Having toured with the likes of Gentle Giant (in 1974) and Caravan (in 1976, the year they released this album), one can say that Pollen was one of Québec's biggest progressive acts in the mid 70s. The band married tight musicianship and dazzling special effects and could be perceived as Québec's most symphonic contribution to the world of prog. This eponymous CD is the only living testament to this line-up under the "Pollen" name and may be the brightest jewel in the Québecois progressive crown.
The disc opens with "Vieux Corps De Vie D'ange" which immediately sets the tone for the album. Gobs of analog keys and Rivest's inimitable crooning voice launch into protest mode. The title of the track is in fact a play on words. The expression vieux corps de vidanges is a Québecois slang for "old garbage cans". However, when written as "vieux corps de vie d'anges" it translates literally as " the old bodies of the lives of angels". The track denounces the Catholic religion which ruled Québec with an iron fist in a velvet glove for hundreds of years. It took the quiet revolution (revolution tranquille) of the 60s for the Québecois people to rise above the controlling influence Catholicism had on a very naïve and poorly educated peasant mass. The topic was an especially sore spot throughout the early 70s. Musically, the track offers up a very dramatic mixture of pomp and symph filled with gorgeous keyboard excursions and extremely dramatic vocals from Rivest.
"L'Etoile" follows and veers the disc into a mellower, almost Harmonium-like direction. Acoustic guitar and Rivest's crooning relate the tale of a star which lightens the rural winter night sky above a remote Québecois village. The star is in reality a space ship from a more advanced culture which appears to humanity in order to help us veer off our self-destructive path. Yes, the concept sounds cheesy, but the track remains a very interesting piece which demonstrates the band's ability to write a more radio-friendly number ( radio friendly circa 1976, that is..).
"L'Indien" is a bittersweet number about urbanization and its cost. The modern world is viewed through the eyes of an old Indian who reminisces about how his people's lives were so different before the white man appeared. This is another ballad which again has a slight Harmonium feel to it ( the Harmonium influence was very strong in bands which followed them as their music was ubiquitous in Québec after the release of Si On Avait Besoin D'une Cinquieme Saison). Rivest does manages to put his own stamp on this one and his melancholic crooning and acoustic guitar is achingly poignant throughout the number.
"Tout'l Temps" turns the album on its ear. It's a quirky up-tempo number built on a jazz-like drum beat and swirling keyboards. Lyrically, it's an uplifting piece about letting out one's positive energy to share with the world. The band once again shows a penchant for being able to write pop pieces with symphonic flair. The song ends on a particularly high note with some very tasty keyboards.
"Vivre La Mort" is one of the disc's best numbers. It has a darker feel to it and lyrically deals with abandoning one's physical shell to embrace the after-life. The musical framework of the piece is built upon some powerful drumming and theatrical keyboard chords as the tracks builds to a crescendo. Halfway through the number we get a taste of Pollen's truly symphonic nature. Guitars and keys coalesce as the song builds up a head of steam before pushing the listener over the top in a fine display of tight musicianship.
"La Femme Ailée" closes off the album in grand style. Another track which sings about departure from the physical self, although this one seems a tad more ambiguous than the previous numbers. Musically, this is the disc's epic track. It begins inauspiciously enough with some gentle guitar passages and delicate vocals. Slowly, the track builds in intensity until it explodes in grandiose fashion. The closing 6 minutes of this number showcase Québecois progressive in its finest light. Complex tempo changes and superlative instrumental prowess are the order of the day. Somber church organ cedes to powerful drum fills and moog madness and some excellent lead guitar before returning to the track's main theme and closing off the disc.
Musique ProgresSon has added yet another feather in its cap. The re-issuing of this quintessential progressive gem should open the label to more scrutiny by the general progressive rock community. Once again, attention to detail was the order of the day. From the beautifully sounding re-mastering of the music, through the magnificent archived photos and brief band bio, ProgQuébec have given this band and this disc the makeover it deserved. This is truly a classic and one of my favorite all-time prog albums. Highest recommendations!
- Vieux Corps De Vie d'Anges (7:13)
- L'Etoile (6:27)
- L'Indien (4:53)
- Tout'l Temps (3:33)
- Vivre La Mort (5:32)
- La Femme Ailée (10:35)