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French TV (USA) - 1984/2000 - "French TV 1"
(46 min, "Pretentious Dinosaur")
1. The Visit Revisited (Sary) 2. Happy Armies Fight In Their Sleep (Roberts) 3. Under Heaven There is Great Disorder (Sary) 4. The Artist's House (Roberts) 5. Spill (Sary / Jones) 6. Dreamsof Peace (Roberts) 7. No Charge (Roberts, Sary, Bratton, Castner) 8. Earth, I Wait (Roberts) 9. The Visit (Sary)
Recorded: August 1983 - March 1984 at "Sound-On-Sounds" studios, Louisville, KY. Engineered and mixed by Howell Hunt Gano. Remixed and remastered by Mark Miceli at "Mark Miceli Productions", Louisville, KY.
Line-up: Mike Sary - bass guitar; Stephen Roberts - keyboards, trumpet, vibes, drums on 9; Artie Bratton - acoustic and electric guitars; Fenner Castner - drums & percussion
Guest musicians: Jeff Jones - sax on 3; Jon Weiner - cello on 8
Prologue. French TV, in my view, is the best US' band in the 1990s (please draw your attention to variegated "Top" sections on ProgressoR). I have received the four last French TV's CDs, released on the band's own "Pretentious Dinosaur" label, from the band's founder and main mastermind Mike Sary. It was a very unexpected gift, one of the most wonderful 'musical' gifts I've ever received, though. Why? To know please check out Top-10 albums of 1999 and read my past reviews of FTV's albums, beginning with >1999 - "The Violence of Amateurs". I think, 1984 was one of the 'darkest progressive' years in the history of the genre. Well, this was also a year of the raising of Neo-Progressive with Marillion at the head of it, but even Rush's "Grace Under Pressure" of the same year is nothing other than a typical Neo album, isn't it? Otherwise it would had the same (truly) underground status, as well as all (the truly) profound Progressive works of the "dark decade", including the French TV debut album.
The album. It's a real pleasure to listen to such an 'adventurous' music as presented on "French TV I" and know that actually (the true) Progressive Rock was alive and well always since Its Birth in 1967 (and none other than Pink Floyd's "The Piper At the Gates of Dawn" album was Progressive's very first 'child') and until now. The album contains nine excellent instrumentals, full of original, truly innovative musical ideas. I hear that compositionally all these pieces are real masterpieces, but not all of them are of the same performing quality, and that's what I can't understand fully. As mentioned in the booklet, all tracks were recorded (performed!) during a half of the year. But if two thirds of them show simply a wonderful performing maturity of these actually young at that time musicians, a few others - both the opening tracks, for example, - have some episodes played typically for the beginners. Fortunately, there are too few such moments on the album on the whole to make worse a favourable overall impression of it (maybe, just the connoisseurs-purists have a different opinion). Under Heaven There is Great Disorder, being undoubtedly one of the best tracks here with its brilliant arrangements in general and killing sax solos in particular, is also a prototype of the principal stylistic 'base' of the music of French TV in the 1990s.
Summary. Once again I am now going to adduce my counter-argument to those reviewers who 'build' their materials on comparisons even when there is no place for them. I find the using of comparisons in descriptions of the music of such innovative bands like French TV just unprofessional. The audience of the Big Names (and French TV is one of them), playing an extremely complex and intricate music (as RIO and the likes, for example) is too experienced to need some comparisons, especially doubtful. The reviews of serious works of the genre, based mostly on comparisons without at least more or less decent depicting of the main musical characteristics, 'originally' assigned for the profound Prog-heads, being written as if for the beginners (dilettantes), look amateurish themselves. Any not obvious influences are not opposed to originality at all. God only knows where are the roots of some specific music, of music in general, and of all things. And French TV's music is not influenced by Zappa or any other artist, though, as well as any other band, FTV are probably inspired by some musical works. But anyway, as a true Big Name, FTV has its own distinct originality, and we know that originality is the main trump of the true artist of any kind of Art.
VM. March 15, 2001
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