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Alan Simon

Chouans

Review by Gary Hill

This new double disc set is a telling of the French Revolution. As Alan Simon tells it, the disc focuses on the dark side of the story, which has often been relegated to the forgotten section of history. All the lyrics but those to one song are in French, so I will have to take his word for it. This is musically quite orchestral, but it's also rocking. We've reviewed quite a bit of Simon's stuff at MSJ, and you can always figure it to be progressive rock leaning and genre-bending. This is no exception. This is, perhaps, more theatrical than some of the rest, but that edge is often present in his music. Whatever you call it, though, this is potent and artistic stuff.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD 1 - Act I
            
Ouverture

Symphonic music opens the album. The cut grows outward from there. Rocking elements join after the half-minute mark. The track still showcases more classical sound in the arrangement as it drives outward. There is definite Alan Parsons kind of feel to this in a lot of ways. Chorale vocals join, driving this upward. This is dramatic and a real powerhouse.

L'incorruptible
AOR prog brings this into being with a harder rocking sound. There are some symphonic elements at play on the tune. The vocals are rocking. This is a strong tune with a real mainstream hard rocking sound. The instrumental breaks bring more proggy things to play. There are some powerful guitar fills on this, and the classical strings bring some magic to the table. The prog jam later in the number really elevates it.
Ça Ira
I recently wrote a review for the new Magma disc. Maybe that's the reason, but I hear this as very Magma-like really. It has a driving symphonic rock element at its core. There are some great instrumental moments, and the vocal arrangement is potent. This makes good usage of the contrast between mellower and more hard rocking sections.
Au Nom de Tous Les Miens
Still augmented by classical music trappings, this is another hard rocker as it starts. It drops to a balladic approach for the entrance of the vocals. This drives onward in styles as it continues. the vocals get very powerful, really reaching for the clouds in terms of intensity and emotion.
Le Chant Des Paysans
Piano and orchestral elements are at the heart of this. It has a melody and mood that makes me think of a French cafe. The vocals at first are essentially spoken and bring an almost operatic concept to it. When they turn to singing, it emphasizes that French cafe vibe.
La Folie
Dramatic, classically tinged textures open this. As it moves forward it merges a French cafe sound with symphonic progressive rock. This is rocking, but in a refined way. It's also quite world music based. There are symphonic elements over the top of all of it.
Ma France, Mon Espérance
Piano and evocative vocals are the core of this cut. Strings bring added magic to the number. This is a potent, if mellower, piece. It drives into some rocking modes later as the arrangement gets powered up for a short time.
La Complainte de L'abbé
Mellower, almost psychedelic modes open this. The cut works out from there with a dramatic prog ballad approach for the entrance of the vocals.
Dieu & Le Roy
I dig the rocking prog textures on this cool instrumental. It's driving and potent. It also has cool old-school keyboard sounds and great guitar work.
L'appel de Cadoudal
A real powerhouse prog piece, this has a hard edge and a lot of energy. Yet, it's decidedly proggy, albeit of the AOR variety. There are some almost Celtic elements at play on some of the instrumental work. The vocal performance is rocking.
Le Saint de L'anjou
There is some world music along with plenty of melodic rock in the mix here. The guitar fills have such a tasty sound.
CD 2 - Act II
      
L'amazone

A dramatic picked guitar melody opens this. Particularly effective female vocals open this. The cut is a balladic one and one of the most emotional pieces of the disc. It has some soaring peaks and great symphonic elements.

Le Pardon de Bonchamps
World music, classical and progressive rock all merge here. There is a theatrical air to this number.
La Virée de Galerne
The driving rhythm section and killer electric guitar on this thing are both really on fire. The number is a classy one that's packed full of prog rock. It has some hints of fusion, too. This instrumental is a real screamer.
L'infernale Danse
I love the powerhouse symphonic prog that starts this piece. The vocals are world music based and a bit too theatrical for my tastes. Still, this is a cool number that works well. It gets quite powerful as it drives onward.
Monsieur Henri
Much mellower, the backdrop on this has a real classical element. The female vocals are beautiful. This is gentle music, but the vocals get so impassioned and powerful.
Coeur de Chouans
Led out by piano, some killer electric guitar rises up to steer this in more rocking directions very quickly. Around the minute-and-a-half mark it drops back down to piano and strings to continue. It's a particularly evocative section. The guitar return to intensify things and really power it up. The instrumental is great.
God Save the King
The vocals are in English on this tune. It's an AOR prog number that really rocks. It's mainstream and quite tasty.
Réfractaire
Old-time music is at the heart of things as this starts. The vocals join, adding to that vibe. This is quite French in nature and texture. The arrangement gets boosted with augmentation that is mostly symphonic. It never really wanders from its origins, though until around the three-and-a-half-minute mark. That is when it explodes out into a powerhouse prog meets space rock jam that really elevates it.
Un Nouveau Monde
Symphonic world music concepts are at the heart of this evocative piece.
Mourir Pour Des Idées
Piano and vocals are at the core this number. It's another with a real European world music spirit at its core. It gets augmented by some electric guitar and a more rocking rhythm section around the two-minute mark.
Mon Petit Frère

A balladic world music meets classical approach drives a lot of this. Some electric guitar near the end elevates it into more rock territory.

Le Vent de la Mémoire

Piano and dramatic spoken vocals are at the heart of this. Some strings add to the mix as it evolves. This feels impassioned. In some ways it makes me think of the musician/poet/artist Copernicus. The music eventually turns more driving and impassioned to meet that level in the vocal performance. Still, this never really rises to the level of rock music.

 
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