France / Belgium
Titles are arranged alphabetically with recent additions highlighted in yellow.
A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-T | U-Z
This French band, led by brothers Philippe and François Claerhout (guitars and keyboards) and assisted by numerous guests and friends, have succeeded in creating a delicate, ambitious, and eclectic form of symphonic progressive rock. On their first two albums, they mix instrumental pieces and songs in a style somewhat similar to Mike Oldfield, Iona, or later Camel. Even though the band has a very capable female vocalist (lyrics in English), the music is predominantly instrumental, with influences of Celtic and medieval music. Their first album The Lost Frontier (1996), about Hadrian’s Wall, includes contributions from Dan Ar Bras as well as keyboardist Mickey Simmonds (Fish, Camel, Renaissance, solo).
This Is is a live CD recorded in France and Mexico in 1998. While drawn mostly from The Lost Frontier, there are also tracks that would appear on the next two studio albums, plus two medieval-sounding pieces performed with Jean-Luc and Thierry Payssan of Minimum Vital.
19 musicians contributed to Odyssées (1999), their 74-minute second album, including Minimum Vital and Dan Ar Bras. Melodic and delicate, Odyssées integrates a good dose of Celtic and French folk, mesmerizing and perfect for late at night.
Claude Monet Vol. 1 (2002) is the third album from Douze Alfonso. It comes in a beautiful slipcase with a 52-page booklet in both English and French. This is the first part of the most ambitious project ever imagined by a French band: three albums about the last years of the life of Claude Monet (the French impressionist painter). XII Alfonso have been working for many years on this project, using the artist’s paintings, his letters and memoirs -- the huge booklet is itself a work of art. 16 concise pieces (four songs, the rest instrumental) suggest impressions of moments of Monet’s life and creations. This fully impressionist music includes old French songs rearranged, refined atmospheres conveyed by the keyboard parts, eclectic rhythm work, and guitar solos. The band is assisted by several other musicians, including a female singer, a harpist, a second keyboardist, and several guitarists; Ian Bairnson (Kate Bush, Alan Parsons, Wings) contributes a guitar solo. But the melodies are the most essential element of this beautiful album. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Claude Monet Vol. 2 (2005) is subtitled 1889-1904 and comes in a digipack with a full-color, 50-page, wide format booklet in both French and English which is in itself a valuable overview of Monet’s work during this period. These 17 instrumental pieces span 74-minutes, an original music that perhaps comes closest to Isildurs Bane. It ranges from symphonic rock to neo-classical to French popular music. While there are quite a few ethnic instruments in the mix, it is the most French sounding album to date for XII Alfonso, which is appropriate given the subject matter. Mickey Simmonds wrote one track and plays piano on another.
Under (2009, 63-minutes) is entirely instrumental. XII Alfonso’s original Camel and Mike Oldfield style shines through in spots now, but their brand of progressive is now closer to that of Jean Pascal Boffo and Isildurs Bane, with hints of modern King Crimson. It is sophisticated contemporary progressive rock big on atmosphere, usually a mellow late-night ambience, incorporating ambient, jazz, classical, and world music elements. The lyrical guitar work of Philippe Claerhout, both acoustic and electric, is a highlight. The booklet is in English and some of the tracks incorporate dialog from 1960s American television as well as Martin Luther King’s famous speech. In a word, seductive.
Charles Darwin (2012, digibook) is XII Alfonso’s crowning achievement, a triple-CD with each disc an hour long, 22 songs and 30 instrumentals, with a 76-page color booklet in a digibook (hardcover). To name just some of the guest musicians: John Helliwell (Supertramp), Maggie Reilly (best known as singer for Mike Oldfield), Mickey Simmonds, Terry Oldfield, John Hackett, Robin Boult (Fish), Ian Bairnson, David Paton (Alan Parsons Project), Francis Dunnery (It Bites, solo), Michael Manring, Tim Renwick, and Ton Scherpenzeel (Kayak). Read the Progplanet review. Counts as 2.5 CDs for shipping.
Don’t be deterred by this band’s name; their music has little to do with Genesis of that period. Abacab grew out of the band Contresens that formed in the early 1990s, so Mal de Terre (2009, 79-minutes) is more sophisticated than one would expect from a debut album. The music is along the lines of Nemo or recent Ange, hard-edged yet balanced between keys and guitar, complex but still reasonably melodic, with touches of jazz-rock and French lyrics delivered by a quality singer. Read the Background Magazine review.
This is a great find for the Musea label. Acanthe existed from 1973-1977 but did not release an album until this 2009 CD. Some tapes of the band’s music were recently rediscovered, and after much restoration work by band leader Frederic Leoz in his studio, we have Someone Somewhere. This release is a godsend for French progressive fans. Acanthe’s music sits somewhere between Pulsar and Ange, that is, between the more Pink Floyd influenced and the Genesis and early King Crimson influenced French camps. There is a good balance between instrumental and vocal passages, with lyrics in both English and French, and lots of classic keyboards. Read the Proggnosis and DPRP reviews.
French quartet Acintya made only one studio album, 1978’s La Cité des Dieux Oubliés, containing top-notch instrumental symphonic prog. Musea reissued the album on vinyl way back when, but it took until 2012 for this first appearance on CD. The music features solemn and majestic keyboards, including the organ of Saint-Nicolas-De-Port’s famous basilica, and inspired violin playing. Acintya come closest to the neo-classical progressive style of Wapassou. This CD adds two bonus tracks, captured during one of the first rehearsals by the band in 1976.
Musea also found a live performance in the vaults. The CD In Live was recorded in Nancy in early 1979. At this time, Acintya were a trio without the violin, relying more on the rhythm section. They perform most of the studio album plus three unreleased tracks. YouTube has the live version of Adyane.
Yggdrasil (1994, 71-minutes) is the only album by French neo-prog band Afterglow, who sing in English. File this next to Clepsydra. Read reviews at Prog Archives. (There is an audio sample there.) This mini-LP edition is the 2009 limited edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight cardboard sleeve.
The Way Things End (2011, 61-minutes, digipack) follows a 2001 debut CD and 2003 EP for this French band. Akin are definitely a contemporary prog band, i.e., the lead guitarist sometimes plays metal, there is nothing in the music to suggest they’re French, and we wouldn’t be surprised if they’d never heard of Atoll, Mona Lisa, Pulsar, Magma, etc. The core of the band is seven persons including female lead vocals (in English), keyboards, flute, guitars, bass and drums. What elevates this album above the pack is the presence of a string quartet, not used for a chamber music flavor but rather in the manner of any rock band that features violin, viola, or cello prominently. Other guests add third world instruments. File Akin somewhere in the vicinity of The Reasoning, though Akin are distinct. When they add metal to the mix, they begin to sound as pedestrian as any prog-metal band, but when they leave it out, they stand above their peers. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
Alkemy are a French progressive rock quartet (guitar/vocals, keys, bass, drums). The vocals on this 2004 CD are in excellent English though and there is nothing in the music that gives away Alkemy’s origin. They play a fairly unique blend of rock and fusion, mixing the energy, form, and rhythms of rock with the harmony, soloing, and precision of fusion. The rock side of their music gets heavy at times, reflecting influences that range from Dream Theater and Queensrÿche to Chick Corea Elektric Band, Miles Davis, and Pat Metheny Group. For a hard fusion album, there are a lot of vocals, and though it’s not easy to construct vocal lines that fit over the complex chord progressions, they are melodic enough. Alkemy are at their best when they rein in the metal guitar and play soaring, complex progressive rock/fusion, bringing them close to the first UK lineup. 63-minutes.
Serum of Life (2011) is the debut for French prog band Alkozaur, who list their influences as Genesis, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, and Porcupine Tree. Alkozaur sing in English with both male and female vocals. Listen to Sarah Smiles and Forget the Sun on YouTube.
This live double-CD was recorded in 1995 during the farewell tour of the original Ange line-up. It is full of classic Ange tracks, including Au Delà du Délire in its entirety. Originally a limited edition, this recording was later divided into two separate CDs: Rideau! and A... Dieu, but it’s now available again unbroken (and less expensive).
With over 3.5 million albums sold and six gold records in France, Ange is a French progressive rock institution. Culinaire Lingus (2001, 74-minutes) is now available at a reasonable price, thanks to a reissue by Musea. As Musea says, this album has been described by many critics as the best recent album by the band, and one can sense the enthusiasm of the musicians in both the writing and playing. Christian’s vocals are brilliant: theatrical, humorous and sensitive as in the old days, and the young musicians around him are talented and inspired.
La Voiture à Eau (1999, 73-minutes) is a very fine album. Ange had already done their farewell tour in 1995, then Christian Decamps formed a new Ange with his talented son Tristan on keys plus other younger musicians. This version of the band has proven to be superior to all the post-1980 lineups.
Their double live album Rêves-Parties was recorded in 1997, 1998, and 2000, three different shows, one of them with a symphony orchestra. Two hours of Ange live, including old classics such as Godevin le Vilain and Hymne a la Vie, as well as more recent favorites such as Quasimodo and 3ème Etoile a Gauche.
Tome 87 is a live CD of a legendary Ange concert. In 1987, the original lineup of Ange reunited for this concert, playing their progressive material. The sound is superb, as is the material and the energy level; this is the best Ange live recording we’ve heard. An exclusive bonus video track (playable on a computer) is included, a 2001 interview of the charismatic Christian Decamps.
In 2009, Musea launched a program to remaster and reissue the Ange CDs in mini-LP sleeves. Caricatures (1972) is Ange’s first album. Ange’s playing and songwriting would develop more on the following albums, but Caricatures has a darker, less polished sound that endears it to many Ange fans. Tome VI was a 1977 live double-LP covering the classic era of the band, with the added stage energy improving upon the studio versions.
Guet-Apens (1978) was not only Ange’s last progressive album before they dumbed down their style for the 1980s, it is among their very best albums period. It is the album where they use the most Mellotron, and it includes some of their best compositions.
Moteur! (1981) was Ange’s second album of the 1980s. Like Genesis, Yes, and just about every other prog band on a major label during that decade, Ange were forced to shift to a more commercial style. La Gare de Troyes (1983) was Ange’s fourth album of the 1980s and at least was a cut above their two preceding albums, with the 9:18 Tout bleu! the highlight, while the title track remained in their live set for a long time.
The true leader of the French rock scene in the mid-seventies, Ange naturally desired some success outside France. Not that the foreign public didn’t appreciated the group, but that may have been more for the sound of Ange’s French-language vocals, while the band’s compositional talents may have been overlooked. That is the context that led Ange to produce By the Sons of Mandrin, the English translation of Par les Fils de Mandrin (1976), one of the major works in Ange’s discography. This remains the only Ange record with English lyrics. For reasons long lost and which perhaps only band leader Christian Decamps could shed light on, this album was never released. It remained hidden in a disused lavatory in the basement of Universal until Musea got them to drag it out. Since this is many people’s choice for best Ange album, it’s fortunate this is the one available in English, and fortunate Musea made the effort.
Tome VI (1977), the 2LP live album covering Ange’s most creative period, was perhaps not the best testimony to Ange’s power in concert. Nearly 26 years later, we have En Concert - Par les Fils De Mandrin Millésimé 1977, a live show recorded in front of 6000+ fans. This CD includes the live performance of the entire album Par les Fils de Mandrin (1976), the peak of the band’s success and creativity, plus 16 minutes of material from previous albums. Check our DVDs page for Ange’s DVDs.
Christian Décamps is the singer and leader of Ange. The Mes Vers Solitaires DVD (NTSC, all-region) captures his one man show in 1993 near Belfort. Christian sings, plays guitar and keyboards, tells tales and performs sketches (in French), all with his characteristic humor, charisma, and intensity. The songs are taken from his solo career, Ange classics (Ode à Emile), plus two Jacques Brel covers. One hour and 40 minutes.
Juste une Ligne Bleue was recorded in 1990. At this time, it had been more than three years since the original Ange lineup had been reactivated, resulting in the album Sève Qui Peut. The album and tour were a huge success in France. It was at this time that the band’s charismatic singer decided to record a new Christian Decamps & Fils (& Son) album, eleven years after Le Mal d’Adam. Juste une Ligne Bleue is faithful to the poetic world of Ange’s lyricist. Most of Ange’s musicians are present here: Claude Demet, Daniel Haas, Robert Defer, and of course Tristan Decamps. Those who’ve seen Ange perform recently know that Tristan has become both an accomplished keyboardist and an incredible singer. The duo sound positively inspired on Murmures (2004, 66-minutes). Members of Ange past and present handle most of the instrumental parts, the end result being that Murmures is better than many of the Ange albums. Mesmerizing.
L’Ange Vert play a potent fusion of Breton (Celtic) folk and rock, more progressive than most of the Celtic-rock bands. They are recommended to fans of Malicorne and the various Breton electric-folk bands. Le Sang des Hommes (1995) and Tempete & Chatiments (1999) are full of great melodies, with excellent vocals in French. Instrumentation includes bombarde, mandolin, and tin whistle in addition to electric & acoustic guitars, bass, and drums. This band is full of charm and old world spirit.
This French progressive band was first heard on a 1986 7" single, followed by an appearance on Musea’s Enchantement various artists compilation. Anoxie operated in what was the worst time for progressive rock in most of western Europe, after the first generation of bands but prior to the revival. Anoxie never did complete the album they intended, but their members went on to Silver Lining and XII Alfonso. This CD contains remastered versions of the two tracks from the single and various unpublished tracks and demos, 14 total. Read reviews at Prog Archives; there is an audio sample there as well.
Next World (1999) is an instrumental guitarist’s album with diverse influences including Spanish, Moorish, traditional French, pop, rock, etc. Ansker, a Breton, has been influenced by Dan Ar Bras. He also supplies keyboard backdrops while other musicians help out on bass and drums. On Also Imagus, also from 1999, Ansker leads a large number of musicians on an album of high-quality jazz-rock, melodic and structured.
This is the CD reissue of a French classic from 1978, built upon tension-filled melodic structures in the vein of King Crimson’s Larks’ Tongues In Aspic and dramatic French-language vocals a la Ange. Four bonus tracks.
These are French progressive classics from 1979 and 1980 from a band that included Turkish as well as French members. The vocals are in English, aside from a couple songs sung in Turkish. Asia Minor succeeded in creating a highly original progressive rock, subtly infusing Middle Eastern influences into Anglo-prog. The instrumental complexity and melodic originality made them one of the top French progressive bands of their time.
With Tadj Mahall Gates (2002, 60-minutes), this band appeared on the scene fully-mature and must be considered one of the top French progressive bands of recent years. Aside Beside are one of those rare bands who have so successfully absorbed the influences of the 1970s prog bands that the result sounds original and not comparable to any one or two bands. One would have to mention Genesis, early King Crimson, Pulsar, a bit of the Canterbury style, and perhaps Camel when flute is used, but there are many other influences subtly integrated, resulting in an impressive variety to the tracks. The intimacy and romanticism immediately distinguishes them from the pretenders of today, while the instrumental/vocal balance is as you would expect on a 1970s-style prog album. Their singer sings in English quite respectably, though the mix often de-emphasizes the lead vocals somewhat. If progressive rock in the 21st century is capable of producing a classic that will be looked upon as a reference in the future, this is as good a candidate as any.
Maybe the top French symphonic progressive band ever. Atoll featured a full keyboard sound with lead work on guitar and violin, highly arranged with lots of tight playing. L’Araignee-Mal (1975) and Tertio (1977) are their masterpieces. L’Araignee-Mal has some fusion that is largely absent from Tertio. If you can buy only one CD on this page, either L’Araignee-Mal or Tertio is the one to get. Atoll’s debut Musiciens-Magiciens (1974) is a fine album, and though the next two albums would eclipse it, it is still superior to many other French progressive albums.
Rock Puzzle (1978) was Atoll’s fourth album. While not up to the level of their previous two albums, it is still very worthwhile and includes six bonus tracks, three of which are songs recorded in 1981 with John Wetton. One of those, Here Comes the Feeling, should be pretty familiar. Rock Puzzle comes in a reproduction of the LP jacket. The others are the jewel box editions. (The mini-LP editions of the others are out-of-print.)
Of late, the Atoll name is being used by leader and guitarist Christian Beya. L’Océan was initially released in 1989 in Japan and was very successful there. The band included Beya and new musicians. The music is more mainstream than the original Atoll and sounds like a late-1980s production, but it’s far from a bad album; it’s kind of like 90125 Yes is to classic Yes. This 2006 re-edition adds three bonus tracks: two live songs and an unreleased track, and two of the original songs have been re-recorded. Listen to the title track on YouTube.
After the initial release of L’Océan, nothing was heard from Atoll until Illian: J’entends gronder la terre (2003), a fine symphonic prog album, though one can’t listen to it with the expectation of hearing 70s Atoll, for this is a different band. While there are plenty of keyboards, the band is led by a guitarist and so the arrangements are usually somewhat guitar-centric. Once expectations have been recalibrated, it is very enjoyable; the Yes influence and some of the old Atoll magic are there. Illian: I Hear the Earth (2014) is the new English language version. This appears to be an entirely new recording of the album done over a two year period, given that the cast of musicians aside from Beya is almost entirely different from the French version.
Boulevard of Broken Dreams (1992) is the debut by a French neo-prog band singing in English. This mini-LP edition is the 2009 edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight cardboard sleeve.
Chris Audren is a composer/musician who recorded Opus One, his first solo album in 1995, a melodic rock album with beautiful instrumental parts, close to GTR. Gwen Menez (2002, 71-minutes) represents a complete change in style. This is outstanding instrumental Celtic-influenced music, both rock and atmospheric new age, heavily influenced by Mike Oldfield though a bit more keyboard-oriented and drawing from the Breton tradition. Multi-instrumentalist Audren adds many Celtic instruments to his mix, which is definitely progressive and symphonic. Like Oldfield’s works, Gwen Menez is full of great melodies, counter-melodies, and infectious rhythms, and any fan of Oldfield will likely fall in love with this album.
Jean Michel Jarre plays the music of Genesis? Backyards is the project of Frenchman Marc Devidal, former keyboardist of Merlin and Morrigan, who uses keyboards and programmed drums to play instrumental symphonic rock / synth rock with a strong Tony Banks influence evident. The Banks style is more prevalent on Horizon (2011), while 2eden (2012) would more fairly be described as heavy, rock-oriented synth music, though the two albums are not terribly different. YouTube has the songs Presto and So Close To.
André Balzer is none other than the lead singer of Atoll, one of the major French 1970s progressive rock bands. The singer from Metz was able to deliver an unmistakable theatrical sensibility, a unique personality, and a remarkable voice. After Balzer’s tenure with Atoll, little was heard from him until this 2011 CD. Entre l’Alpha & l’Oméga - Opus I could be regarded as a concept album of progressive rock songs exploring various themes, linked by short narrations. Balzer is assisted here by some of the best musicians in northeast France, including Caroline Crozat (Ange), Alain Wittische, and even Raoul Leininger, the singer who replaced Balzer in Atoll during the 1980s! YouTube has the song Lundi 5 au Soir.
The Black Noodle Project are a Parisian progressive rock band who sing in English, formed in 2001 by guitarist/singer Jérémie Grima. Deeply influenced by Pink Floyd, the music on And Life Goes On (2005, 60-minutes) is both atmospheric and dynamic, with warm, moody vocals and a predominant emotion of quiet despair. It also reminds one of another Floyd-influenced French band, namely Pulsar, though The Black Noodle Project are more modern and aggressive. Good piano work and a guest cellist complement Grima’s guitar and voice.
There were a few lineup changes for Play Again (2006, 60-minutes, digipack), with a second guitarist added and guests on violin and sax and a female vocalist. The music no longer sounds much like Pulsar, though the Pink Floyd influence is still very strong. Play Again shows more of a distinct personality and greater intensity, with some heavy riffs balancing the band’s more melancholy and atmospheric tendencies. This digipack edition adds two live bonus tracks.
Eleonore (2008, digipack) is their third. It’s a beautiful package, but the keyboardist left the band, and now they’re trying to make the same type of dark, depressing Pink Floyd style album using only two guitarists, bass and drums in addition to the vocals. Die-hard Pink Floyd fans will likely still enjoy Eleonore provided they don’t mind the occasional metal content. But progressive rock requires tone colors beyond just guitars -- that’s taught on Day 1 of prog school.
Ready to Go (2010) is a return to form, with the band signing to the Polish Oskar label, who say: “After having travelled in some cold and heavy lands with their great third album Eleonore, the French prog band is now back with an eclectic, moving and magnificent progressive rock album. All the songs of this 65-minute album are painted with beautiful melodies and deep emotions, and the band has never been so touching and exciting. The Pink Floyd influences are still there: slow and melancholic melodies, light voice... but these influences are completely digested, as the band has developed a strong identity and a sound that is recognizable from the first chord to the last. Moving from beautiful mid-tempo songs to heavy walls of emotions, The Black Noodle Project has recorded an album that has everything needed to become a prog rock classic.”
Ghosts & Memories (2013, digipack) sees TBNP moving closer to the Anathema style while also incorporating influences of old movie soundtracks, but it’s still all about Pink Floyd, who seem to be the only classic prog band many current-generation prog bands have listened to, or maybe the only one dark and depressing enough. Watch the official video for the track They Live, We Sleep. Lots more The Black Noodle Project videos can be found on YouTube.
Alain Blesing is a French guitarist known for having been part of the progressive rock band Eskaton, considered as one of the most gifted disciples of Magma. After Eskaton, he studied musicology and moved into jazz and improvisation. Now firmly established on the French scene, Blesing returns to his roots and publishes a CD of covers, recorded in the club Le Triton with eight other musicians. Songs from the Beginning (2007, 67-minutes) presents legendary songs such as Slightly All the Time (Soft Machine), Beautiful as the Moon (Henry Cow), California (Led Zeppelin), Mumps (Hatfield and the North), 1983 (Jimi Hendrix), Behind Blue Eyes (The Who) and Fracture (King Crimson), with even the non-Canterbury songs done in Canterbury style. Blesing’s notoriety helped attract John Greaves and Hugh Hopper, who respectively assume singing and bass duties here. As Blesing remarks in the liner notes, the audience reaction showed that Canterbury music is still popular, and not simply as nostalgia.
Jean Pascal Boffo is a French progressive artist of prodigious talent who has consistently explored new directions over the course of his career. He was in fact the first artist signed by Musea. Jeux de Nains (1986) is his beautiful and more personal first album, a collection of mostly shorter pieces influenced by Anthony Phillips and Steve Hackett. Boffo plays guitar, bass, and percussion, while two other musicians assist on synths and percussion. Unfortunately, his next two albums are currently out-of-print, and they’re our favorites of his. On his 1987 second album Carillons, his band expanded to a quartet and the result is a higher-energy album close to Steve Hackett’s music, electric and orchestral. Rituel (1991), his third, is a stunning Enid-like symphonic work, employing a large number of musicians on classical instruments.
Nomades (1993) changes style again to an ethnic-fusion with Arabic sounds that can easily compete with the better-known American progenitors of this style. Offrande (1995, digipack) is an adept synthesis of progressive rock, fusion, and ethnic music, beautifully structured, arranged, and orchestrated. Vu du Ciel (1998) is a synthesis of all the styles Boffo had explored to this point: progressive rock, fusion, classical, and world music.
Parfum d’Etoiles (2000) is one of Boffo’s best. The big change on this album is the addition of a great female vocalist, singing in both French and English. As usual, Boffo gathers a host of quality musicians around him on a variety of instruments, and Boffo’s guitar playing is superb, a bit of a French version of Steve Hackett. This is mature progressive rock with classical and jazz influences perfectly integrated.
For Boffo’s eighth album (2004, digipack), he’s turned the “8” on its side, thus the title Infini (Infinity). Once again, Boffo is exploring new directions. Here he handles everything himself: guitars, sequences, keyboards, samples, and loops. Everything is propelled by rhythm loops that are of the alien-sounding variety, rarely mimicking acoustic drums. The result is a jazz-tinged electronica with a consistent character: hypnotic, dreamlike, generally with a dark and slightly uneasy ambience, a muted energy that creates an otherworldly feel. The sound is not predominantly electronic though, as Boffo’s various guitar tones are the most prominent textures, and the sophisticated harmonic vocabulary (the clearest link to Boffo’s last few albums) makes this far more musical than most music that relies on loops and samples. Fans of Robert Fripp’s work will find a kindred spirit in Jean Pascal Boffo. Read the Allmusic review.
On Le Chant des Fleurs (2013, digipack), Boffo has something like 23 other musicians helping out. Watch the album teaser video and the video for the song Zephyrus and Chloris.
This is an all-star project assembled by singer and rock journalist John Bollenberg, who composed the music along with Swedish guitarist Bjorn Johansson. Among the contributors are Rick Wakeman, Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Pär Lindh (who also produced the album), Bryan Josh and Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn), Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings), and William Kopecky (Kopecky), as well as a choir. This concept album is described as a musical journey through myths and legends of medieval Brugge (Bruges), the magical Belgian town that may be the best preserved medieval city in Europe. Bollenberg acquits himself adequately as a singer, even if his voice is unlikely to give anyone goose bumps. Some excellent performances as you’d expect from these musicians, to go with an intriguing medieval-flavored prog album.
Emmanuel Booz is a French musician, singer, composer, and (more recently) actor who made three important albums during the 1970s. Long in need of legitimate CD issues, Musea came to the rescue and, in 2011-2012, reissued the second, third and fourth Emmanuel Booz albums in these mini-LP sleeve CDs. Booz employed some well-known French musicians, including violinists Michel Ripoche, Didier Lockwood, Jean-Louis Mahjun, and Pierre Blanchard, bassist Joël Dugrenot, woodwind player François Jeanneau, and many others. These albums are quite different from each other. Dans Quel Etat J’Erre (1979) is the one most responsible for Booz’s fame in the progressive rock universe, so start there. Clochard (1976) has more acoustic guitar and folky parts yet is still band-oriented, with substantial instrumental sections. Le Jour où les Vaches (1974) features string arrangements by William Sheller. Clochard has three bonus tracks taken from Booz’s private collection; Dans Quel Etat J’Erre has one long (13:48) bonus track. Le Jour où les Vaches has three bonus tracks, two of which are from 1980. Read the Prog Archives and Gnosis overviews.
Christian Boule was the guitarist for Clearlight, played with Gong, and was Steve Hillage’s second guitarist onstage until 1980. On his second solo record Non-Fiction (1979), Boule is assisted by keyboardist Jean-Philippe Rykiel and many other French musicians. Tim Blake plays on one of the bonus tracks. Boule plays glissando guitar in spacey progressive music reminiscent of the first works by Hillage and also of Gong. The CD includes two bonus tracks from 1998 with Tim Blake and other musicians.
Le Peuple des Songes (2008, 69-minutes, digipack) features French actor Christian Brendel providing theatrical spoken word over the dark progressive rock of a five-piece band whose sound is based around Crimson-esque guitar, jazzy flute and vibraphone. The mood is somber, while the music has some Canterbury influence, a suggestion of Magma in the bass playing, and similarities to Pulsar’s Bienvenue au Conseil d’Administration album. Read the DPRP review.
Classics from one of the top French symphonic progressive bands ever. En Regardant Passer le Temps is from 1976, with remastering performed in 1994 to clean up the sound for this CD reissue. Cueille le Jour (1977) features one bonus track. Carpe Diem was a highly original and extraordinarily creative progressive band that should be considered alongside PFM, Caravan, and Camel.
Regarded as one of the most brilliant French guitar virtuosos, known as a onetime rock guitarist who fell in love with the classical guitar, Philippe Cauvin is one of the most authentic artists of the world’s progressive scene, a musician who has written poignant, previously unheard melodies. Leader of the band Uppsala, Cauvin is above all an innovative acoustic guitarist who created a unique style for his instrument: a strange mix of rock, early music, and contemporary music. The most unusual aspect of his albums is his voice, a counter-tenor (a falsetto with strength) singing imaginary words meant to evoke dreams.
Climage is the CD reissue of Cauvin’s 1982 solo album. Mixing medieval flavors and contemporary sounds, Cauvin invented an inspired blend of church prayer and progressive rock. Instrumentally, the main instrument is Cauvin’s classical guitar, but he has invented a new role for it. He adds electric guitar at times, and on some tracks is assisted by Serge Korjanevski on synths, a percussionist, and a drummer (on one track). Climage was the result of five years of composing and performing, during and after Cauvin’s work with Uppsala. The album received unanimous acclaim from the French music press. It’s music from another planet, not comparable to anything else, beautiful, eerie and moving. Five bonus tracks take the CD up to 58-minutes.
Memento (1984) goes one step beyond Climage. It includes an ambitious epic composition, a 20-minute suite for classical guitar, guitar-synth and voices. Serge Korjanevski again assists on keyboards. Five unreleased bonus tracks are included, recorded in 1980, 1989 and 1996. Adventurous, fascinating, mystical, and with that unusual voice, unlike anything else. 63-minutes.
These are two related CDs by a band led by French keyboardist/singer Jean Jacques Chardeau. Both are tri-fold digipacks. The parent album Hors Portée: Integraal is a long one that was recorded in 2005, mixed in 5.1 surround and released on DVD. Highlight (68-minutes) contains stereo mixes of some of the tracks and includes vocals, while Instrumental Sélection (78-minutes) contains different versions and different tracks, all of which are instrumental. Among the well-known musicians on these albums are violinist Jerry Goodman and bassist Bernard Paganotti, alongside many others. Violin is used extensively. The music is progressive rock with fusion, classical, world music, and ambient aspects; pure class and quality throughout. If you can buy only one, then our choice is Highlight, as the vocals are a big asset and pull the music toward modern Ange. But the two sound quite different and are really intended as a set. The DPRP and Sea of Tranquility reviews will attempt to explain everything.
Pluies Acides (2006, digipack) is the second album by a French trio of guitar/vocals, bass and drums, with a female singer on two tracks and two of the members adding some piano and organ. It’s an energetic rock album with touches of metal. Progressive influences are slight until the final track which, in complete contrast to the rest, is a sophisticated orchestral piece. Lyrics in both French and English. Read the Progressor review.
Clearlight is one of the classic French 1970s progressive bands, led by keyboardist Cyrille Verdeaux and featuring many luminaries of the French scene. A hallmark of their style is the mix of classical romanticism and space influences. Clearlight became the first French progressive rock band signed to a major British label, namely Virgin Records. Their first album Clearlight Symphony (1974) features Tim Blake, Steve Hillage, Christian Boule, Gilbert Artman, and Didier Malherbe. This is the 2014 jewel case edition on Gonzo.
After the first album, Clearlight dropped the ‘Symphony’ from their name. Forever Blowing Bubbles (1975), their second, includes three bonus tracks. It features jazz-rock mixed with spaciness and includes Joel Dugrenot, David Cross, Artman, and Boule. Les Contes du Singe Fou (1976) is their third and most symphonic work and is our favorite. It again features Dugrenot on bass along with Didier Lockwood on violin and Tim Blake on synths. Visions (1978) features Lockwood, Boule, and Malherbe on the sessions along with many others. It blends classical, jazz-rock, and Indian music into a progressive mélange. The CD features seven bonus tracks!
Infinite Symphony (2003, digipack, 67-minutes) features artwork by Paul Whitehead. As Cyrille Verdeaux has made his home in California for many years, Clearlight here features a mostly American lineup, with the late Shaun Guerin on drums on this album, plus the venerable Didier Malherbe on flute and sax on several tracks. Despite the passage of time, this sounds like vintage Clearlight, with the addition of Shaun’s very Peter Gabriel-like vocals on one track.
Impressionist Symphony (2014) celebrates the 40th anniversary of Clearlight Symphony. For the new symphony, Cyrille is reunited with Tim Blake, Steve Hillage, and Didier Malherbe and joined by other friends new and old including Paul Sears (The Muffins) on eight extended compositions. Impressionist Symphony continues Cyrille’s return to progressive rock, which began with 2013’s Spirits Burning & Clearlight - Healthy Music in Large Doses CD, which features Cyrille and many members of the prog and space rock communities. Impressionist Symphony is the album Clearlight fans had been waiting for Cyrille to make for many years. Read the Jerry Lucky and All About Jazz reviews. Watch the album teaser video.
Delired Cameleon Family was the soundtrack to a 1974 French film, recorded by a crew of French musicians including Verdeaux, Dugrenot, Artman, and Blake from Clearlight. This is weirder than the Clearlight albums, very psychedelic and probably drug-assisted.
Ethnicolors (1999) utilizes ethnic chants and samples in conjunction with tribal and house grooves to create a sound we’ll call techno-prog.
Guitarist Jean-Pierre Llabador was the leader of the French fusion band Coincidence, who released two albums: Coincidence (1976) and Clef de Ciel (1978). This 2007 2CD set contains three albums. Disc 1 contains all but one track of the two Coincidence albums, the first time on CD for either. Disc 2 contains Jean-Pierre Llabador’s 2007 solo album New Incidences. Jean-Pierre formed Coincidence with his brother, keyboardist/guitarist Jean-Claude Llabador. After recording two Coincidence albums, Jean-Claude died in an auto accident. With a melodic and dynamic approach to instrumental fusion, Coincidence was among the better European fusion bands. Composing and recording guitar instrumentals for 30 years, Jean-Pierre Llabador has released numerous albums in France and abroad. New Incidences carries on the jazz guitar instrumental sound that he so deftly explored in the 80s and 90s. Read the Gnosis2000 review of the Coincidence albums.
After an initial release on Musea, this 2CD set was released in the U.S. in a superior format. The two discs are in pockets inside a 32-page, 8.5" x 11" book, color on the covers (inside and out) and black & white on the inner pages. Paul Whitehead provided the cover art, and this set includes a poster of the full illustration. This is another epic concept album organized by the Finnish prog magazine Colossus. This one is based on one of the seven wonders of the ancient world: The Colossus of Rhodes, and also Sergio Leone’s film of the same name. Six bands contribute new progressive epics: Leviathan (Italy), Greenwall (Italy), Sinkadus (Sweden), Mad Crayon (Italy), Velvet Desperados (Finland), and Revelation (Italy). Once again, Colossus asked the musicians to respect the 1970s spirit and sound, so there is plenty of Mellotron and other analog keys. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Cos were a Belgian band active during the 1970s and 1980s. They blended rock, jazz, classical, and folk music in a unique and slightly bizarre style, with complex arrangements, lyrical female vocals, and subtle instrumental combinations. They are often grouped with Magma and Zao, but Cos have their own style: lighter, whimsical, with a sense of humor and charm. Babel (1978) was Cos’s third. This 2010 edition on Musea was remastered from the original tapes in 2009. The seven tracks of the original album are augmented by music for a ballet (Pro Arte Gymnastica, performed live in Antwerp in 1979), plus three tracks recorded live in Hannover two years later. (These are the same bonus tracks found on the earlier Japanese CD edition.) Read the Cos overview at Gnosis.
The double-CD How to Reach Infinity (2012) is the second album for Cosmos Dream, the ambient prog rock project of Charles Roman, son of Jacques Roman of Pulsar. Musea says the music moves slowly from progressive rock inspired by Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, and Pulsar to ambient music in the style of Brian Eno or Vangelis. Roman says that this is his The Wall, as he was greatly inspired after seeing Roger Waters perform The Wall in 2011. Listen to the track Fear and War part II on YouTube. More info on the Cosmos Dream site. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Thierry Crusem is a singer and producer who has worked for ten years with several French rock bands. This album with his band Le Zipo System sounds similar to Ange, not a symphonic album like Ange’s 1970s output, but more progressive than their 1980s output. Assisted by talented and experienced guests such as Thierry Sidhoum (Ange) and Jean-Pascal Boffo, Thierry Crusem offers a powerful, complex, and dense rock music with sophisticated, often progressive arrangements. His expressive singing is bound to remind listeners of Ange’s Christian Decamps. 72-minutes, digipack.
Ampulla Magnifying (2009, 66-minutes) is the debut for a French quintet singing in English (apart from one song in Spanish). The Daedalus Spirit Orchestra play an eclectic, slightly off the beaten path progressive rock somewhat in the vein of The Mars Volta and King Crimson, balancing complexity and accessibility. In addition to guitars, keys, bass and drums, the fifth member plays flute (and vibraphone, but mostly flute), which adds a welcome extra dimension. Read the Music Street Journal and DPRP reviews.
Tabula Rasa (2012, 61-minutes) is their second. Read the DPRP review.
The Musea label in conjunction with the Finnish magazine Colossus continue their excellent series of various artists progressive rock concept CDs with their biggest project ever, based on Dante’s The Divine Comedy. Following Dante’s book, the organizers divided the project into three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso, each a 4-CD set! Dante’s Inferno: The Divine Comedy Part I features 34 songs by 34 artists adhering to the rules for all these Colossus projects, that is, no programmed drums and only 1970s vintage progressive sounds and inspiration. The artists include: Nuova Era, Yesterdays, Little Tragedies, Lady Lake, Greenwall, Nemo, Nexus, Flamborough Head, Colossus Project, Court, Willowglass, Wicked Minds, Brighteye Brison, Ars Nova, Il Castello di Atlante, Groovector, CAP, Sinkadus, Viima, Notabene, Entrance, Advent, Contrappunto Project, Corte Aulica, Raimundo Rodulfo, Tempano, Nathan Mahl, Simon Says, and more; a veritable who’s who of the current progressive scene.
Dante’s Purgatorio: The Divine Comedy Part II features 36 tracks by Simon Says, Nemo, Raimundo Rodulfo, Ten Midnight, Willowglass, Contrappunto Project, Sophya Baccini, Nexus, Nuova Era, Survival, Little Tragedies, Armalite, Phideaux, Entrance, Maxwell’s Demon, RAK, Colossus Project, Mad Crayon, Tabula Smaragdina, Lady Lake, Groovector, Flamborough Head, Yesterdays, Equilibrio Vital, Jinetes Negros, and more.
Dante’s Paradiso: The Divine Comedy Part III features 36 tracks by Marco Lo Muscio, Little Tragedies, La Nuova Era, Greenwall, Nexus, Brighteye Brison, Faveravola, Groovector, Roz Vitalis, Jaime Rosas, Simon Says, Colossus Project, Jinetes Negros, Nemo, Daal, Kotebel, Tabula Smaragdina, Raimundo Rodulfo, Flamborough Head, Lady Lake, Yesterdays, and more. Each set counts as 3 CDs for shipping.
Deboco is the late Eric Delaunay from Tiemko on drums, Jean Pascal Boffo on guitars, and Gilles Coppin from Halloween on keyboards, who are among the best French musicians. On this 1997 album, each composed a theme and had it arranged separately by the other two musicians, for a total of nine pieces.
The self-titled 2010 digipack debut CD for female-fronted French prog band Delusion Squared is a 59-minute concept album sung in English. Through the early part of the CD, the impression is of an alt-rock band making a prog album, on a par with The Reasoning in terms of progressiveness. Partly this is because the vocals are often dry (little or no reverb), with that modern female vocal style that we like to call ‘slightly uninterested’. But one notices many elegant touches, how Delusion Squared leave more space in the mix and how both guitarist and keyboardist use their acoustic instruments more than their contemporaries. The album gets more progressive as it goes on, with the best material saved for last. The vocals become lusher and the metal-influenced guitar used on a couple early tracks vanishes, such that by the end it feels closer to Yes, Strawbs, or Renaissance than to contemporary bands.
“This is very Porcupine Tree,... the band settling into a steady groove with subtle variations of tones, textures and colours, and flourishes and embellishments rather than soloing... I found this a mesmerising listening experience, aural hypnotherapy, the trance only broken when the last track finished. This has the makings of a prog classic, 8.5/10” [Ravenheart Music]
“Take Porcupine Tree’s spacey elements as a base, augment them with a strong reliance upon clean acoustic guitar, then bind them all together with compellingly beautiful female vocals and you have a decent idea where neo-proggers Delusion Squared are coming from sonically. ...Delusion Squared ‘held back’ their very best material until last, for it is during the final trio of atmospheric, beautiful and compelling songs that they soar to their greatest heights, indelibly carving out such an infectious and unforgettable sonic presence that I find myself involuntarily, almost instinctively scrambling for the replay button each time the album draws to a close. [Progpositivity, Prog Archives] Read more reviews at Prog Archives and JerryLucky.com.
Delusion Squared II (2012, 60-minutes, digipack) follows a similar pattern in that the band get their more metal-tinged material out of the way early on, then the music becomes lusher and more elaborated, with more acoustic textures, more real symphonic rock. Unlike the first album, the listener doesn’t need to wait as long before the more refined stuff takes over. There are some official extracts on YouTube.
Delusion Squared complete the trilogy with The Final Delusion (2014, digipack). See the album mini-site for full info, and read the Sea of Tranquility review. Listen to the album preview.
French band Drama began as a very good symphonic progressive band in the Edhels vein. Their self-titled debut is from 1996, while Flying Over the 21st Century (currently out-of-print) is from 1998.
Drama returned in 2005 with Stigmata of Change (64-minutes), with lineup changes including a new singer and all songs sung in English. Stigmata of Change is on the Cyclops label, who describe this CD as “a classy sophisticated affair, a concept album portraying a story of unrequited love… a big symphonic feel mixed with lovely intelligent songs and some long instrumental passages. The keyboard work has some fine textures and sounds reminding one at times of Tony Banks’ work in mid-period Genesis. Mix this with a slightly later Pink Floyd feel generated by fine guitar work and a touch of Pineapple Thief and you have an idea of the sound of this great new opus.” Drama are not copying any well-worn styles here. This album is different from their first two CDs, more modern sounding and often more “open”. That is, there is greater use of space, texture, and atmosphere, the way Peter Gabriel’s music is and Genesis’ music isn’t. Or wasn’t. But Drama switch gears often and do launch into traditional symphonic progressive instrumental passages or lush vocal sections. It’s one of those albums that only reveals itself after repeated listens, with enough depth and originality to reward the effort.
This 1995 album is mostly-instrumental progressive rock with world music influences, featuring guitar, flute, violin, keys, bass and drums, close at times to Peter Gabriel or the later Jean Pascal Boffo albums.
French symphonic prog band Eclat began under the name Eclat de Vers on their 1991 debut album, originally influenced by Ange, becoming more instrumental and with more of a jazz-rock bent as their career progressed. They’ve always had an excellent guitarist in Alain Chiarazzo. The singer on the Eclat de Vers album was very good but he didn’t stick around, thus the band became more instrumental. Their third album Volume 3 is from 1997.
Le Cri de la Terre is their 2002 studio CD, featuring a Paul Whitehead cover. About five years had passed since the previous Eclat studio CD, and the band made great strides in that time. Mostly instrumental, this album is their best to date, with both keys and guitar providing excitement in equal measure. Live au Roucas is a live CD recorded in 2007. Read the DPRP review.
L’Esprit du Cercle (2012) picks up where Le Cri de la Terre left off ten years earlier. It is entirely instrumental, like Brand X with a healthy dose of symphonic prog added, plus the characteristic French flair. Jerry Marotta guests, Paul Whitehead again provided the cover art. YouTube has the track Muse et Ame.
Edhels is a French band that made a big impression on prog fans in the 1980s with their first two CDs Oriental Christmas and Still Dream. After that, Edhels became more of a solo vehicle for guitarist Marc Ceccotti, and subsequent albums failed to reach the same level. On Saltimbanques (2004), Ceccotti is joined by two other musicians who between them cover guitars, keyboards, bass and percussion (the drums are samples), but it still lacks the dynamics and power of the first two Edhels albums. This is enjoyable if viewed as a guitarist’s solo album. Like many French progressive musicians, Ceccotti favors minor keys and darker atmospheres. There has always been a little Fripp in his playing, but by now his style is his own.
Universal is the “lost” 1998 live album that was not released until 2005. It sounds different than any other Edhels album. For one, these are all new tracks written between 1995-1998. Aside from the obvious live feel, this one has vocals throughout, a new feature for Edhels. Singer Jean-Marc Bastianelly sings in fine English, and there are some female vocals in spots. The music is less symphonic than the best Edhels, with more of a hard fusion edge. One might confuse Edhels for an American band on this CD. Ceccotti is a fine guitarist, and his playing is the highlight as usual.
Allée des Tilleuls (1976) is the CD reissue of the first Edition Speciale album. Three bonus tracks are included which were demos for this album. Their first album is full of vocals and is surprisingly melodic, a uniquely French style of progressive rock with fusion overtones and a slight funk touch. Listening to this, it becomes evident where the roots of Minimum Vital’s vocal style lie. Those familiar with the Minimum Vital albums circa Esprit d’Amor can use them as a reference point, though of course this album is a product of its time and so has much more of a 70s sound. Edition Speciale were a quartet of keys, guitar, bass, and drums, with three members singing. The keys rely heavily on Fender Rhodes but also include ARP Odyssey, a modular Oberheim, and organ. Vocals are in both English and French, more so the latter.
Aliquante (1977) is the CD reissue of the second Edition Speciale album, with two bonus tracks. With this album, Edition Speciale emerged as one of the most important French jazz-rock bands, influenced both by American fusion (e.g., Return to Forever, Weather Report) and British progressive rock. The song and funk aspects of their first album have largely disappeared, with vocals used only on the second half of the album. The music is more in the vein of Brand X and fellow Frenchmen Spheroe.
The CD reissue of the third Edition Speciale album Horizon Digital (1978) adds five 1980 bonus tracks, demos for a fourth album that was never released. Horizon Digital is in the same style as Aliquante and is generally regarded as their best album. With the addition of percussionist Mireille Bauer (Gong) to the lineup, Edition Speciale had two female members, which may be unequaled by any other fusion band. Essential French fusion.
This French band is composed of a keyboardist/guitarist, violinist/bassist, and drummer, all of whom sing. They are augmented on Dreamland (2009) by a string quartet. Dreamland is the audio version of a complete show based on the Edgar Allan Poe poem, with a dancer and lightshow. Eidolon often recall Pink Floyd and Pulsar. Since the poem isn’t that long, the recitation of it occupies only a small portion of this CD. The music is mostly-instrumental, retro and atmospheric, alternating contemplative/ambient moments with passages featuring electric guitar, sometimes lyrical and sometimes wilder, while the keyboards are dominated by organ. The atmospheres are enhanced by melancholic soft vocals. A respectable album that certainly stands alone and doesn’t require a visual element. Here is a video which provides a good sample of the music of Dreamland. (Probably just as well the dancer can’t be on the CD.)
If memory serves, this was one of the first albums released by Musea, but only on vinyl. The only prior CD issue is believed to be on Si-Wan in Korea, long out-of-print. This mini-LP edition is the 2010 limited edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight cardboard sleeve. Sabbat is from 1986, and it bears the same relationship to Ange, Mona Lisa, and Atoll as IQ does to Genesis. In other words, Elixir play the classic style of French symphonic prog updated with some of the 1980s energy and directness.
Ellips is a band formed by Alexis and Charles Roman, the two sons of keyboardist Jacques Roman of Pulsar. Charles previously released two albums under the name Cosmos Dream. In Ellips, Alexis plays keyboards and sings (in English), while Charles plays both guitar and keys. The band is completed by a bassist and drummer, and a guitarist/singer guests. Sight (2014) is their debut, alt-prog with a strong ambient side that runs in the family. Listen to the track Alive and the short album teaser on YouTube.
Elohim was, along with Edhels, one of the top 1980s French progressive bands. This CD includes all of Elohim’s recorded output: the complete Mana Perdu album, originally released as a self-produced LP in 1983; Ego, recorded in 1987 for the Musea compilation Enchantement; two tracks recorded live during rehearsals; and an independent recording made after the release of the album. The band was often compared to Ange for their theatrical singing, but Atoll may be the better comparison, especially their Tertio album. Half of Elohim went on to form the band Hecenia. Read the AllMusic review.
Elora are a prog band from Marseille (France) along the lines of Nemo or a hard-edged Ange, with male and female vocals in French (thankfully), which gives the music that special character. The long title track of their debut Crash (2013, digipack) finishes very Floydian. Elora already have invitations to four renowned European prog festivals. Watch the album trailer.
The 2006 debut by this French band could be called prog-metal, but it may be unfair to condemn it to the prog-metal bin, as the outbursts of metal are infrequent. It’s more of a dark progressive album that is certainly colored by the band’s metal mindset, but the music has acoustic, melodic, and peaceful moments, varying all the way to pastoral Genesis-like 12-string passages. Just four long tracks ranging from 9:30 to 17:49, sung in English.
Exclusive Raja is a French progressive quartet. Off the Map (1994) and Insubmersible (1995) both feature a mix of instrumental and vocal tracks, with almost all of the vocals in English. Instrumentally they owe a debt to Robert Fripp and King Crimson, but there is also a lot of their own style of rock and jazz-rock, the net result being more melodic and flowing than King Crimson. The vocals are understated and melancholy (think Camel). Off the Map is the more vocal and song-oriented of the two albums and features a 5-minute song called The Beatles Complete. It’s all quality music.
Exode are a French band led by Roland Lelong, a French singer and songwriter who once shared the stage with Ange. Six other musicians complete Exode’s line-up, including a female singer/flute player. Their 2005 debut D’ici et D’ailleurs is directly connected to the golden age of French progressive rock (the 1970s), stylistically between Ange and Mona Lisa. Roland’s theatrical singing; the Mellotron, organ and piano; the flute and the acid-toned guitar are the focal points of this album. At 72-minutes long, this is like discovering an unknown double-LP of prime French sympho-prog. Read the Proggnosis review.
Eye 2 Eye (formerly Eye to Eye) are a French progressive rock band singing in English, formed in 2003 by former members of ADN and soon joined by other musicians. Their 2006 debut One in Every Crowd features intense symphonic rock, influenced somewhat by Pink Floyd but more by Marillion, though they sound distinct from either. The mood is consistently dark and dramatic. The keyboardist says he loves Banco’s Darwin album, and one can hear some of that classical influence. After a minor change in spelling, Eye 2 Eye returned in 2009 with a new singer and new bassist and their second studio CD After All. The style is essentially the same: dark, powerful symphonic rock influenced by Pink Floyd and early Marillion but more symphonic than either, with lots of massed strings and choir pads. The bombastic style recalls Arena at times.
The Wish (2011) is a conceptual work based on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. It’s the band’s most ambitious and probably best work so far. Read the Background Magazine review.
Belgian band Fish on Friday play a pop/prog blend that reviewers often compare to The Alan Parsons Project. The man corresponding to Parsons in Fish on Friday is keyboardist/vocalist Frank Van Bogaert, who owns one of the top studios in Belgium. Godspeed (2014, digipack) is Fish on Friday’s third but their first for the Esoteric Antenna label (Esoteric’s imprint for new music). “The addition of renowned bassist Nick Beggs and the ever-busy saxophonist and flautist Theo Travis has only enhanced and added a certain elegance to the sound on Godspeed. Fish on Friday have generated comparisons to The Alan Parsons Project, not only musically but also in terms of it being a producer/engineer-led project. That trend is continued here, most notably on Radio and Stay, which recall the Parsons album Pyramid. There’s also a hint of Yes that pops up during Godspeed. Yet it’s not all about recreating the triumphs of the 70s, and Ghost Song is almost Steven Wilson-esque in stature. There are also countless original twists on Sanctuary and Tick-Tock, confirming that Fish on Friday possess a readily identifiable sound. Ultimately, it’s an outstanding, articulate and impeccably presented album.” [Prog Magazine] Watch the album preview video.
This is the CD reissue of the 1977 debut album from the band led by Patrick Forgas, who was greatly influenced by the Canterbury style, beginning with the second Soft Machine album. There are a number of prominent musicians in the lineup on Cocktail, which is Patrick Forgas (drums, vocals, percussion, guitar, bass, organ), Jean-Pierre Fouquey (keyboards), Gérard Prévost (bass), Laurent Roubach (guitars), Patrick Tilleman (violin), Patrick Lemercier (violin), François Debricon (sax, flute), and Bruce Grant (sax). The first side of the LP is instrumental. The second side of the LP has a few vocals and is taken up by the long piece My Trip, which is the highlight of the album. This CD adds 13 bonus tracks, most fairly short. One reviewer describes this album as a mix of later Traffic and Jean-Luc Ponty.
While World in Motion (2014, mini-LP sleeve) is the debut by a Belgian prog band, Fossil Evolution’s pedigree is surprising. Those whose core competencies include progressive rock know that Isopoda were, along with early Machiavel, the top Belgian sympho-prog band. After releasing albums in 1978 and 1981, Isopoda reunited briefly in 2004 for two concerts. They reunited a second time in 2013, with the band lineup augmented by two of founding member Arnold De Schepper’s three sons. Arnold had already formed Fossil Evolution with all his sons and were to be joined by Isopoda keyboardist Luc Vanhove. However, Luc passed away in 2013, so the lineup was completed by the school friend of one of the sons. World in Motion consists of five original tracks and one fully-reworked adaptation of the Isopoda classic Considering, which has gone from 8 minutes to 12:37 and now includes trumpet passages -- it’s better than the original! The album blends the Isopoda style with more contemporary influences, with the primary appeal being to neo-prog fans. Watch the album trailer video.
Ghiribizzi is a Belgian symphonic prog band whose first album Zep Tepi was released in 2001 when they were a trio of guitars, keys, and keys/drums. They then added three musicians so that Panta Rhei (2005) has three keyboardists in the lineup as well as a dedicated bassist and drummer. Even so, the keyboards and guitar are in balance. The music is melodic and has been described as a cross between early Marillion and Kayak. It isn’t overly Marillion-influenced, but the lead vocalist does have some Fish character in his voice and delivery. Or think of Kayak’s Max Werner with his voice shifted down into Fish’s frequency range. The music does have aspects of Kayak but is more bombastic and modern, meaning hard-edged. With four members who sing, there are frequent harmony vocals, majestic in a Queen sort of way.
Circuit Rewiring (2010) sees some personnel changes but no major shift in style. The music is very upbeat, sort of a streamlined version of Kayak and Machiavel (before those bands streamlined their own sound). Ghiribizzi is to Kayak/Machiavel as Saga is to Genesis. Or something like that.
This 1998 CD is from a French instrumental fusion band led by ex-members of Neo and Atoll, with an appearance by American bass player Stuart Hamm. Using lots of keyboards and blending progressive rock with their jazz-rock, this is often comparable to Kenso.
A little-known French melodic symphonic prog CD from 1990, with vocals in both French and English. The French-language tracks may remind listeners of 90s Ange, while the English-language tracks suggest Tai Phong or Machiavel.
The first thing to clear up about this Belgian band is that they don’t have a violinist. The band name refers to Marc Chagall’s painting “Green Violinist”. More Thrill & Never Ending Blessings (2013) is their debut, published by the Swiss prog label Galileo. Born from the depression and personal transformation of bandleader Vincent Dufresne, the music is generally melancholy and sometimes grim (though the song Shy People is upbeat). The album is moving and poignant; whether it touches the listener deeply will of course hinge on whether the listener resonates with the emotions within the music or the demons Dufresne is exorcising. Read the Prog Archives, All About Jazz, and Dangerdog reviews.
Brieg Guerveno is a Breton guitarist/singer/songwriter with a bassist and drummer behind him. His second album Ar Bed Kloz (2014) is full of heavy, guitar-centric modern prog, notable for being sung in Breton. Keyboards and traditional Celtic instruments are snuck in here and there. Read the UrbanKelt review. Watch the album promo video.
A superb French progressive band, lyrical and romantic. The Halloween sound is dominated by violin and keyboards, with guitar, bass, and drums completing the lineup. Their music is full of darkness and tension that resolves into beautiful climaxes. The CD of their debut Part One (1988) includes two live bonus tracks. Laz (1990), their second, is for some their classic.
Their third album Merlin (1994) was the first to add female vocals. The music here is not as dark nor as violent as on the previous two albums, but it is more orchestrated and theatrical. Silence... is their 1998 live album, which includes a Van der Graaf Generator cover. Le Festin (2001) continues in a similar style to Merlin, with (mostly) female vocals in both English and French. The mini-LP editions are the 2009 limited editions released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which come in heavyweight cardboard sleeves (gatefold for Merlin).
Wonderful, lush Genesis-inspired albums from one of the best second-generation French progressive bands, founded by former Elohim members. Legendes was originally released on LP in 1989 and was an instant classic. Three of the four long tracks were remixed and had the guitar parts replaced in 1991. The guitar got a lot louder, not necessarily for the better. This mini-LP edition is the 2008 limited edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a gatefold cardboard sleeve. La Couleur du Feu is from 1994.
This is Mellow Records 2012 reissue of the 1977 album by Belgian keyboardist Luc Henrion. In addition to piano, organ, harpsichord, and Polymoog, Henrion also plays guitar, zither, bass, and drums on this instrumental album. “Luc Henrion’s Galerie LP blends contemporary piano music and progressive instrumental rock through clever arrangements and mix down. Despite the cover art, Galerie is not a solo piano record, and most tracks are based on elaborate compositions for harpsichord, guitar, and organ, among other instruments. In its structure and inspiration, the LP draws from Mussorgski’s Pictures at an Exhibition, 1874, a series of piano preludes each after an artwork by Russian architect Viktor Hartmann. Track titles in Galerie all refer to an art movement or specific technique, and the entire album is conceived as a museum visit. The prominent use of piano on most tracks complete the analogy with Pictures at an Exhibition.”
This is the CD reissue of a 1979 Zeuhl (Magma-influenced) album with four bonus tracks (one live), actually closer to the likes of Zao and Weidorje than Magma themselves. Read reviews at Prog Archives. This CD is the 2009 mini-LP sleeve edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight cardboard sleeve.
Mellow Records has reissued this impossibly rare LP from the Futura label, recorded in 1971 in Nice, France by an improvisational quartet. This is avant-garde sound collage, free jazz, and general weirding-off, with the sax making various unpleasant noises over a musical bed of clanking chains and slamming doors. To truly appreciate this, it probably helps to be insane.
Hurry Hurry are so called not because they’re in a rush or like Rush but because they are two Australian brothers, Wayne and Rob Hurry. They first released Life (2010, 73-minutes) themselves as a CD-R, but this is the Musea CD edition. Life blends melodic/upbeat electronic music and symphonic rock like a combination of Mike Oldfield, Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Gandalf, and Jade Warrior. Most of the sounds are from synths, with sampled drums/percussion and some electric guitar. The album plays as one continuous piece with female narration tying the tracks together. Since ‘new age’ became a marketing term back in the 1980s, there have been enough bland or amateurish works in this style to make listeners wary, but Life is exceptional. Read reviews.
Hÿdra was initially a prog-metal band from the French Alps who released one album in 1996. Nine years later, the metal is gone and the band is a duo featuring vocalist Sébastien Denarie and guitarist Pascal Lemoine. Lemoine focuses on acoustic guitar, and there are synths, bass and drums coming from somewhere, though they are uncredited. This Famous Unknown (2005) is a concept album based on the story of an unknown soldier in World War I, describing the destiny of a young conscript of unknown nationality, his joys, his sorrows, his hopes and fears. The universal nature of this message led Hydra to choose English for the lyrics. The music is progressive rock, sometimes close to the acoustic side of Marillion, but the use of acoustic guitar where one might expect distorted electric makes it a fairly original album.
This 2011 release is another of the various artists projects organized by Colossus Magazine and published by Musea. This 2CD set is dedicated to the grand piano. Click the mp3 icon above to see the list of participants. The set comes in a fat jewel box and counts as 2 CDs for shipping.
This is the CD reissue of a 1978 LP. Imago was a very special French band, inspired by Anglo-Saxon rock as well as French pop. They toured heavily in France in the late 1970s, with much success. They sang humorous and ironic lyrics about their society. Derrière le rideau is their third album; it’s notable that the band recorded a fifth album in the late 1990s. These ten songs are a mix of folk and rock, acoustic and electric, always dynamic, inspired and moving. We’re glad that Musea is reissuing albums such as this, that probably won’t sell well outside of the French-speaking world. This album would be only half as interesting were it sung in English, as the mellifluous French vocals and a unique French romanticism are what make it special.
These are the CD reissues with bonus tracks of the two albums from the Belgian (Flemish) Genesis: Acrostichon (1978) and Taking Root (1981). Isopoda sang in English, and the vocal melodies and harmonies are well-crafted, something of a lost art these days. On various Isopoda tracks, one could also reference Kayak, Supertramp, or Camel, and for some reason we’re reminded of Swedish band Opus Est, who came along just a bit later. For fans of melodic symphonic prog, Isopoda’s CDs are highly recommended. Listen to Sunset Alley on YouTube. See the related band Fossil Evolution.
Jade are a French instrumental guitar/bass/drums trio playing complex compositions in the vein of modern King Crimson and Philharmonie. There are touches of fusion and a willingness to experiment, but the music is generally accessible, and ranges from low-key to full-throttle rock.
Kadwaladyr are a Breton band fusing Breton (Celtic) folk with progressive rock, both in style and instrumentation. Their first CD The Last Hero is from 1995. Bombard, whistles, and Highland pipes sit alongside electric guitar, synths, bass and drums. Dan Ar Braz and the famous Breton singer/poet Gilles Servat guest. This is the 2009 limited edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight cardboard sleeve.
This is the U.S. edition of the 2006 CD by a Belgian ensemble led by harpist/singer Keltia, who sings in French and plays both Celtic and electric harp. The rest of the band add electric and acoustic violin, keyboards, electric guitar, electronics, bass and drums. It’s a bewitching Celtic/medieval/gothic/progressive blend with a sound both modern and ancient. The Keltia website calls it “ethereal worldbeat & dark music”. In case that’s not particularly helpful, try Dead Can Dance mixed with Peter Gabriel mixed with dark folk-rock and the forceful, slightly-chanted singing style associated with many Scandinavian folk bands. Short CD at 36-minutes, but enough to immerse the listener in Keltia’s world of mystery and enchantment. Here are mp3s of the songs Judas and Broceliande.
Musea considers KSIZ to be the French Liquid Tension Experiment. The guest list on KSIZ’s second CD Nerve of War (2012) includes Derek Sherinian, Tom Kennedy (Dave Weckl, Al Di Meola), and Christophe Godin (Morglbl). YouTube has the track Infernal Nightmare.
Laborator is a trio of multi-instrumentalists from the latest incarnation of Moving Gelatine Plates, the famous Canterbury-ish band of the French 1970s progressive scene, last reformed in 2006 for the album Removing. This is Laborator’s 2011 debut album (digipack).
This is the CD reissue of a classic symphonic progressive album from 1983, with subtle influences of Van der Graaf Generator, Yes, and Gentle Giant integrated with their own style. Four bonus tracks have been added. La Rossa were based in Toulouse, France but two of their members were German. The French and German members must have decided the lyrics should be in a neutral language, so they’re in English (sort of). This mini-LP edition is the 2010 limited edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight cardboard sleeve.
This 2010 CD is something of an all-star project headed by French musician Michel Lazaro, an accomplished conservatory-trained pianist. The other participating musicians include Jordan Rudess, Stephane Deriau-Reine (Fusion Project), Uriah Duffy (Whitesnake), Fifi Chayeb (Billy Cobham), Damien Schmitt (Jean-Luc Ponty), Mel Gaynor (Simple Minds), and several more. Most of the tracks have vocals (in English). There are some terrific symphonic rock instrumentals and instrumental passages, but as is often the case, when the vocals enter, the music shifts toward a more mainstream prog style. So the bulk of this album is melodic heavy rock or AOR done up symphonic prog style. The same thing happens on a Derek Sherinian album when vocals are introduced, but the Lazaro vocal tracks are better. Otherwise there is commonality between the music of Lazaro, Sherinian, and Rudess. This is a high quality album of accessible progressive rock, but it makes us want to hear what Michel Lazaro would do with an all-instrumental project.
When Lazuli first appeared on the scene, Musea called them “the most promising new French band in years”, and they were right. It took a few years for prog fans over here to come up to speed. After appearing at Baja Prog 2006 as a virtual unknown, Lazuli were immediately invited back for a more prominent slot at Baja Prog 2007. They then headlined the first day of Rosfest 2009, and critical mass was achieved. Lazuli use Warr Guitar, marimba, vibraphone, percussion, guitars, vocals, and a custom-designed instrument called the Léode. The Léode is, among other things, an electronic device, so it is responsible for sounds that might otherwise be handled by keyboards. It produces a strange but beautiful sound for lead lines. Lazuli added a keyboardist to the lineup beginning with 4603 battements. Lazuli play an atypical progressive rock that comes close to early Halloween in the generally dark atmospheres, symphonic power, and surreal, bewitching nature, and the Léode does to some extent play the same role as the violin in Halloween. Lazuli combine this with a Peter Gabriel style, but their melodies and textures are different enough to make them unique. They have electrifying instrumental power, more explosive than Halloween or Gabriel, matching King Crimson in that regard, while they also have a singer who is as emotionally expressive as Christian Décamps.
4603 battements (digipack) is Lazuli’s 2011 studio CD. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Nos âmes saoules (2016, digipack) is Lazuli’s sixth studio CD and includes a 20-page booklet. Read The Progressive Aspect review.
Check our DVDs page for Lazuli’s DVDs.
Things are heating up in Luxembourg, first TNNE and now Light Damage, who began as a Genesis and Pink Floyd cover band. Their Pink Floyd tribute was under the name Brain Damage. Now writing their own material, this 2015 digipack CD is the quintet’s debut. Light Damage’s sound has much of the old Marillion, or actually the continental European take on Fish-era Marillion that one hears in Clepsydra, early Sylvan, and others. And of course there is a Pink Floyd component as well. Read the Background Magazine review. Listen to The Supper of Cyprianus and Empty on YouTube and Heaven on SoundCloud.
On Memories (2001), Guitarist Alan Loo leads several other musicians through 12 tracks of melodic instrumental symphonic progressive rock, with a nod in the direction of Andy Latimer and Camel as well as Jean Pascal Boffo.
Lord of Mushrooms are part of the rebirth of French progressive rock. Their guitarist Laurent James was a student of Frédéric l’Epee of Shylock and Philharmonie, and drummer Volodia Brice participated on the fifth and last Philharmonie album. This quintet began as a cover band playing tracks by Spock’s Beard, Genesis, Rush, Marillion, and Dream Theater before creating their own music, so those influences are present in their music to varying degrees. The approach on their 2002 debut album is quite American: the tracks are both complex and catchy, the melodies simultaneously pleasant and ambitious, and they are as adept at playing heavy rock as they are jazz-rock. They have instrumental chops to spare, the English vocals are clear (a bit similar to those of Jadis or Enchant), and the production is excellent. Here is a short mp3 excerpt from the track The Man Outside, courtesy of Jurriaan Hage’s review site. Note Lord of Mushrooms left the Musea label and turned into a pure prog-metal band.
Philippe Luttun is a French musician whose main instrument is guitar, but he also plays keyboards, actually having learned piano first. He lists his main influences as Dream Theater, Pink Floyd, Yes, Neal Morse, Pain of Salvation, Transatlantic, ELP, and Porcupine Tree. The Taste of Wormwood (2014, 67-minutes) is not Luttun’s first album; in fact he has quite a few dating back to 1996, independently released. But Wormwood came to Musea’s attention and they immediately picked it up. Subtitled Voices from Chernobyl, you now know the subject of this concept album. The mp3 icon above leads to Luttun’s YouTube videos for this CD, and you must have a look as there is a video for each of the eight tracks (some of which are very long). Particularly for an independent artist, this is really impressive as there is the equivalent of an entire movie there. The same obvious effort and professionalism that went into the videos also went into the music. This feels like a modern version of a concept album Pink Floyd might make if they were still active, though there are more styles at play than just Pink Floyd. It’s a dark masterpiece, and we don’t think Luttun can remain unknown now. “One can detect influences as diverse as Pink Floyd (for the great job on the sounds and atmospheres, the sampled saxophone and Gilmour-esque guitar), Pulsar’s Halloween for the more symphonic and desperate sections, the best Clearlight Symphony for crystalline flights of classical piano in weightlessness, and Liquid Tension Experiment for virtuoso aggressive parts. There are even a few electro/ambient sections as well as touches of Slavic folklore. But what is immediately striking is an incredible cinematic sense, tremendous energy and enthusiasm at all times... The contrast between quiet and explosive parts (often within the same song) gives this masterpiece an incredible power. A fabulous discovery!” [Clair & Obscur (translated from French, poorly)]
Machiavel is Belgium’s best-known symphonic prog band. Their second album Jester (1977) and third album Mechanical Moonbeams (1978) are their two best. Along with the Isopoda albums, these are the best symphonic prog albums to come out of Belgium and are essential for any Euro-prog collection. Machiavel sing in English, their music most closely related to Genesis, Supertramp, and Ange (without the overly-dramatic vocal style), but quite distinct. These are the newly-remastered 2010 Esoteric label editions. Each contains the two bonus tracks that appeared on the previous CD editions. Read the Prog Archives reviews of Jester and Mechanical Moonbeams. After these two albums, Machiavel went downhill fast.
(Im)Patience (2010, digipack) is the excellent debut CD for this Belgian (Wallonian) prog quintet in the Ange, Mona Lisa, Genesis, and Yes veins, with a more neo-prog approach that suggests Galaad, Versailles, and the usual British suspects. Vocals in French apart from one song in English. Read reviews at Background Magazine, progVisions, and Prog Archives.
Magnesis are a French progressive band formed in 1987, in the style of Ange and Mona Lisa, with some influence of Genesis and early Marillion. In addition to the French-language vocals, the band has two keyboard players, a guitarist, bassist and drummer. While Magnesis can be considered to have followed in the footsteps of Ange, they have long since stepped out of Ange’s shadow, as there is much to their style that is distinct from Ange.
L’immortel Opéra (2005) is their sixth album, featuring complex arrangements and tense, dark atmospheres. Faits d’hiver… is a live CD released in 2012. Listen to the track Les Voyages de Mikado on YouTube.
Masal is a band led by and performing the compositions of French musician Jean-Paul Prat. The beginnings of Prat’s music lie in the 1970s, and Zeuhl lovers will remember the album Masal, a classic recorded in 1982 under the name Jean-Paul Prat. The lineup at that time included from five to fourteen musicians who also performed with the likes of Gong, Magma, and Soft Machine. Galgal (2009, digipack) is the sequel to Masal. It’s built around the same elements that made its ancestor a success: an over-the-top instrumental music, owing as much to Christian Vander’s universe as to brass-jazz-rock or classical music. It’s a flawless performance by the six musicians, with six long pieces highlighted by a 14-minute suite.
Viens des quatre vents (2014, digipack) is another album of world-class jazz-rock in the French tradition as well as the jazzier Canterbury style (Gilgamesh, for one). Watch this video of the band live in the studio.
One of the lesser-known gems of French progressive rock, Tempus Fugit (1977) was the only album by Metabolisme, but it’s one of the best French progressive rock albums of all time. The band was influenced by Genesis, Yes, and PFM, and due to the French vocals, they have been compared to Mona Lisa. Instrumentally that’s accurate enough, but the vocals eschew the dramatic and theatrical style of Ange and Mona Lisa in favor of a more melodic style, with sophisticated vocal harmonies the likes of which you rarely hear today. Better French references are Pentacle and Memoriance.
Mindgames are a Belgian neo-prog band singing in English who debuted in 2003 with International Daylight (now out-of-print). Actors in a Play (2006, 67-minutes) and MMX (2010, digipack, 57-minutes) followed. While Mindgames are primarily a neo-prog band in the vein of Pendragon, early Marillion, Clepsydra, and Saga, those familiar with the first-generation Benelux progressive bands may feel that Mindgames have much in common with Machiavel, Isopoda, Flyte, and Phylter. Singer Bart Schram’s voice is close to Nick Barrett’s, which reinforces the allusions to Pendragon. MMX strikes us as being more purely neo-prog than their first two CDs (add Castanarc and Multi-Story to the list of references), with crystal-clear production. All their CDs are full of epic tracks combining vocal and instrumental sections. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Five years and two lead guitarists later, Mindgames return with Paradox of Choice (2015, digipack). Now you can call Mindgames the Belgian Pendragon. Mindgames are arguably filling a void in that they sound like an earlier version of Pendragon. Watch the album preview video.
Minimum Vital are one of the very best second-generation French symphonic prog bands, beginning as more of a fusion-prog instrumental band, adding their by now characteristic medieval flavorings, later adding female vocals and finally male vocals to complement the female vocals. La Source(1993) was the first Minimum Vital album to feature (female) vocals. Esprit d’Amor (1996) is infectious upbeat prog with superb male and female vocals. Au Cercle de Pierre (1998) is an excellent live album with additional CD-ROM multimedia content.
Atlas (2004) continues with the style established on Esprit d’Amor, which is really an amalgam of everything they’ve ever done, though there is more emphasis on the male vocals on Atlas. The lyrics are in French, English, and a lot of nonsense syllables. They’ve added some near-Celtic folk to the mix, and it’s all done with such exuberance that it’s difficult to sit still while listening to it. And frankly, prog rock could use more music like that!
Capitaines (2009, digipack) is Minimum Vital’s seventh studio album and their first in five years. To some extent, this album represents a return to the style of their 1990 album Sarabandes, emphasizing Minimum Vital’s unique form of medieval progressive rock. Or think of it as the full-band version of the Vital Duo style. Capitaines does have vocals, but they are sparse, not nearly as prominent as on Esprit d’Amor and the other albums from that phase of the band. Fortunately Minimum Vital have done every style they’ve attempted well, and this is another excellent album.
Pavanes (2CD, 2015, digipack) expands the style of Capitaines. Minimum Vital have created a unique fusion of progressive rock and folk, but the folk is mostly of their invention, a fanciful folk music from an imaginary time and place. Watch the official video for Javary & Montago and listen to Folkish on YouTube.
Vital Duo is the twin Payssan brothers, Thierry and Jean-Luc, the keyboardist and guitarist and creative core of Minimum Vital. As Vital Duo, they further develop the courtly, medieval rock style you can hear in Minimum Vital’s work, some of the pieces actually using medieval sources. The brothers handle drums, percussion, and vocals in addition to their usual instruments, though their music is almost entirely instrumental. They still have a knack for infectious melodies and lively rhythms. Ex Tempore (2001, 62-minutes) is their first and only CD to date. This is the MALS edition, produced under license from Musea.
Thierry Payssan is the keyboardist of Minimum Vital and Vital Duo. Thierry waited six years longer than his twin brother Jean-Luc before making his first solo album, but he shows a similar taste for romanticism. Musea says that Dans la Maison Vide (2011) was created as the soundtrack for a journey inside an empty house, the perfect place for ghosts of the past, from dusk till dawn. Piano plays the major role here, sometimes accompanied by organ, vocals or synths.
This French band’s name is almost certainly taken from the Camel album, as they seemingly want to renew Camel’s inspiration and identity (Mirage to Moonmadness era). On their debut A Secret Place (2000), one track is more or less a cover of Camel’s Lunar Sea, with some liberties taken. With female and male vocals in English, flute, relaxed and flowing instrumental passages and, above all, beautiful and well-crafted melodies, this album confirms Mirage as the French Camel. Mirage’s second CD Tales from the Green Sofa (2004) is currently out-of-print.
Borderline (2008, 66-minutes) is their third. Mirage are no longer Camel copyists on this CD, as they have branched out in other, still progressive directions. Camel may still be Mirage’s major inspiration, but one can also hear Pink Floyd, a little King Crimson and Canterbury, and mostly an original mélange. The music generally retains the flowing quality of Camel, but the flute is used less and the guitars are now either mixed louder than the keyboards or just given more to do. The lead vocals here are all male and are low-key, as Camel’s were on their early albums. Borderline is not conclusively better or worse, just different and not repeating what Mirage have already done.
Interstellar (2007) is the debut by a French artist making instrumental space rock influenced by early Pink Floyd but with contemporary styles infused. As this is a French CD, later Pulsar is a fair reference. This is not Hawkwind or Ozrics-style space rock. It is more ambient, hallucinogenic and ethereal, with drum loops propelling the music forward in more laidback fashion. Read the DPRP review.
Mona Lisa are one of the major French progressive rock bands, first influenced by Ange, Genesis, and early King Crimson, their style based on theatrical singing, bombastic keyboards (including Mellotron), acoustic & electric guitar, flute, and frequent rhythm changes. They released five albums during the 1970s, of which Le Petit Violon de Mr Gregoire (1977) is the best, with Avant Qu’il ne Soit Trop Tard (1978) a close second. Grimaces (1975) is their second album, a very good one but surpassed by the next two.
In 1998, the band was reincarnated around singer/flute player Dominique Le Guennec, backed by the musicians of the band Versailles. De L’Ombre a la Lumiere (1998) is a good comeback album in their old style.
Motis have quietly blossomed into one of the top current French (classic-style) prog bands. Their 2014 studio CD is a concept album about the fictitious character Josquin Messonnier. Vintage keys include Mellotron, Hammond, Rhodes, and Solina String Ensemble. Listen to the album teaser and the track Couches dans la Paille - Ouverture.
On Prince des Hauteurs (2005), Motis’s unique style is at the crossroads of Malicorne and Ange. They combine music centered around French-language vocals and acoustic instruments such as flute, acoustic guitar, mandolin, cornemuse (a bagpipe), and bouzouki [the Malicorne aspect], with drums, Mellotron, and electric guitar [the Ange aspect]. As with Malicorne, there are elements of medieval and Celtic music. Highly recommended to fans of Malicorne, even if Motis don’t have those wonderful vocal harmonies Malicorne were known for, or a singer in the same class as Gabriel Yacoub. But few bands do. What Motis do have is a characteristic French progressive style, so refreshing in this age of generic international bands singing in English with no trace of a national or regional identity.
Motis’s 2007 CD L’Homme-Loup is in the same vein but more progressive, with more elaborate arrangements, melodies, and production. Motis create medieval progressive rock with poetic French lyrics deeply influenced by the literature and myths of the middle ages. In addition to the Mellotron, there is now proggy Hammond organ, even some Genesis-style synth leads. The Mellotron choir alone is enough to get Motis barred from most folk festivals. The result is a bit similar to Ange’s milestone Au-Delà Du Délire, but even more like the works of Tri Yann. (Tri Yann are a long-lived Breton progressive folk band who are criminally under-recognized outside France.) Fans of Minimum Vital’s medieval-flavored works should also relish Motis. Read the AllMusic review.
Live Crescendo is a live CD recorded at the Crescendo international progressive rock festival held in France in August of 2007. The live energy does make a difference. There is a lot of flute on this CD, bringing Jethro Tull and other flute-led bands to mind. This really is a unique blending of styles.
Ripaille is Motis’s 2011 studio CD. “Motis return with a follow-up to the miraculously medieval symphonic rock that characterized 2007’s L’Homme-Loup with this scintillating effort. While firmly entrenched in the French chanson tradition, reliving old folk tales and enveloping the mystical words with heady synths, mellifluous Mellotrons, electric bouzouki (yes!), and Hammond organ... Motis adorn each chapter with passionate vocals, theatrical as only the Gauls can (Hello Christian Decamps!), flushing the aura forever forward into the mind. Motis sing like a whirling dervish at times, frenetic and operatic. While understanding the language certainly helps in one’s enjoyment, the music vibrates with unmitigated abandon, alternating soft dreamy passages with robust exhortations complete with some nice heavy organ flurries... L’Envolée is an all-instrumental rampage that really shows off the proggy tendencies succinctly. Whereas L’Homme-Loup was perhaps more diversified, Ripaille proposes a more concise effort that will require repeated listens to heighten its impact. Kudos to an artist that has managed to carve out a personal style, like a modern day troubadour, respectful of their cultural heritage and yet progressing musically in an unusually charming package. The quality of the writing and the vocal delivery are truly astounding.” [Prog Archives]
Moving Gelatine Plates are a well-known underground French band from the early 1970s. They released two classic albums of high-energy progressive jazz-rock: Moving Gelatine Plates (1971) and The World of Genius Hans (1972), plus another in 1980 entitled Moving. Moving Gelatine Plates play refined, subtle, clever, jazzy progressive rock in the Canterbury vein. The wealth of strong melodies lends comparison to the Dutch band Supersister.
Now MGP are back, and Removing (2006) is everything one could hope for in a reunion album. Led by bassist Didier Thibaut, a group of seven skilled musicians plus guests have created several songs and instrumentals with beautiful melodies, elaborate arrangements, and subtle and surprising musical dialogues between sax, violin, cello, trumpet, flute, and the standard prog rock instruments. The guests add some sax, viola, oboe, and choir. The lyrics are in English, but instrumentals dominate. This is a mix of quirky progressive rock, progressive chamber rock, and symphonic jazz-rock, modern in production but inheriting the spirit of 1970s MGP.
Myster Möbius is a band with both Hungarian and French members, and they’ve performed in both countries, so when deciding what page to put them on, the fact they’re on the Musea label meant the tie-breaker went to France. However, the best comparison for their music may be the Hungarian band Korai Öröm, as Myster Möbius also play proggy electro-tribal-trance music, albeit distinct from Korai Öröm. This is their 2010 debut, which comes in a digipack. Read the Proggnosis review.
Naos was formed at the end of the 1970s but asserted themselves in the mid-1980s, playing a theatrical, melodramatic progressive rock modeled on Mona Lisa and Ange. Naïf Le Rêveur (1991) is in this style, relying on both guitar and keys and an expressive singer (vocals in French).
This is the 2005 debut by a French quartet who share their rhythm section with the band Eclat. Negative Zone leave no doubt that their inspiration is middle-period Pink Floyd. And yet, Negative Zone don’t really sound like anyone else. Except perhaps for the English lyrics, everything is executed with such panache that this in effect adds to the Floyd canon rather than simply mimicking the original. Read the DPRP review.
Nemo - La machine à remonter le temps (PAL DVD+2CD, $21.99) out-of-stock
Nemo - Présages remastered ($14.99) out-of-print
JPL - Retrospections Volume II ($12.99) out-of-stock
No relation to the earlier Nemo that released the self-titled and Doin’ Nuthin’ LPs, this Nemo is a French symphonic band with strong, dramatic vocals in French, playing classic progressive rock with a modern sound and some heaviness. Keyboards and guitar share the spotlight, but the guitarist sometimes favors a hard-edged tone and style, which is the main reason their sound is called “modern”. Nemo have probably done more to popularize French-language prog than any other band of their generation.
Les Nouveaux Mondes (57-minutes) is their 2002 debut; this is the 2007 remastered edition. Présages (64-minutes) followed in 2003, slightly heavier and more aggressive; this is the 2007 remastered edition.
Prélude à la Ruine (62-minutes) is Nemo’s third album, originally released in 2004. This is the 2014 remixed edition. The first edition had been out-of-print for several years, and the band wanted to reissue the album in an improved version, so they totally remixed it.
Si part I (2006, 58-minutes) and Si partie II: L’Homme Idéal (2007, 56-minutes) are Nemo’s fourth and fifth studio albums and demonstrate that Nemo just keep getting better with each album. These CDs contain symphonic prog of great conviction, raising Nemo to the elite of current French progressive bands. In 2012, these two CDs were combined into the Si 1 & 2 digipack double-CD.
Barbares (2008, 68-minutes) continues along the trajectory Nemo established with the previous two albums. While the guitar tone is often hard-edged, the music never degenerates into metal, remaining complex symphonic progressive that is again heavily instrumental. This is the jewel box standard edition; the limited edition 2CD is sold out.
La machine à remonter le temps (The Time Machine), released in 2010, is Nemo’s first DVD plus a double CD in a fat digipack. The DVD (PAL, all-region) contains a 110-minute live concert plus bonus material. The two CDs contain a total of 2 hours, 20 minutes of music, a selection of Nemo tracks from the past ten years in re-recorded, remixed, and/or remastered versions, plus two new tracks. Counts as 1.5 CDs for shipping.
Nemo’s eighth studio CD Le Ver dans le Fruit (The Worm in the Fruit) (2CD, 2013, digipack) is their most ambitious to date, with 12 tracks spread across two discs. See Nemo’s YouTube videos for several from this album.
This is the limited 2CD digipack edition of Coma (2015). The title is likely a reference to the fact that Nemo had previously announced they would be quitting at least temporarily. Not long after that, Nemo announced they were recording one final album, or at least their last for a long time. The second disc in this edition contains five bonus tracks: a Deep Purple cover, a Led Zeppelin cover, and the three long tracks Nemo contributed to the Musea/Colossus The Divine Comedy (Dante’s Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso) series. Watch the video for Comaïne and listen to the album sampler on YouTube.
JPL is Nemo’s guitarist/singer/bandleader Jean-Pierre Louveton. Bienvenue sur la terre (2002) and Noir & Blanc (2003) are the first two JPL CDs. Retrospections Volume I (2008) is JPL’s fourth album, with Nemo’s Guillaume Fontaine on keys, a drummer and bass player, plus a guest guitarist. There are two tracks with vocals, acoustic guitar and orchestration. The rest of the album is instrumental and focuses on melodic electric guitar leads with symphonic backdrop. The music is again on the same high level as Nemo, not hugely different, but with the spotlight more on the guitar. Unlike typical guitarist albums, Louveton cares more about emotive playing than getting in as many notes as possible, the arrangements have prog rock sophistication rather than steady rhythms and linear development, and the keyboards have an important role.
MMXIV (2014) contains some French and some English lyrics and features guest singers Dominique Leonetti (Lazuli) and Nicholas James (25 Yard Screamer). Nemo keyboardist Guillaume Fontaine also guests. Watch the official Le dernier souffle de vent and album overview videos.
Eight years after the first volume comes JPL’s Retrospections Volume II (2016, digisleeve), a collection of mostly unpublished music written between 1992-2005, rearranged and re-recorded by the current live lineup. Listen to the album sampler and Cette main on YouTube. Counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
Check for the related band WolfSpring below.
This 1980 symphonic progressive album is one of the best ever from France, somewhat similar to Carpe Diem and Camel, but highly original. This CD reissue includes two bonus tracks. “From the blistering intro to Osibirsk, you know this is one to reckon with. Neo’s sole album is a rock fusion of high intensity, featuring lots of guitar and sax solos over a high paced rhythm section. It isn’t really jazz-rock, although the intensity and great chops are somewhere in that realm... it’s a pretty damn good album, nice and exciting.” [Exposé] This mini-LP version is the 2009 limited edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight cardboard sleeve.
Monsters (2009, 62-minutes) is the debut for Belgian band Neo-Prophet. No points for guessing they’re a neo-prog band, but they are an uncommonly good one. There are Marillion-isms to be sure (the words misplaced childhood even appear in the lyrics), but Neo-Prophet are not simply Marillion/Arena imitators. They add touches of hard rock, while loads of symphonic keyboards maintain the guitars/keys balance. Ultimately, Neo-Prophet have the songwriting chops and the intangibles that distinguish the best neo-prog bands from the paint-by-numbers bands, resulting in music that is exciting and catchy. With Neo-Prophet, Mindgames, and Quantum Fantay, Belgium is back on the prog map. Read the reviews at Sea of Tranquility, DPRP, and Rock Report.
The major change on T.I.M.E. (2015, digipack) is that the hyphen in the band name is gone. That and the fact that only bandleader/singer/bassist Hans Six remains from the previous lineup. The new guitarist and new keyboardist are both on loan from Quantum Fantay! Otherwise not too much has changed. The music is at times heavier and more bombastic, the album alternating between heavier, slightly metallic prog and purer melodic/symphonic prog. Which is how it is for most neo-prog circa 2015, and neo-prog fans will likely be thrilled with T.I.M.E. Frank van Bogaert (Fish on Friday) mixed and mastered. Watch the album preview video.
A very good 1979 progressive rock album from a French band that sounds more English than French, primarily because they had a British lead vocalist. They blend symphonic prog with some 70s hard rock energy. The album was recorded in the Geneva studio owned by Patrick Moraz.
This is Unicorn Digital’s 2006 re-edition of Quarante Jours sur le Sinai (2002, 65-minutes), the third album from French symphonic band Nil (French for Nile, as in the river), though few people have heard their first two. “Forty Days in the Sinai”, an Egyptian-themed concept album, is classic French progressive, heavily instrumental, with some beautiful female vocals and strong male vocals (in French). The CD comes with two booklets, with both French and English text. Nil Novo Sub Sole (2005) is their fourth album. It ups the ante by elevating singer Roselyne Berthet to a full member of the band and making much greater use of her beautiful, ethereal voice. Nil mix the dark symphonics of Pulsar, Carpe Diem, Shylock or Halloween with some King Crimson influence. Serene, dreamy passages give way to complex prog with slight fusion overtones, interrupted by heavy passages that lead to majestic symphonic rock. Mellotron, organ and flute dominate one moment, fretless bass or Stick and searing guitar the next. Nil have created progressive rock with great complexity, yet it doesn’t veer off into experimental territory and thus remains accessible.
Noëtra existed as a band from 1978-1983 or thereabouts but had no records released during their lifetime. In the 1990s, Musea released Noëtra’s Neuf Songes, containing 13 instrumental pieces composed and recorded between 1979-1981. The 10 instrumental pieces on Définitivement Bleus (68-minutes) were composed during the same period as Neuf Songes and are in the same vein, a type of chamber-prog inspired by the Canterbury scene and similar to the Belgian band Julverne and the music of the ECM label. Employing oboe, violin, sax, cello, trumpet, and flutes, this impressionist music is full of originality, feeling and sensitivity.
Released 27 years later, the Live 83 CD was taken from the archives of Radio France and is a very high-quality stereo recording. Read the DPRP and Proggnosis reviews.
Résurgences D’Errances (2011) is the fourth CD of treasures from bandleader Jean Lapouge’s vault. This CD consists of soundboard recordings from Noëtra’s 17 June 1981 performance, the one that attracted the attention of the ECM label (though that contract ultimately fell through). YouTube has the song Zone d’Ombre.
“4”, the 2006 fourth CD from this band from Luxembourg is their best, continuing a trend of steady improvement with each album. It’s been eight years since their previous CD, but No Name still play lush, melodic, symphonic neo-prog derived from Marillion and Pendragon. Their greatest asset is a very strong singer with vocals in perfect English. The ubiquitous synth pads characterize their sound and give the music its sheen. Just six tracks span 55-minutes. Digipack.
20 Candles (2009) marks No Name’s 20th anniversary. It contains recently re-recorded versions of songs that originally appeared on their four CDs plus two new tracks. Read reviews at Prog Archives. Check below for the related band TNNE.
Now was a very good Belgian Yes-influenced band with English-vocals. Deep (1992) was their final album. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
This triple-CD concept album contains nearly four hours of music: nine symphonic rock suites averaging around 25 minutes each, by a number of great progressive rock bands: Nathan Mahl (Canada), Nexus (Argentina), Glass Hammer (USA), XII Alfonso (France), Simon Says (Sweden), C.A.P. (Italy), Tempano (Venezuela), Minimum Vital (France), and Aether (Italy). Each band composed their piece inspired by a specific part of Homer’s Odyssey, but also by the masters of progressive rock. The quality of these suites is uniformly high, enough so that this set alone can stand as testament to the strength of the progressive rock genre today. The set comes in a fat jewel box with a 56-page booklet and counts as 2 CDs for shipping. Because there are different bands on each disc, think of it as getting three different import CDs for less than $12 each, with each CD between 68 and 80-minutes long. Our current stock now says “Definitive Edition” on the cover, though it’s unclear what is so definitive about it.
1998 CD from a quartet (keys, bass, drums, sax/flute) playing a blend of jazz rock and progressive rock with prominent flute parts.
This is the CD reissue of a 1972 French album that was originally released in both French and English-language versions. Both versions are contained on this CD. The music is primarily acoustic and varies from gentle folk-tinged progressive with beautiful vocal harmonies to some dated sounding psychedelic rock. It is comparable to other French bands of the time such as Alice or Ilous et Decuyper. This mini-LP edition is the 2009 limited edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight cardboard sleeve.
Opram are an excellent young progressive rock band from the south of France. They sing in French and can be grouped stylistically with the band Lazuli (check above). Opram don’t have the Peter Gabriel influence, but their sound and style are otherwise similar to Lazuli’s En Avant Doute. Unlike Lazuli, Opram do have a keyboardist, but he shuns overtly symphonic sounds, instead favoring Rhodes and textural synth sounds. With slight metal touches, the music belongs in the modern progressive rock camp. After their 2005 debut Mon Temps, Mon Espace, the band released this live CD in 2007, and Opram sound better on stage. Live contains a well-recorded 2006 concert lasting 31-minutes, plus two videos in WMV format at PAL DVD resolution (720 x 576) totaling 14:27.
This is the same Orion responsible for the 1979 French prog classic La Nature Vit, L’Homme Lui Critique, which was reissued on CD by Musea but is out-of-print. 2013 sees the release of the second Orion album. Mémoires du Temps was originally planned for the beginning of the 1980s but had to wait a mere 33 years to see the light of day. Restored and remixed from the original tapes, these six studio tracks are augmented by four songs performed live. The live songs appear on neither studio album, so to our knowledge they are previously unheard compositions. Just when you think the last classic-era prog album has been unearthed, another gem is dug up. Listen to the album sampler and the title track on YouTube.
This is the second album from the collaboration of composer/multi-instrumentalist Rémi Orts and female singer Zara Angel, whose angelic voice (lyrics in English) is front and center. Orts’ previous work is apparently in the new age vein. State of Souls (2012, 63-minutes) is more rock-oriented, generally melodic symphonic rock with new age flavoring. You have to let this one get three songs deep before passing judgment, because the softest and lamest songs are up front. Then surprisingly, the fourth song borders on prog-metal, and the album continues to chart a more progressive course (excluding the radio edit tacked on the end). It’s sometimes similar to Gandalf & Galadriel (if anyone remembers their 1989 album The Shining), though there is heavier material, and there are brief passages that borrow from the Enya book of tricks. Then there are high energy songs such as The Trident of Poseidon (watch the video), and electric guitar is usually featured to keep things from getting too mellow. Also watch the album trailer and the video for the song Twinkling Stars.
Freedom (2002, 64-minutes) contains French neo-prog with accented English vocals. It’s one of the best neo-prog (i.e., Marillion and IQ influenced) records from France, though there isn’t that much competition for that distinction. Listen to the song Understanding Zero.
La Clef des Songes (1975) is a French classic, symphonic prog with gentle folk touches and understated vocals, most influenced by the first two King Crimson albums and ending up sounding like a cross between Pulsar, Ange, and Tangerine. The album was produced by Christian Decamps of Ange. Three long bonus live tracks are included. This CD is the 2015 MALS edition, produced under license from Musea, which comes in a mini-LP style sleeve.
Reminiscence (1989) and Labyrinthe (1991) are excellent albums from this Pink Floyd-ish French symphonic progressive band. Phaesis returned in 2005 with the album Puzzle, a new drummer and a new keyboardist. About half instrumental and half vocal (sung in French), there is still some of the Floyd influence but less than before. Mixed with the help of Jean Pascal Boffo, Puzzle reveals a more personal and varied progressive style. For non-French listeners, the mere presence of French lyrics will remind them more of Ange than of Pink Floyd, and there is some of the neo-prog energy here as well.
French keyboardist Yann Porée added “Lindatar” to his name because it’s apparently the Elvish word for “composer” in Tolkien’s world. We’ll just say it: L’Ultime Attente (2015) is the best keyboard-prog album we can think of since Rick Wakeman’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Patrick Moraz’s The Story of I. Porée admits that Wakeman is his greatest influence, and Six Wives is the closest reference point for L’Ultime Attente, which is instrumental apart from a smidgeon of spoken word at the start and several seconds of wordless vocals. The music is keyboards and drums (not sure if the bass is done by keyboards or bass guitar) until the finale which features electric guitar. Porée has been called a fervent defender of progressive rock. His music is of the 1970s, and since then there have been few prog keyboardists who are pianists first, who can really play, and who demonstrate first-hand knowledge of classical music. There are also similarities to some of Keith Emerson’s work, and the Dutch band Trace would be another reference point if Rick van der Linden’s major influence had been Beethoven rather than Bach. Maybe listeners who came into prog after the golden age won’t have the same reaction to this, but for us it is an all too rare now joy.
Masal (1982) is a classic French Zeuhl album, originally a 42-minute, one-title LP. Surrounded by a 14-piece lineup (bass, three guitars, saxes, trumpet, trombone, flute, french horn, synths, piano, drums, percussion, vocals), French drummer Jean-Paul Prat presents a powerful instrumental symphonic rock work. The style is close to Weidorje but more symphonic. This CD reissue adds four bonus tracks recorded in 1985 and 1990 with a smaller lineup but similar inspiration, basically an entire additional album of equal quality! Read the Gnosis reviews.
Priam is a very good French instrumental band with an excellent guitarist. On their 1997 debut 3 Distances / Irregular Signs, they perform progressive rock with a fusion edge, with influences of King Crimson, Anglagard, UK, Hecenia, and a touch of neo-prog. They take a big step in the fusion direction for their second album Diffraction (2001), though there are still progressive and symphonic parts to their music. The first two-thirds of the album is complex, perfectly-executed Euro-style progressive fusion. But just when you’re pretty sure you’ve purchased a fusion album, Priam hit you with a choral piece, some tribal-progressive rock, and a hypnotic track. A band that cannot easily be categorized except as a very mature and talented instrumental progressive band.
Progression by Failure is the band of French multi-instrumentalist Nicolas Piveteau, who is primarily a keyboardist. While Progression By Failure’s 2009 debut CD was a one-man project, Piveteau added a guitarist and drummer for Sonic Travelogue (2015, digipack). The improvement is significant, as Sonic Travelogue is a classic-style instrumental sympho-prog album displaying great range and sophistication. Listen to extracts from the album on YouTube. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Pseu was a French band that existed between 1979 and 1983; the seven pieces on this CD were recorded between 1981-1982. Their music is often close to Magma, or to King Crimson at their most experimental. There is some Ange-like theatrical singing but also much Magma-inspired vocalizing. The music is slightly jazzy and tends toward the dissonant, with unrelenting tension, except for the final 11-minute track which is more melodic. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Pollen (1975), The Strands of the Future (1976) and Halloween (1977) are French progressive classics with some Pink Floyd influence, but really quite unique. Good use of flute and keyboards, simultaneously haunting and beautiful. Read an excellent overview of Pulsar’s first three albums.
Bienvenue au Conseil d’Administration is the CD reissue of Pulsar’s fourth album, originally released on vinyl by the band in 1981, music composed for a theater production. Four bonus tracks from keyboardist Jacques Roman’s 1986 new age album Mélodie Boréale (released only on cassette) bring the total time up to 69-minutes. This actually rocks harder than Pulsar’s earlier albums, with dramatic spoken word in place of vocals. The story may be lost on non-French speakers, but the music speaks for itself, an update of the unique Pulsar style: spacey, melodic, and aggressive.
Anna (2012, 78-minutes) is a concept album, the debut by Puzzle King, a progressive rock project headed by Frenchman François Puzenat. In Puzenat’s words, it is progressive rock that plunges its roots in the 1970s and spreads its foliage in the third millennium. Anna is sung in French, but there is also an English-language version titled Anna’s Revolution. Only the French version exists on CD, but the CD booklet contains a password to download the English-language version from the Puzzle King website in 320kbps mp3 format. You’ll also find the English lyrics on the site. So while we prefer French bands who sing in French, Anglophones won’t miss out on the story, which is set at the beginning of the 20th century during the Russian Revolution. The obvious comparison here is Ange. Fans of Nemo will probably love Puzzle King as well, though Nemo is more modern sounding, Puzzle King more classic sounding, more emotional and poetic. This type of prog demands a powerful, charismatic singer, and Puzenat is up to the task. Anna is one of the very best examples in recent years of what is usually considered the central style of French prog.
Qantum is a French band initially formed by musicians from Ultime Atome and Lapsus Linguae. Their first album Les temps oubliés (2009) is excellent symphonic prog inspired by the classic French progressive bands (mostly Mona Lisa, Ange, and their ilk), with some Genesis influence and commonality with early Marillion or Galaad. One reviewer describes it as “feel-good symphonic prog”. That it is.
Quadra is a French band in the Ange and Mona Lisa veins, but with a more modern sound. For those familiar with Ange, we’d say they sound more like 1980s Ange than 1970s -- there’s no Mellotron for example -- but more progressive than 80s Ange. Like Christian Decamps (who guests on the album), lead singer Frederic Morala’s French lyrics and vocals are poetic, theatrical, and full of imagery.
This Belgian band’s name results from a typo on their first demo and the decision that it was simpler to change the band name than to correct the demo. Quantum Fantay are a space rock band that have people as excited as when they first heard Ozric Tentacles. If the Quantum Fantay CDs don’t make you jump around the room, well then you’re probably not prone to jumping around rooms. But if you’re a fan of Ozric Tentacles, then it’s a good bet Quantum Fantay’s CDs will excite you like no Ozrics CD has in years. Maybe ever. Give the Ozrics credit for doing it first, and they are a huge influence, but Quantum Fantay are more melodic and include elements of symphonic prog that take this style to a new level. Their sequential electronics are outstanding. They breathe new life and energy into a genre many thought had exhausted its possibilities. Believe every superlative you read about this band; they are the current progressive space rock kings.
Terragaia (2014, digipack) is a 70-minute concept album featuring guest appearances by members of Anima Mundi, Neo Prophet, and others. Despite the passage of nine years since the first Quantum Fantay CD, we’re still jumping around the room, and only slightly slower. Watch the videos for Chopsticks and Gongs and Desert Rush.
With four long tracks of almost exactly the same length, Dancing in Limbo (2015, digipack) showcases a new Quantum Fantay lineup, which only adds fresh angles to the band’s trademark style. Ed Wynne of Ozric Tentacles guests, which makes perfect sense.
Au Bout du Couloir (1995) and Ici est Ailleurs (2001) are the products of Raison de Plus, a band in the French symphonic style, e.g., Ange, Mona Lisa, Elixir, Versailles, and Magnesis, as well as Pulsar. These are two of the better examples, very lush and melodic, with sumptuous harmony vocals.
Chapitre III & Chapitre IV (2014, mini-LP sleeve) is the second CD for a French prog band who take their name from the historical figure. Apart from Lazuli and a few others, there aren’t many young French prog bands willing to create music out of the ordinary. Rosa Luxemburg are special. Their music is eclectic, varies from delicate to heavy, and features wonderful melodies, orchestrations, and vocals (male and female) in French. The three core members are assisted by numerous other musicians, including Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) on guitar. The other guests contribute vocals, violin, cello, trumpet, and English horn. At times, the spirit of Atoll seems to be present, while on a couple tracks you might think Dream Theater had become very arty. It took Lazuli until their second album to really make their mark; this second Rosa Luxemburg album is equally exciting. And if Nemo really are finished now, Nemo fans are advised to flock to Rosa Luxemburg. As with Lazuli and Nemo (and Ange and Atoll), the French language is vital to the music’s feel, a feel that would be lost in English. Read the DPRP review.
David Rose is an American-born violinist who emerged from Transit Express, Yves Simon’s mid-1970s band. Rose released seven album with his own band from 1977 to 1983. This is an unreleased live recording from 1978, recorded between Rose’s first and second album, with a strong supporting cast: Serge Perathoner (keyboards), Gerard Prevost (bass), Claude Salmieri (drums), and Gerard Kurdjian (percussion). They create a jazz-rock close to that of Didier Lockwood: suggestive, atmospheric, lyrical, with sensual violin sounds, somewhere between Brand X and classical composers such as Debussy or Bartok.
Jean Philippe Rykiel is a French keyboardist/composer (blind from birth) who released his first solo album in 1982 and whose many credits include albums by Tim Blake, Steve Hillage, and Jon & Vangelis. Inner Spaces (2012) compiles various tracks recorded throughout his career, covering a range of styles. The best tracks are in a spacey progressive vein. They all are instrumental save the track Close to You, which features Jon Anderson on vocals.
Prophet in a Statistical World (2004) is the third CD from French band Saens (formerly Sens). This is a 74-minute concept album sung entirely in English. Relative to the previous album, Saens put more emphasis on vocals, and the sound is slightly more contemporary. They could pass for an English band now. There is the same symphonic splendor and wealth of ideas here, though the vocals could stand more space, as the dense mix and instrumental busyness that makes the instrumental passages so exciting fights with the vocals at times. A minor criticism though; Saens again deliver the goods with this album. Read the Sea of Tranquility and progVisions reviews. Now deleted, last copies.
This 1972 album is a French progressive classic, among the first fully-mature French progressive rock albums. With female vocals in English, lots of organ and Mellotron, the superb guitar playing of Jean-Pierre Alarcen, and long instrumental passages, this is similar to Earth and Fire in their progressive phase. Musea reissued this CD in this gatefold mini-LP style sleeve in 2014.
This French band has existed since 1996, but Mirage (2006) is their debut. The band includes two guitarists (both playing electric & acoustic), a flute player, bassist and drummer, with all five members contributing vocals. It’s a 1970s style progressive rock, with only the heaviest passages suggesting something more modern. The French lyrics invariably make one think of Ange, and there is some Pink Floyd influence as well, but also some heavier passages. Six songs and three instrumentals comprise the album, with beautiful flute parts and contrasts between heavy and calm sections.
Instinct (2012, 65-minutes) is similar but more instrumental and has more of the flute-led heavy prog style. Listen to the track La longue route on YouTube, which encapsulates all of the styles present on Instinct.
Fred (Frédéric) Schneider is a bass prodigy. His first solo album was recorded in 1996 under the name Fred and Co. Nine years and many collaborations later, he returned with the instrumental album Kess Kiss Bass? (2005, 70-minutes), whose title probably contains a French play on words that we don’t get. Cyril Achard is one of several guest musicians. Schneider later took over bass duties in French prog band Eclat, first appearing on their 2009 live album Live au Roucas. Voyage (2014, 66-minutes) was released a few months before Schneider made an appearance at the 2014 Crescendo Festival, a prestigious French prog festival. Voyage features a couple tracks with vocals (in English and wordless) but is otherwise instrumental. Schneider’s music is a novel form of modern jazz-rock fusion, highly structured, melodic, accessible, and consistently inventive. Not more of the same old thing, Schneider’s music is one surprise after another, with lots of keyboards, samples, and guitar to fill out the sound. It’s the kind of music that sounds like it could have just as easily come out of the U.S., except that there probably isn’t an American band today making music like Fred Schneider.
Seamus are a French/English progressive rock band of five musicians, assisted on this album by many guests on flutes, violin, voices, and cajon (a box drum). Seamus are progressive in the literal meaning of the word, fusing existing musical trends to create something new. This 2006 concept album is about World War II and the deportation and killing of millions of people. Aside from some apparent King Crimson and Magma influence, it’s difficult to compare this to anyone else. Present and Univers Zero are reasonable reference points. Given the subject matter, the music is not exactly light and bouncy, but neither is it unrelentingly dark. There are avant-garde moments, and though intense, the music is not inaccessible. Some of it is classically influenced, specifically early 20th century classical. Human voices are sometimes used as an instrument. All in all, a fascinating work. 64-minutes.
Sensitive to Light is the new band formed by guitarist/keyboardist/composer Vynce Leff of Saens. The most obvious difference between the two bands is that Sensitive to Light is fronted by Scottish female vocalist Jenny Lewis, who possesses a beautiful voice. Coming from a folk/Celtic background, her clear voice adds purity to the overall sound. Their 2006 debut Almost Human is out-of-print. From the Ancient World (2008, 60-minutes) is their second and is slightly heavier at times. It features rich instrumentation and a guest saxophonist playing melodically. As a female-fronted symphonic prog band, Sensitive to Light should appeal to the same fans as Magenta or Glass Hammer (when GH use female lead vocals anyway). Sensitive to Light are less Yes-influenced and closer to the Marillion side of things than either, but there is plenty of diversity from track to track, and they don’t skimp on instrumental content.
Following the success of the various artists CDs Odyssey, Kalevala, The Spaghetti Epic, and The Colossus of Rhodes, all organized by the Finnish progressive music association Colossus, we have The 7 Samurai: The Ultimate Epic (2006). This is a progressive rock concept album inspired by the famous 1954 Akira Kurosawa film. The story has been divided into three chapters, each assigned to one band to create an epic length piece inspired by it. The bands are Tempano from Venezuela and CAP and Taproban from Italy. Each track averages over 25 minutes and the sound and style remain faithful to 1970s progressive rock. All the keyboard sounds are vintage; all three pieces are magnificent progressive suites. Tempano may lean more toward Genesis, Taproban toward ELP, and CAP toward Jethro Tull or Banco, but each sounds like a lost treasure from the golden age.
Milestones in French progressive rock, Shylock’s two albums suggest King Crimson and Genesis. This CD reissue of Gialorgues (1977) adds five bonus tracks from 1981. The Ile de Fievre CD (1978) features one long 1979 bonus track.
Siiilk can be viewed as the offspring of Pulsar. The five musicians are all from the French city of Lyon and include guitarist Gilbert Gandil and keyboardist Jacques Roman, the core of Pulsar. Way to Lhassa (2013, digisleeve) is sung in English, blending music and poetry. As the band says, it takes the listener from the lowlands of Flanders to the buttresses of the Himalayas by way of India. The music is dominated by the characteristic Floydian melancholy of Pulsar, but in Siiilk the Mellotron and other keyboards, flute, guitars, and drums are augmented by tampura, Armenian duduk, Indian santur and other ethnic instruments, brass, bass clarinet, and choir. Listen to the tracks Childhood’s Memories, Way to Lhassa, and Cathy’s Woods on YouTube.
Elephants and Porcelain (2010, 59-minutes, digipack) is the debut CD for Silentclock, a French band who say their influences are Radiohead, Coldplay, and Pink Floyd. The one really Floydian song is the longest, the 10:43 Colours. It’s unmistakably Floydian. The rest of the album is in the more modern style, but we like this more than most of the Coldplay and Radiohead we’ve heard. There are a couple purely electric guitar-driven songs at the beginning of the album, but after getting their least proggy material out of the way, the rest usually combines electric guitar, acoustic guitar and keyboards in a lush, sublime blend that demonstrates how good the modern prog style can be. As for the vocals, did everyone’s English get really good over the past couple decades? Time was when you expected to hear an accent from non-Anglo singers, but not here. Silentclock are indistinguishable from a British band.
The Inner Dragon (2004, 61-minutes) is the first CD by a French band from Lyon, singing and narrating in English. The album is primarily instrumental though, employing violin in addition to guitars, keys, bass and drums. This is really impressive symphonic rock which effectively blends the styles of Camel and Sagrado Coracão da Terra, with a touch of neo-prog ala Pallas. If you love violin-led progressive rock as much as we do, don’t miss this CD. There is an mp3 of the title track at Prog Archives. While at the time of this writing there are no audio samples from this album on the Silver Lining website, there is an mp3 of a complete bonus track called October (9:16, 8.5 MB); it’s a bit cruder than the album proper but will give you the general idea.
The self-titled Skeem CD is the 2001 debut by a French neo-prog band with perfect English-language vocals and the symphonic keyboards and soaring guitars inspired by Marillion and Pendragon one has come to expect. The band has at its disposal an accomplished rhythm section, seeing as it’s Priam’s. There have been few French neo-prog bands after the now-forgotten Arrakeen; this is a good one. Prog Archives has mp3s and many reviews. This is the MALS label edition.
Just Suggesting (2CD, 2013) appeared 12 years later, so not surprisingly there have been some lineup changes. And if you let it go that long, a double CD is justified. It’s by-the-book neo-prog.
This French instrumental band has existed since 1977 and contributed to the 1989 Musea album Enchantement. They were initially influenced by King Crimson, Robert Fripp, and Brian Eno but have since found a musical identity closer to Edhels or A Triggering Myth. Their first album was In Strum Mental (2002), followed by Le Repli des Ombres (2005, 54-minutes) and Timeless Island (2012, 64-minutes). Sombre Reptile play their own brand of instrumental progressive rock, melodic and structured, with hypnotic atmospheres, an original rhythmic base, ethnic flavors, and inspired, fluid dialogues between the Dedieu brothers on guitars and keyboards. It’s really the dreamlike atmospheres behind the lead instruments that elevates Sombre Reptile above the norm. Read the allmusic review of Le Repli des Ombres. Listen to Out of the Jungle from Timeless Island on YouTube.
Subtitled Six Modern Prog Bands for Six ’70s Prog Suites, The Spaghetti Epic 1 (2004) is another concept organized by the Finnish magazine Colossus. Six bands each created a progressive suite of 20-25 minutes: Haikara (Finland), Randone (Italy), Tilion (Italy), La Voce del Vento (a moniker for Brits Guy Manning & Andy Tillison of The Tangent), Taproban (Italy), and Trion (The Netherlands). The bands use 1970s keyboards and sounds and have been influenced by the major bands of that era, particularly the Italian prog bands such as Banco, PFM, Museo Rosenbach, and Le Orme. The set is housed in a fat 2CD case to accommodate the massive booklet. Counts as two CDs for shipping.
The Spaghetti Epic 2 (2007), subtitled The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, is a single CD in the same style, featuring one track each by Randone, La Voce del Vento, and Tilion. The tracks average over 25-minutes each. This album is dedicated to recently-deceased Vesa Lattunen, the leader of Haikara, who were to have contributed the opening track.
Excellent French fusion a la Brand X. After a self-titled 1975 debut, Spheroe released Primadonna (1978), their second and final album. This is the 2010 mini-LP edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight cardboard sleeve.
Spleen Arcana is primarily the work of French multi-instrumentalist and singer Julien Gaullier, with a drummer and female backing vocalist. From the cover image and title of The Field Where She Died (2009), you would be correct in assuming it is a melancholic album, but it’s a fairly unique one. The album is bathed in a warm Mellotron glow, mostly strings but also some choir, making it a hybrid of vintage prog and modern styles (among the latter, Gaullier mentions Anathema and Radiohead as inspiration). Most of the tracks hover around the 10-minute mark. There is only a minor metal influence, and some of this sounds like an extension of later Pink Floyd. It isn’t unrelentingly dark either, as there are major key chord progressions during which the music is closer to Hogarth-era Marillion. A sincere and very worthwhile first album. Read the review at JerryLucky.com.
The second Spleen Arcana album The Light Beyond the Shades (2014) delves even deeper in Mellotron-drenched, retro-style sympho-prog, refining most aspects of the first album significantly. Apart from being sung in English, it sounds a lot like a lost French 1970s gem, as if Pulsar and Shylock had done a side project together. “Just about everything about The Light Beyond the Shades is either a refinement or a marked improvement over Spleen Arcana’s previous record. The three compositions are loaded with all kinds of vintage sounds from Hammond organ, Minimoog, Solina, Fender Rhodes, and Mellotron.” Read the full Jerry Lucky review as well as the Music from the Other Side of the Room and Lady Obscure reviews.
The sole album from French band Step Ahead, released in 1982, is excellent progressive rock influenced by Yes and sounding very English. Having an Irish lead vocalist and English lyrics helped in that regard. Read the ProgRockMusic.net review, which includes links to two audio tracks. “One of the best progressive rock albums of the eighties. Superbly composed, constructed, recorded and mixed... absolutely indispensable for all progressive fans.” [La Discographie du Rock Français] This CD is the 2015 MALS edition, produced under license from Musea, which comes in a gatefold mini-LP style sleeve.
No, we don’t know why the first ‘n’ in SyNphonic is capitalized. We do know that this is the late 2012 entry in the popular series of Colossus/Musea thematic various artists prog extravaganzas. H.P. Lovecraft was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. A pioneer of ‘weird fiction’, he influenced Stephen King and helped create the subgenre which includes The Twilight Zone, The X Files, and Fringe. This triple-CD set with 64-page booklet pays homage to Lovecraft’s legacy with 20 original compositions. Each participating band chose a different Lovecraft tale, then composed a musical piece based on or inspired by the story. Lovecraft’s weird tales proved to be a great launching pad for the bands’ imaginations, as this project contains track after track of creative progressive rock. The bands include The Samurai of Prog, Glass Hammer, Karda Estra, Unitopia, Simon Says, Jinetes Negros, Blank Manuskript, La Coscienza di Zeno, Guy LeBlanc (Nathan Mahl), Ciccada, D’Accord, Sithonia, Daal, Nexus, Aether, Goad, and more. Counts as 2 CDs for shipping.
Supper’s Ready are a prog band from Luxembourg who have some Genesis influence, but not nearly as much as their name would suggest. The music on this 2000 CD is somewhat less symphonic and more vocal and guitar-oriented, and more contemporary than Foxtrot-era Genesis, with a fair amount of Pink Floyd influence as well. The English-language vocals are quite good, as the singer’s voice is somewhat similar to John Wetton’s. The guitarist is also quite good, combining David Gilmour-esque electric leads with a clean style that reminds us of Dennis Mullin of Iluvatar.
Mister Green, the 2000 debut CD by French band Taal, can be likened in some ways to Solaris’ Martian Chronicles, a fully-mature progressive rock debut album, though Taal’s music has more variety, complexity, and large-scale structure than Solaris’. These nine pieces, mostly instrumental, reveal fantasy, humor, and dark atmospheres contrasting with symphonic splendor; they are difficult to compare to anything else. One could reference other French bands such as Shylock or Pulsar; Taal are nothing if not eclectic. With the addition of sax, violin, cello, flute, and clarinet, Taal build a powerful symphonic rock with numerous inspirations, including some eccentric passages sounding like a prog rock circus. This is the 2010 mini-LP edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight cardboard sleeve.
Return of the Samurai (2013) really means the return of Tai Phong. Tai Phong are a well-known prog band in France (and to a lesser extent Japan), though they sing almost entirely in English. This is partly because their 1970s albums were released on WEA and produced the hit single Sister Jane, also because their singer Jean-Jacques Goldman went on to become a hugely popular (in the French-speaking world) pop-rock singer-songwriter. Goldman not surprisingly has no interest in rejoining Tai Phong now, but the founders of the band are two Vietnamese brothers, of whom Khanh remains and is now running the band. After three albums during the 1970s, Tai Phong re-emerged once in 2000 with the album Sun, so this is their second comeback. They were always a soft symphonic prog band, perhaps comparable to early Barclay James Harvest, with Yes, Genesis, and Pink Floyd influences well assimilated. Their style has changed somewhat but it still tends to the softer side, while they now use female vocals on some songs. It appears Tai Phong are aware that they have two sets of fans, their prog fans (Tai Phong were first and foremost a prog band) and their pop fans whose gateway was Sister Jane, and so this new album has something for both camps. Even the more mainstream songs here are usually elevated by Gilmour-esque lead guitar. Mike Oldfield had a similar problem around the time of Moonlight Shadow, and this new album made us think of his mid-period work. Watch the videos for One Day, Long Ago, Reviens Moi, and Carry Me. The CD comes in a simple printed cardboard sleeve and counts as only one-half CD for shipping.
T-Bo is a band created by Belgian drummer Philippe Laloux, in loving memory of his son Thibaut, killed at age 19 by a driver under the influence of drugs and alcohol. His son liked his father’s music and wanted it to be recorded. These 14 instrumental pieces are played by Laloux on drums and acoustic guitar, assisted by numerous musicians on electric & acoustic guitars, flute, sax, keyboards, trumpet, bass and percussion. We Stay Together (2007) is beautiful symphonic prog: melodic, refined and usually serene. Flute has most of the lead lines though the electric guitar has a few, making the music close to Rousseau or to gentler Camel or Focus. Since the music is composed by a drummer, there’s still some vigor here underneath the pastoral flute parts and airy atmospheres. 71-minutes.
This 1999 CD is a generally relaxed instrumental album consisting of many short pieces, some of which feature wordless male or female vocals. The pieces most often blend progressive music and neo-classical (Debussy, Ravel, etc.), with touches of jazz, world music, and modern rhythms. Melodic, dreamlike, and always fascinating, perhaps comparable to some of Jean Pascal Boffo’s work.
CD reissue of a great French instrumental symphonic progressive album recorded in 1978, plus two bonus 1977 live tracks. The band features two keyboardists (Mellotron, Fender Rhodes, others), Bernard Monneri’s guitar (Vortex), and Patrick Tilleman’s violin (Zao, Gwendal, Forgas, Tillenco). The music is often dreamily romantic and stately but also features upbeat stretches.
La Theorie des Cordes (String Theory) is a French band with a lineup of guitar, piano, bass and drums. Premières Vibrations (2011, 59-minutes) contains seven mid-length instrumental pieces of a brand of progressive jazz-rock that is best compared to other French artists such as mid-1990s Jean-Pascal Boffo or Priam. The music is fluid, lively and dynamic, with touches of Eastern European folk music. The guitarist occasionally plays heavy but primarily a mix of lyrical and angular leads, comping when the piano is foregrounded. The piano parts are more classical than jazz, resulting in a very European-sounding fusion that crosses over into instrumental progressive rock.
This is the CD reissue of a short (31:29) but absolutely beautiful and unique 1979 French progressive album. Thibault was Magma’s first bassist; he later moved into the producer’s chair. Thibault recruited a number of top French musicians for this album, including Francis Moze (fretless bass) and David Rose (violin). The bass work is stellar. Despite the presence of several Magma musicians, only a small amount of this qualifies as Zeuhl music. It is softer, warmer and more acoustic than Magma, surreal and mesmerizing, with some light African, Arab and Indian influences. Its pastoral quality suggests Mike Oldfield. There are natural sounds and sound effects that are well-integrated, yet no synthesizers were used. There are voices but no lyrics. You’d be forgiven for thinking the wordless vocals on the opening 13-minute track are from Annie Haslam, but that’s Amanda Parsons (Hatfield and the North), and everyone seems to fall in love with this piece of music. Yes, it would be nice if the album was longer, but better a half hour of classic prog than 75-minutes of mediocrity.
Tiemko was an essential French progressive rock band of the late 1980s and the 1990s, instrumental except on Clone (1995), which includes vocals. Parade (1991) is their third. Tiemko combine King Crimson, Yes, Shylock, and Gentle Giant with new music influences, creating an original style with a dense sound that highlights both guitar and keyboards. They belong to the generation of French bands that includes Minimum Vital, Halloween, and Edhels, who developed a new strain of progressive rock. Ça Tourne (2004) consists of unreleased tracks, captured live during rehearsals and improvisations, plus multimedia content including a video. Check above for the related Deboco CD.
The full title of this 2009 CD is From Tiemko to Travelling, as Jean-Jacques Toussaint was the keyboardist of the band Tiemko. For this 63-minute album, Toussaint is assisted by numerous musicians including Tiemko’s guitarist and drummer and others on accordion, trumpet, sax, violin, cello, and more. This chamber rock orchestra plays 13 instrumental pieces with diverse instrumentation and styles, from Canterbury-ish jazz-rock to Tiemko-style progressive to classically-influenced music, all of the more angular and adventurous variety.
TNNE is the successor to Luxembourg neo-prog band No Name, who released four albums between 1993-2006. You have to look closely at the CD cover to see that TNNE stands for The No Name Experience, and TNNE have taken over the No Name website. TNNE is No Name founding member, keyboardist and composer Alex Rukavina plus No Name singer Patrick Kiefer, along with a new guitarist, bassist, drummer, and guest saxophonist. The Clock That Went Backwards (2014, digipack) is their debut. Expect neo-prog along the lines of Clepsydra, Pendragon, IQ, etc. Read the Sea of Tranquility review.
T.Phan is the new project of Stéphan Caussarieu, the drummer from the band Tai Phong. The two band names sound similar, and not by chance. For those who don’t know Tai Phong, they were a French progressive rock band from the second half of the 1970s signed to a major label; their singer Jean-Jacques Goldman went on to become one of the most respected singer-songwriters in France. They had a European hit with the song Sister Jane and created quality melodic rock sung in English, roughly a blend of Yes and Barclay James Harvest. Thirty years later, T.Phan continue the story with Last Warrior (2009, 60-minutes). While it sounds distinct from Tai Phong, it’s close enough that it could be the follow-up album to Last Flight, given that 30 years have passed since that final Tai Phong album. Probably the best reference is Camel from Nude on. Last Warrior is not quite on the Camel level, but it is sung in English, features a similar balance between vocals and instrumental passages, has touches of jazz, some great melodies and fine playing. Read the DPRP review.
This 2007 CD is another concept organized by the Finnish magazine Colossus and released by Musea. This one features one 1970s-style epic progressive track each by Velvet Desperados (Finland), Floating State (Italy), and Nexus (Argentina), inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s book. Each track is 23-26 minutes long.
This is the 2003 debut by a French quintet that had already been in existence for ten years. Their departure point is Marillion circa Fugazi or the “serious”-sounding tracks from Script for a Jester’s Tear. And they don’t stray far from there, though they are slightly heavier than Marillion was. Jean Marc Tesorio sings in English and at times sounds uncannily like Fish. Almost all the music is of that weighty, plodding mid-tempo, and there are only four tracks totaling 55-minutes, so Ultime Atome do go in for the epics. There have been plenty of Marillion-influenced bands, yet as one that concentrates on this one particular style of Marillion’s, it’s hard to think of another band doing it better.
Don Giovanni (1992) is the second of four albums by Versailles, a French band modeled after Ange and Mona Lisa, with Christian Decamps’ style of dramatic, theatrical vocals. In fact, the members of Versailles went on to make up the second incarnation of Mona Lisa. The analog keyboards give them a very 1970s sound. Le Trésor de Valliesres (1994) and Blaise et Benjamin (1998) are their third and fourth albums and their two best. This mini-LP version of Le Trésor de Valliesres is the 2009 edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight cardboard sleeve. Read reviews at Prog Archives.
Guillaume de la Piliere is the leader of Versailles and currently the guitarist for Mona Lisa. Psychedeleidoscope (2000) is his second solo CD, and as one might guess, it is a psychedelic-flavored prog album. Read the review at progVisions.
Wapassou are a unique 1970s French progressive band. Keyboards, violin, guitar, and occasional voice combine to create a kind of 21st-century chamber music, overflowing with beautiful melodies. Two reasonable reference points are the French band Catharsis and the Italian band Opus Avantra. Ludwig (1979) is Wapassou’s fourth album. The review at Progweed.net of Wapassou’s previous album is applicable to Ludwig as well: “On their second effort, Salammbô (1977), Wapassou has arrived at a near perfect cross-section of French folk music, electronic music, orchestral grandeur, and the avant-garde. In short, Salammbô is an extremely innovative yet profoundly beautiful album... the group relies on seemingly folk-inspired themes as well as gorgeous, conventionally ‘classical’ sounding melodies, but it is in their subtle crafting of a dream-like, disembodied effect that much of the power of this record lies.” The mini-LP version is the 2009 limited edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight cardboard sleeve.
This is the CD reissue (+ 8 bonus tracks) of the 1970 sole album from a Belgian band that played organ-dominated proto-prog comparable to Raw Material, Gracious, early Jethro Tull, or Beggars Opera. The line-up was vocals (in English), flute, bass, guitar, keys, and drums. From the music, you’d never know Waterloo wasn’t a UK band. Because the master tapes were lost, the CD was taken from vinyl, but audio restoration was performed in a professional studio in 1999. The mini-LP edition is the 2010 limited edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight cardboard sleeve. The jewel box edition is on Musea.
On their 2006 debut, this French band plays heavy symphonic prog in an atypical way, combining the styles of Ange, early Marillion, and Dream Theater. The music is far more symphonic than metallic though. With theatrical vocals a la Ange or Mona Lisa and lyrics in French, the French character of the music tends to dominate the other influences.
Very good French instrumental symphonic progressive. Carrycroch’ (1978) includes one bonus track, while Second (1979) includes five. Carrycroch’ is reminiscent of Camel and Bo Hansson, while Second adds some jazz-rock touches. Start with Second.
Wolf Höller was the keyboardist and composer of the excellent progressive band La Rossa, who recorded their sole album in the early 1980s. Wolf is a project of Wolf Höller with Jean-Pascal Boffo, the well-known French guitarist and sound engineer. With Hervé Rouyer (Ange) on drums, F. Pesce on bass, F. Michaud on violin, and Isabelle Porto on bagpipes, Wolf creates 11 rock songs with a wide range of influences and inspirations. In addition to progressive rock, they include Celtic rock, one song seemingly a descendant of Led Zep’s Kashmir, one Rolling Stones-style song, and others between rock and prog rock. Yet they all seem to have an appeal to prog fans. Wolf has a slightly odd voice, like David Surkamp of Pavlov’s Dog pitch-shifted down an octave. The violin and bagpipes parts are brilliant, and all the musicians more than capable.
WolfSpring is a band assembled by Jean-Pierre Louveton, guitarist and singer of the popular French prog band Nemo. WolfSpring includes Nemo’s keyboardist, a drummer, and a German vocalist who sings in English. This is their 2010 debut. WolfSpring is Louveton’s vehicle for a more guitar-centric and more contemporary-sounding progressive rock, closer to the Porcupine Tree side of things. And with English rather than French vocals, the barrier to entry has been lowered for many. There are still plenty of keyboards in a supporting role as well as classic prog flavors (Pink Floyd for one), and the result is still more symphonic and nuanced than most of what falls in the ‘modern prog’ category. It’s an excellent album that is distinct from Nemo’s output. One band is just not enough to contain Louveton’s creativity.
Rock Fantasia Opus 9 is a very welcome CD reissue of a rare French instrumental progressive rock LP from 1980, plus two bonus tracks from 1986. The music is classical-based prog with folk touches, incorporating medieval and renaissance-inspired sounds. While piano and flute dominate, the composer is also a famous maker of early stringed instruments, and so you can hear bowed psaltery, dulcimer, lyre, and metallophone alongside keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums. Read reviews at Progressor and Prog Archives.
The follow-up album Rock Fantasia Opus 10 was recorded in 1985 but remained unreleased until this 2009 CD. Two unfinished tracks have been replaced by two 1986 bonus tracks. (It’s still a short album.) The band lineup had changed some, and it’s a safe bet that this is the only rock band ever with three psaltery players. The instrumentation also includes keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums. The music here is a more conventional form of instrumental symphonic prog than Opus 9, melodic and flowing, roughly the Camel style merged with a bit of melodic jazz-rock. It’s very good, and you just haven’t lived until you’ve heard what is otherwise a familiar style of music with melody lines played on bowed psaltery!
This is the second and final CD from French band Xaal, recorded in 1993, in a territory between King Crimson, Magma, Present, Shylock, jazz-rock and RIO. Read reviews at Prog Archives. The mini-LP edition is the 2009 limited edition released by the MALS label under license from Musea, which comes in a heavyweight cardboard sleeve.
Xang is an instrumental guitar/keys/bass/drums French quartet playing high-energy symphonic prog. Some but not all of their 1999 debut Destiny of a Dream could be called neo-prog, to the extent any all-instrumental band can be called neo; primarily this has to do with the guitar style. This is the kind of prog rock with appeal to metal and hard rock fans even though the music is neither metal nor hard rock.
The Last of the Lasts (2006) is again an instrumental sympho-prog work, but a much more mature one. There is still some of the heavy style, and while it has a modern feel, this album is more diverse, with stronger classical and jazz influences and more sophisticated textures and atmospheres. It’s a concept album about World War I with an excellent booklet in English, and so the music is frequently melancholy to reflect the tragic nature of the war and the enormous human cost. Xang are from Cambrai, which was one of the battlefields. Read reviews at Progressor and Prog Archives.
On their 2006 debut, this French band use the usual rock instruments plus keyboards, flute, sitar, tablas and other ethnic percussion. Yole have created a progressive rock that often has a dreamy and pastoral flavor a la early Genesis. The biggest influence we hear is early Steve Hackett, both acoustic and electric. The guitarist uses a different electric tone than Hackett, but otherwise that mix of flute, symphonic keys, acoustic and electric guitar is close to vintage Hackett. After one track of pure sitar psych, the Indian instruments play only a minor role. There are seven instrumentals and five tracks with vocals in English, both male and female. Overall very nice; there is room for improvement in some areas but Yole are headed in the right direction. Read the DPRP review.