Rather than review these three releases separately, I figured I'd accomplish the same feat combining them. For those who have never heard of Transit Express, they were a French progressive fusion band from the mid-1970's, whose music has just been released on CD. Combining the styles of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever, two of the 70's most influential fusion bands, Transit Express added a heavy French vibe as well to their complex yet jazzy sound.
Priglacit was the debut, and from the opening gong blast you are headed into complex fusion territory that recalls vintage Mahavishnu. At this point in time the band had yet to add violinist David Rose, so while the song structures recall what Mahavishnu was doing at the time, the solo trade-offs between guitarist Christian Leroux and keyboard player Serge Perathoner will instantly remind you of the classic duels of Al DiMeola and Chick Corea of Return to Forever. David Rose joined the fray for the classic second album, Opus Progressif. While the band still kept their fusion leanings, there is a much more proggy nature felt, perhaps with Yes, and Gentle Giant being popular at the time it rubbed off a bit on the band. Rose makes his presence felt on the two-part classic title track, a blistering song that shows the violinist had the chops of peers Jean Luc Ponty or Jerry Goodman. The third album, Couleurs Naturelles, is probably the most melodic and atmospheric of the three. Featuring standout tracks like "Visit to the Manor" and "Beyond the Mirror", this was the first album to really feature all five members working together as a unit for an entire recording. Unfortunately it was also to be their last.Still, it is a pleasure to listen to the melodic violin of Rose soaring above the complex guitar lines of Lerous, with Peranthoner laying down funky Fender Rhodes electric piano notes. The rhythm section of Dominique Bouvier on drums and Jean Claude Guselli on bass is simply stupendous, and keep things locked in quite nicely. Considering the complex nature of the songs on these three CD's, that would have been a difficult task for mere mortals, but these two musicians were up for it, and accomplished the feat with flying colors.
While you can't go wrong with either three here, they are all highly recommended and best enjoyed as a trio. In addition, the David Rose solo album has also been released by PBM as well, and is a perfect companion to these three CD's. It's a shame Transit Express never got the recognition they deserved as a true pioneer of 70's progressive fusion. While the similarities to the above mentioned two fusion giants are obvious, this band still created some gorgeous and inventive music. Along side other little known bands like Arti y Mistieri and Iceberg, Transit Express can now be enjoyed by all thanks to the medium of CD.