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(47 min, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Now 1:58 2. To Sail Out 2:31 3. Crossing 6:06 4. Lead Us Away 6:16 5. I Dream 5:07 6. Crossing II 3:13 7. Ayurveda 1:44 8. On the Sun 3:14 9. Epilog 2:38 10. On the Sun II 6:43 11. Nowhere 3:51 12. Elsewhere 3:42 LINEUP: Rafael Grenier - vocals; flute Pierre Grenier - guitars; sitar Marc Breal - keyboards Michel Breal - bass David Mura - drums, tablas With: Marion Beluse - vocalizations
Prolusion. Not much to say here either. "Lead Us Away" is the first outing by French band YOLE. If you give a glance at the lineup above, you'll see it looks in many ways like a brotherhood of brothers.
Analysis. Yet another recording very well reproducing the magic aura of the vintage progressive era! In fact, these French guys have just recreated the early-'70s classic art-rock sound - flawlessly, perfectly, unbelievably precisely! Okay, some of the music on "Lead Us Away" does indeed lead us away from the idiom of Symphonic Progressive (sorry if the joke's not too convincing), but it never loses its fascination. Three of the disc's twelve tracks contain lyrics, and although Rafael Grenier's English is accented, his singing is so emotive, additionally so well suiting the album's general atmosphere, that I am sure not only such Anglophiles as I, but also those for whom English is their first language will not take the matter as a flaw. Five of the nine instrumentals include vocalizations from both Rafael and guest female singer Marion Beluse, though these are just details. While echoes of some famous progressive bands (to be named in due course) can be heard on many tracks here, Yole's specific melodic sense discriminates their playing from their influences in all cases, save the opening cut, Now, and the very beginning of its successor, To Sail Out. The former is a very tasteful, masterfully executed acoustic guitar piece, so does it really matter that it is much in the same vein as Steve Howe's Mood for a Day, occasionally evoking Please Don't Touch by Steve Hackett? Now's track list counterpart, Elsewhere, is a kindred creation and is fine, although Pierre Grenier's fingering is far from being sophisticated this time around. The bass line in the introductory theme of To Sail Out very strongly resembles the one that Yes's Heart of the Sunrise begins with, but then the subsequent content of this instrumental track brings nothing to mind but the thought "It's quintessential vintage Symphonic Progressive in all its glory". Alternating vocal-based and purely instrumental arrangements, the title track and On the Sun both also are multi-faceted art-rock compositions, full of vibrant creative energy, abundant in whatever a true progressive heart desires: quick-witted playing, intelligent flute and keyboard (mainly organ and piano) work, warm and elegant guitar and bass phrasings, intricate drumming and an overall charm that gets shivers going up and down your spine already the first time you hear these. Allusions: Camel's eponymous debut album, "Fragile" by Yes and "Foxtrot" by Genesis. Epilog and On the Sun-II both develop a similar stylistic plot, but are relatively more transparent, the latter deploying tablas instead of a drum kit, having a nearly chamber feeling, additionally revealing improvisations and being generally almost another story - a kind of bridge between European and Asian music on the one hand and a symphonic and a jazz harmony on the other. Contradictions? Personally I am not afraid of these:-). Crossing, I Dream, Crossing II and Ayurveda, each builds a strong Indian music-inflected theme with sitar, flute, piano, acoustic guitar and tablas, and while comparisons with the mid-'70s work of Jade Warrior are in places inevitable, these are still excellently crafted pieces, full of patterned textures and moody atmospheres, eliciting an immediate emotional response. Abundant in 'naturalistic' effects, the next-to-last track, Nowhere, is somewhat far-fetched, but anyway I wouldn't dare to call it a makeweight.
Conclusion. Yole's debut effort is a direct nod to the glorious past of our beloved genre, having really much to offer to connoisseurs of Art-Rock and related styles. If this disc had been released in the '70s it would have gone down in history as one of the notable works of the era. Top-20-2006
VM: March 1, 2007
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