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Edition Speciale - 1978/2007 - "Horizon Digital"

(63:19, Musea Records)


*****+
                 
TRACK LIST:                   

1.  Aurore 5:48
2.  Camara 9:25
3.  Ma Vie Degenerate 3:00
4.  Daisy 7:06
5.  Jungle's Jingle 6:33
6.  Confluence 4:55
7.  Rouge Champs 4:03
8.  ES Blues 4:23
9.  Open It Up 4:50
10. Babylone 7:15
11. Time Will Make It Better 6:19

LINEUP:

Ann Ballester - keyboards; vocals 
Mimi Lorenzini - guitars; vocals
Francois Grillot - bass 
Alain Gouillard - drums 
Mireille Bauer - vibes, percussion

Prolusion. Probably the only female-fronted jazz-fusion band ever existed, France's EDITION SPECIALE were active all through the second half of the '70s when they released their three albums, "Aliquante" (1976), "Allee des Tilleus" (1977) and "Horizon Digital" (1978, featuring Mireille Bauer, famed for her remarkable performance for both Gong and Steve Hillage). This expanded CD includes all tracks from the "Horizon Digital" LP, plus five compositions the group had planned to use on their fourth album, which ended in failure. For the sake of equity, it needs to be mentioned that the publisher, Musea Records, at first didn't plan to reissue "Horizon Digital" on CD. As to bonus tracks, none were available until now.

Analysis. The tracks from the LP are so very different from the extras that it doesn't seem possible to explore this CD by lumping all its contents together:-). Let me begin with the album. With the exception of one tune, to be named in due time, I see the 6-track "Horizon Digital" as a creation of musicians who are still as true to the classic forms of Jazz Rock as they were from the outset. The sound, however, appears to be at once familiar and novel. Why? Well, it would've been strange if Mireille Bauer hadn't left her mark on the music. Which is certainly not to say the soloing area is placed totally under her control, but anyway, once you ventured on the listen, be prepared to meet with quite a few of the band's joint movements in which Mireille's vibes either set the mood or share the leadership with Ann Ballester's keyboards. That said, the ladies rule almost throughout the album, Ma Vie Degenerate being the sole track where they stay in the background. As if trying to refute the proverb "One body is nobody", the guitar player Martian "Mimi" Lorenzini is tireless in providing spectacular leads there, but nevertheless the piece is sonically dichromatic at best, besides being both vocal-heavy and comparatively repetitive. As also on the other two tracks with lyrical content, Ann and Mimi sing in chorus, but since the male is the possessor of a sort of asexual voice, the uninitiated may think the vocals are delivered by two women. The instrumentals, Jungle's Jingle, Aurore and Confluence, best of all depict Edition Speciale as a very strong ensemble with great versatility. Each comes across as a storm of swords as regards their richness in intense, avalanche-like arrangements in combination with their providers' technical filigree. Effortlessly, with equally outstanding results, the band jumps from style to style, now following classic jazz-rock traditions, now disclosing a fine thematic evolution with the prevalence of symphonic passages, though Confluence contains also some ethnic motifs. Comparisons could be made to several bands, such as Return To Forever, Brand X, Gong, National Health and Manfred Mann's Earth Band, but the similarities are transitory. The album's remaining two tracks, Camara and Daisy, are both largely instrumental in the final analysis, which is good bearing in mind that singing has been always a kind of soft underbelly of Edition Speciale, despite all the originality of their approach. Both compositions possess a lot of virtues, the first standing out for some blazing acoustic guitar leads, though the latter is more complicated, comparable with the instrumentals in profundity. The five bonus tracks, Rouge Champs, ES Blues, Open It Up, Babylone and Time Will Make It Better, were all recorded during only one studio session in 1980. Apart from the two founding members, Ballester and Lorenzini, they feature keyboardist Thierry Tamain, bassist Emmanuel Binet, drummer Frank Raholison and singer Fernand Pena whose vocals, by the way, are almost reminiscent of Uriah Heep's David Byron. It seems the band's willingness to make a compromise with the requirements of the times has then coincided with their creative crisis, as the signs of decadence are obvious throughout the extras. Four of those are songs, all being straightforward, varying only in style: from jazz-tinged Hard Rock (Rouge Champs) to Funk (Open It Up) to a kind of Reggae (both Time Will Make It Better and Babylone). Some echoes of Edition Speciale's past grandeur can only be heard on the instrumental ES Blues, though most of the time the band remains within the bounds of standard swingy Jazz Rock there.

Conclusion. Although "Horizon Digital" can hardly be regarded as a step forward, this is still in many ways a remarkable recording, almost on a par with any of its predecessors, so it would've been regretful if Musea Records had not changed their original intention. It's quite another matter that the additional material doesn't seem to be good enough ever to have been published. Take it as an edifyingly cognitive listen, documenting the group's final stage of activity.

VM: December 5, 2007


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