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(142:13 2CD / Musea Records)
Prolusion. ANGE is a band from France, founded way back in 1970. They've become somewhat of an institution in France, but haven't established themselves as a household name outside of their native country. Ange broke up in 1995, but founding member Christian Decamps reestablished the band four years later with new musicians, and they're still very much active. "Zenith an II" is a double live CD from a concert the reformed group had in Paris on October 13, 2002, and was released by Musea Records in 2007.
Disc 1 (71:12)
TRACK LIST: 1. Nonne Assistante a Personne a Tanger 10:12 2. Ethnies 3:53 3. Le Ballon de Billy 7:42 4. Adrenaline 7:06 5. Jusquou Iront-ils 8:49 6. Culinaire Lingus 5:38 7. Virgule 3:04 8. Ode a Emile 3:30 9. Sur la Trace des Fees 5:08 10. Au-Dela du Delire 8:59 11. Le Bal des Laze 7:11 LINEUP: Christian Decamps vocals; acoustic guitar; keyboards Tristan Decamps keyboards; vocals Hassan Hajdi el. & ac. guitars Thierry Sidhoum - bass Herve Rouyer - drums Caroline Crozat backing vocals
Analysis. Ange is a band belonging to the classic school of progressive rock. Their main style is symphonic prog of the kind that was popular in the 70s, with keyboards and melodic guitars as central instruments. The band is fond of writing ballads as well, and there are also a few examples of tunes with influences from folk and jazz here. Keyboards are vital to all compositions here: mellow and often fragile piano for ballads and calmer segments in the more distinct symphonic tunes, epic and majestic floating synths in the intense parts of the compositions. The keyboards provide melody and enhance mood and atmosphere, sometimes contrasting the guitar work and at other times supporting the melody conveyed by the guitar, always enriching the soundscape. Guitars are a vital part of the sound explored by Ange as well, with acoustic guitars often given the limelight as melodic provider. The electric guitar is used extensively, providing lead line guitar soloing harmonizing nicely with the keyboards and adding weight to the non-ballad compositions with slick riff patterns. But the main element in the sound explored by Ange are the vocals. Instruments provide melodies and build atmospheres; the voices add life and vitality to the compositions. Christian Decamps is the only founding member left of Ange, and his contributions are vital throughout. With a level of charisma that should make us grateful that he chose music instead of politics as his chosen field, he charms, flirts and enchants the listener with a theatrical and often dramatic vocal performance, talking and singing in a manner that is close to the manners of a circus ringleader enchanting the crowd, always balancing on the edge of going over the top, but always managing to stay on the right side of it. On the tunes where Caroline Crozat provides additional vocals the interplay between the two vocalists are amazing, the two of them have an amazing chemistry between them in performance, creating hypnotic atmospheres transfixing the listener. There are quite a few really amazing tunes on this CD, personally I'll highlight Jusqu'ou Iront-ils as the most intriguing of the songs here, as the dark and sinister atmospheres explored in this tune sets it apart from the other songs. Opening with keyboards and vocals only, the tune grows darker, more sinister and grim from one minute till the next, with one instrument after another added to the soundscape as the song evolves, enhancing the overall threatening mood. The vocal cooperation between Christian Decamps and Caroline Crozat is at its most intense in this tune as well, taking on operatic qualities towards the end of the vocal segments of the tune.
Disc 2 (71:01)
TRACK LIST: 1. Res Amissa 3:04 2. Lola Bomembre 2:32 3. On Sexe 8:32 4. Sheherazade 4:32 5. Si j'Etais le Messie 5:54 6. Prelude 3:12 7. Cadavre Exquis 12:18 8. Presentation 3:53 9. Docteur Man 4:00 10. Vu d'Un Chien 8:14 11. Ces Gens-la 6:35 12. Autour d'Un Cadavre Exquis 11:19
Analysis. The second disc of this live recording pretty much continues where the first leaves off, with symphonic rock being the main style explored, with a couple of ballads thrown in for good measure. There aren't as many tunes with distinct folk influences on this second disc though, and the performance does get somewhat less energetic towards the end here as well. Which is very understandable; as the concert that was recorded here lasts for more than two hours, the musicians are bound to get exhausted towards the end of such a musical marathon. The extremely intense tune On Sexe provides the first highlight of this part of the album, a hypnotic performance from both vocalists and all participating instrumentalists. The intense, repetitive but hypnotic tune Si j'Etais le Messie is the next, with multi-layered vocals and folk influences as distinct traits to the sound; this being the only composition in this part of the concert with folk influences. Cadavre Exquis is the song where the concert peaks, an epic 12-minute-long symphonic rock number. Although the tune as such isn't as fascinating or intense as many other songs on this album; the sheer amount of energy given out in the performance of this composition makes it the central point in this second half of the concert. Audience participation is extensive in the second half of this track as well, which adds charm to this tune. The band gets a long breather after finishing the song, as Chraz spends the next four minutes introducing the band to the audience. Five more tracks are played before this album finishes, and although Docteur Man with its slick guitar riff and catchy chorus as well as the slightly dark and sinister Jacques Brel cover Ces Gens-là both are stellar performances, the energy level of the band is clearly waning at this late stage of the concert. Still, sheer professionalism and experience sees to it that the performances keep a high level, and it's only on the last track, the epic and mostly instrumental Autour d'Un Cadavre Exquis that the delivery suffers slightly, the lack of energy making this tune a less intriguing listen.
Conclusion. Ange is a high class live band, skilled at entertaining the crowd. They have a number of strong compositions, and in front man Christian Decamps they have a highly charismatic presence that by himself makes a live performance by this band worthwhile investigating. With skilled musicians performing the tunes this is a classy release throughout, with the all-French vocals and the highly theatrical performance being the only elements that may be off-putting to fans of this genre of music. All in all this is a release highly recommended, and as the selection of tunes is a good mix between old and new compositions it is also a good introduction to this group for those unfamiliar with this band.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: March 1 & 2, 2008
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