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TRACK LIST: 1. L'Age d'Or 5:58 2. L'Ultime Rock 4:08 3. Kaelka 2:54 4. Smarta Kitschy 7:51 5. Eau 5:38 6. Garces de Femmes 4:11 7. La Maison de Men-Taa 4:10 8. Puzzle 8:02 Bonus tracks: 9. Here Comes the Feeling 4:30 10. No Reply 4:05 11. Eye to Eye 5:20 All music / lyrics: by ATOLL, except: 9: by Wetton / Wetton, 10 & 11: by Taillet, Gonzo / Wetton. LINE-UP: Michel Taillet - acoustic piano & synthesizers Alain Gonzo - drums & percussion Jean-Luc Thillot - bass & acoustic guitars Christian Beya - electric & acoustic guitars Andre Balzer - vocals With: Stella Vander & Lisa Deluxe - backing vocals & Symphonic Orchestra (violins, oboes, etc) LINE-UP on bonus tracks: Michel Taillet - keyboards Alain Gonzo - drums Jean-Jacques Flety - guitars John Wetton - basses; vocals Engineered by J. Van Bay at "Gang", Paris. Tracks 9 to 11 recorded at "Polydor st.", Paris.
Prolusion. Atoll is one of the most renowned bands that came from France and is also the only French band that had an English vocalist in its lineup (see above). Atoll released five studio albums in all, and "Rock Puzzle" is their fourth. As far as I can remember, this is their only album that features a symphonic orchestra.
Synopsis. The music on the first two tracks on "Rock Puzzle": L'Age d'Or and L'Ultime Rock makes a very mixed impression on me. It is about quite a strange combination of Pop Rock and Classic Symphonic Art-Rock. To say more precisely, all the vocally instrumental parts here are built by a simple couplet-refrain 'scheme', while the arrangements in purely instrumental parts fully correspond to the unwritten laws of Classic Art-Rock. Female backing vocals, romantically optimistic moods, and elements of light Classical Music - these are the other notable aspects of the songs standing at the head of the album's track list. Surprisingly, the next piece: Kaelka (3) turned out to be a real gem of Classical Music. For the most part, it consists of diverse and beautiful, and what's central, constantly developing interplay between passages of piano, those of a few violins, and solos of oboe. Kaelka should have certainly been placed on track 4, because on Smarta Kitschy (4), Atoll are unexpectedly back to the 'Classic Symphonic Pop Rock' they started with, though the vocal parts here are more diverse than those on the first two tracks on the album. Beginning with the fifth track, the band quite radically changes a musical direction as if having remembered that they're a classic Art-Rock band, after all. A true, diverse and intriguing, by all means excellent Symphonic Art-Rock with pronounced elements of real Classical Music is presented on Eau, La Maison de Men-Taa, and Puzzle (5, 7, & 8). Although Garces de Femmes (6) is more accessible than these three, unlike all the songs located in the first half of the album, it conforms to the concept of Classic Art-Rock in its entirety. Among the three bonus tracks: Here Comes the Feeling, No Reply, and Eye to Eye, the first was written by Wetton and is most likely the worst song ever recorded in Atoll's history. It is clearly of 'pre-Asian' origin, is very poppy, and doesn't contain separate instrumental parts at all. The other two bonus tracks, written by the Atoll musicians, are on the whole on par with the first two songs on "Rock Puzzle", though stylistically, they're about a progressive Hard Rock.
Conclusion. I've read many reviews of "Rock Puzzle", and in my view, most critics underrate it and are mistaken when saying it's almost completely out of interest to Prog-lovers. If not to take into account bonus tracks, this is quite a good album on the whole and is better than many other Progressive-related outputs released the same year, in 1979.
VM: Agst 14, 2003
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