the best obscure prog bands

Most of the good Prog Rock has lyrics in english, basically because all the classic bands like Yes, Pink Floyd or King Crimson come from the United Kingdom; there are a few exceptions to this rule though, for example we have the Andean Rock from Latin America with lyrics in spanish or the RPI with lyrics in italian. However it seems that we're missing a language that we all love, the language of love: French, and there's where Harmonium kicks in.

The band formed in Montreal in 1972 and would later release albums like Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison and l'Heptade, that are now considered the biggest classics in the Quebec prog scene. Sadly most people tend to forget their debut, an album that doesn't reach the status of a stone cold classic but that's still full of beautiful moments and that is indeed, an excellent LP.

Harmonium's debut is way more folk oriented than the rest of the albums by the band, we can appreciate an extremly well performed acoustic guitar work that manages to sound great in both, the slower and the faster moments of the album. We can also perceive Serge Fiori's vocals, probably Harmonium's stamp, always full of emotion and of course, in french, since the band stated in the documentary Harmonium en Californie that they wanted to bring their own culture to the english speaking public and that they would never sing in english even if that meant way more sales like some italians bands did (*cough* PFM *cough*). There's also something that we wouldn't see in later Harmonium albums: A powerful bass; Louis Valois does and excellent work with the instrument and it is great accompanying the acoustic guitar and the vocals, because as stated earlier, Harmonium isn't as proggy as the band's later albums which means there won't be a big variety of instruments.

Probably the best thing in the album are the climaxes in many of the songs (something typical in the band), the opener that starts as a beautiful and cheerful ballad that then transmutes into a beautiful combination of vocal harmonies and a trumpet, or how gorgeous is the guitar in the best moments of songs like Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjour a la vie or the vocal harmonies in Vieilles courroies or Un musicien parmi tant d'autres.

However not everything in the album is the definition of perfect folk, some of the songs just won't kick in: Attends-moi, De la chambre au salon or the song that, ironically made the band famous, Pour un Instant, all of these songs end the same way as they started and there's nothing really special or memorable on them being even a little bit repetitive. At the end of the day these songs are nothing but pretty folk ballads without anything truly special.

Harmonium's debut is not even close to being a classic, however there are many, MANY moments on it that are just jaw-dropping and that were the proof of the band's talent that would later explode in their other albums. The folkier sound found in here also makes of the debut the most "intimate" of the band's albums, creating a warmer and cheerful sound that's full of emotion, specially in the vocals and the guitar, which create a nice atmosphere that will make the listener to follow the catchier rhythms of the songs without even noticing it.

While not perfect, Harmonium is still an essential album for every folk-prog lover and it is absolutely necessary to understand the evolution in the band's sound.

In 1974 Harmonium were:

Serge Fiori - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Michel Normandeau - Backing Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Louis Valois - Bass



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user ratings (90)
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
MrSirLordGentleman
July 7th 2015


12694 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

As I promised Jethro, this would be my first review when I finished my exams, hope you enjoy it. As always, writing in english is extremly tough for me since it isn't my first language so I can't guarantee there won't be any typos, so please let me know if there's one so I can fix it.



This album really needed a review



Harmonium - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJ_1TBjdPm0

Un musicien parmi tant d'autres - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkDNsKPLXaM

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
July 7th 2015


18723 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I was considering reviewing this myself, but you've saved me the trouble. gj, pos

Digging: Opeth - In Cauda Venenum

MrSirLordGentleman
July 7th 2015


12694 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Thanks dude, yeah there had to be a review for this even if it isn't as good as the other Harmonium albums

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
July 7th 2015


18924 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

you're my fucking hero m8



i don't have to write about this album now

Digging: Doopees - Doopee Time

MrSirLordGentleman
July 7th 2015


12694 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Wow, so this was on everyone's plans, huh?

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
July 7th 2015


18924 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I've had this on my backlog for almost two years

Jethro42
July 7th 2015


15958 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

You make me happy, SirLord. I almost like this album as much as Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison and L'Heptade, but for different reasons. Their eponymous album is more straightforward, more easy to grasp than the other albums, and I find that bits and pieces of it are still more enjoyable on here.



And thanks to do the French promotion so well! ;)

beefshoes
July 7th 2015


7517 Comments


Still not jammed this. Is it similar to the following two albums?

Digging: State Faults - Clairvoyant

MrSirLordGentleman
July 7th 2015


12694 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

It is a little bit similar to their second, but a little bit folkier and with some pretty catchy moments. Check the tracks that I left in the comments, they show a general perspective of the album's sound, the opener is one of the band's best songs

Jethro42
July 7th 2015


15958 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Harmonium - 5/5

Si Doucement - 4/5

Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjour à la vie - 5/5

Vieilles Courroies - 5/5

100,000 Raisons - 4/5

Attends-moi - 4.5/5

Pour un Instant - 4/5

De la Chambre au Salon - 4/5

Un Musicien Parmi Tant d'Autres - 5/5



Album is that great.







MrSirLordGentleman
July 7th 2015


12694 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Ehhh don't agree that much, but the songs that you gave a 5/5 are definitely the best ones in here. Perfect songs indeed

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
July 7th 2015


18924 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Album has traits of what would make Harmonium, well, Harmonium, though this is more folkier and is more akin to Octobre's debut. Funny how both bands' debut albums were folk-tinged and both went in very directions after wards. Harmonium went in a more symphonic/classical direction, while Octobre went in a more funk/straightforward rock direction.

Jethro42
July 7th 2015


15958 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Album has a sentimental value for me. I have series of great souvenirs connected with it. I seriously think that the lyrics are an important part of it, and they enhance the beauty of the songs. Maybe I gave too much 4.5 and not enough 3.5, but I tried to be as objective as we can be. Several francophones consider the album a classic.

MrSirLordGentleman
July 7th 2015


12694 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

It is closer to a 4.5 than to a 3.5 for me

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
July 7th 2015


18924 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I think it's a solid 4.



I haven't heard it in a while, so maybe I'll get to bumping the rating up soon enough?

MrSirLordGentleman
July 7th 2015


12694 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I listen to it a lot, but I don't think I'll bump it, but as I said, the best songs in here are on pair with the band's later material

Jethro42
July 7th 2015


15958 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@Fripp, Octobre's origines were more bluesy tinted with symphonic prog, with occasionally funky touches. If you can find their live ''Un Chant Dans La Nuit'', or Octobre 1972-1989, you can detect it. Harmonium was definitely influenced by Octobre. Too bad the band remains undiscovered here in sput. Your Octobre review was very good.

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
July 7th 2015


18924 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Yeah, I've been meaning to check their live album (along with their other albums, which are considerably cheap on Discogs) though getting myself a copy of Si on Avait takes priority as I only have L'Heptade and its live companion album.

Jethro42
July 8th 2015


15958 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Ok I see...If you're interested, Harmonium En Tournée needs a review ;)



Octobre's Chants dans la Nuit;



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnTi7MrpZq4



This live album is their very best...live. L'Oiseau Rouge is a pure bliss.

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2015


18924 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Alright, I'll give it a look sometime tonight. Thanks!



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