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TRACK LIST: 1. Everything Works in Mexico 11:55 2. Sekala Dan Niskala 6:20 3. Pardon Our French (Medley) 16:08 4. Tears of a Velvet Clown 13:18 5. When the Ruff Tuff Creampufss Take Over 11:41 Tracks 1 & 5: by Sary / Dale / Smith / Gard, 2: Smith, 4: Dale, 3: various (French bands). LINE-UP: Mike Sary - bass Warren Dale - keyboards; brass & woodwinds; vibes Chris Smith - guitars, banjo; violins Jeff Gard - drums With: Steven Dale - brass (1 & 4) Stephanie Dale - piccolo (4) Will Stewart - trumpet (4) Pam Thomson - brass (4) Richard Steiger - percussion (2) Natalie Gilbert - vocals (3) Denise Gilbert - recitative (3) Howie Gano - string ensemble (3) Produced by Sary & W Dale. Engineered by W Dale & Gano.
Prolusion. Rejoice: FRENCH TV has recommenced its 'translations' from Kentucky! "Pardon Our French" is the eighth album by this brilliant American band. Their subsequent albums that are reviewed on this site are listed >here and >here.
Synopsis. After listening to this album, it is especially unpleasant to recall Neo 'heroes', particularly those shamelessly capturing others' cultural spaces and legacies and openly parasitizing the gold fund of Classic Progressive, for whom the immortal works of great masters serve the screen for their commercial purposes and the poverty of their own ideas alike. I am not going to hold forth on the originality of French TV's music, their exquisite taste in everything that they work on, etc, as it won't be a revelation for any true connoisseur of music. But here is something different. Unlike those trying to avoid reproaches with "the alienation from people" or "excessive eclecticism", etc, the band never dreaded anything like this. Furthermore, they have restored the initial and the only true meaning of the word eclecticism - uniting differences into a single whole. On FTV-8, the band once again offers a stylistic synthesis, which isn't locked up within the idea of 'the genre's purity', but instead, shows a very cohesive variety of genres within itself. However, here (as well as on FTV-7), the balance of their traditional music formula (generalized, of course): "Afro-American Jazz - European Rock, improvisational thinking - structural compositional approach, swing - concentrated meter, bluesy concord - symphonic harmony - avant-garde dissonance" is broken. Like those on its predecessor, the arrangements on "Pardon Our French" are always in the state of constant development, and yet, they are thoroughly composed and are almost marvelously intricate, consistent, and beautiful, all simultaneously. The music is simply magical and is Fifth Element in its most intelligible and effectual (just perfect) form with symphonic and progressive Jazz-Fusion-related textures dominating over those of classic and jazzy RIO everywhere save Tears of a Velvet Clown, to which I'll get back below. As for the essential particularities, Everything Works in Mexico (1) sounds in places like a feast of Spanish, Oriental, and a sort of universal folk tunes. Its follow-up Sekala Dan Niskala is fragrant with spicy Eastern flavors almost throughout. When the Ruff Tuff Creampuffs Take Over (5): it contains elements of Prog-Metal, and the Pardon Our French medley (4) those of Space Rock. Unlike the other tracks, this fantastically impressive collage of renderings of the songs from the repertoires of France's several classic bands was performed with only traditional Rock instruments and features some female vocals in French. Nevertheless, it fits very well into the general picture of the album and is the entity of its predominant stylistics, at least on the whole. Back to the first two tracks: Did you ever wonder why so many Western bands use Oriental melodies in their music? There is nothing in the world that would disappear without leaving a trace, and the music of the Middle East has filtered into Europe thanks to crusaders, of course! To keep my promise to return to Tears of a Velvet Clown, I have to say that this is a classic RIO, which, surprisingly, has a much stronger French feel to it than the album's title track, and not only because there are some typical French chanson tunes. Clowns shouldn't cry, but well, this is a rather humoresque number in any case, combining the band's typical originality with (ouch!) the influences of >Etron Fou Leloublan. This superb masterpiece is my least favorite track on the album, and there is no contradiction in what I have said here.
Conclusion. It would've been pointless to expect anything but a masterpiece from these musical scientists-naturalists, and indeed, French TV has just presented us another gem on a silver platter. If only you aren't among those exclusively into Prog-Metal, "Pardon Our French" will be a source of the continuous pleasure for you, regardless of whether you cover all the progressive genres or not. (>Top-20)
VM: July 29, 2004
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