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(32 min, Mellow)
TRACK LIST: 1. 3000 Miles Away 10:00 2. Naivetes 2:50 3. Reflexions 3:00 4. Flip Flop 10:00 5. Birds 6:10 LINEUP: Philippe Grancher - keyboards Jean-Louis Rizet - synthesizers With: Pascal X - drums Gerard Bouquin - bass Arnaud Chevalier - electric guitar Marc Abela - acoustic guitar
Prolusion. French keyboardist, guitarist and composer Philippe GRANCHER was born in May 1956. Around 18 he began making music with the wide use of then-modern synthesizers, which resulted in the release of his first two works, "PG" and "3000 Miles Away", in 1975 and 1976 respectively. That said, these two are the only Prog-related albums in Grancher's overall solo discography, although in the '70s the man collaborated with keyboardist Cyrille Verdeaux of Clearlight and with the Zao violinist Didier Lockwood. Later on however, he took a great interest in Blues and has achieved solid success in said field, but that's another story altogether. The material under review is the first CD reissue of Grancher's second LP "3000 Miles Away", which was brought out by Mellow Records just recently.
Analysis. There are no bonus tracks here, just the same five instrumental compositions that make up the LP. The music is either built around tracks of vintage keyboards and acoustic piano or is completely woven of such, as is in the case of the first three pieces, all of which were originally located on the LP's side A. The first two, 3000 Miles Away and Naivetes, feature Philip on acoustic and electric pianos, organ, Mellotron and the ARP string ensemble and Jean-Louis Rizet, who plays the Moog synthesizer, while Reflexions is performed by Philippe alone. The 10-minute title track should probably be regarded as a suite, although those several sections comprising it aren't interpenetrative. At least, they don't seem to be thematically linked among themselves, despite the fact that most relate to Classical music and, thus, are subsumed to a unified stylistic concept. The music varies in mood, in tempo and in the melodic richness within most of the segments (which is also typical of the entire album), so nothing significant would have changed if they had been placed on separate tracks. Movements with polyphonic, lushly orchestrated arrangements alternate with those featuring only electric piano and Moog, at times giving way to the soloing acoustic piano, etc. Only one episode somewhere in the middle reminds me more of Minimalist music, due to the repetitive nature of the synthesizer passages that fill its space. Naivetes has a strong chamber sense throughout, although piano is still the only acoustic instrument in the picture, the others being Moog and a 'virtual' bassoon. Reflexions is nothing else but a little concerto of Classical Academic music of the first water for acoustic piano, the piece's genre belonging having been accentuated because the approach used for both its predecessors isn't always academic. Another 10-minute track, Flip Flop, opens the album's Side B, now conventional. It begins as a rapid, intense, kaleidoscopic (typically '70s) Symphonic Progressive featuring the performance of all six of the musicians mentioned in the lineup above. Later on however, the drums are out, the music normally moving back and forth between infectious acoustic guitar- and bass-laden themes and spacey synthesizer stuff, though there is also a quite long Classical piano interlude, plus something eclectically experimental just before the coda. A remarkable composition in all senses, sounding inimitably unique, even for the '70s. The moderately lengthy piece Birds concludes the album finding the Philippe Grancher band at their probably most diverse and adventurous. About two thirds of its content should be described with the same words as the introductory movement of the preceding piece. So, this is a first-rate Symphonic Prog of a classic model, and I am really amazed at these musicians' mastery in performance, especially their ability to subtly slacken and accelerate their pace. The postlude is gorgeous Baroque-stylized Organ music.
Conclusion. Although the title track isn't too consistent and cohesive, the overall effectiveness of the material is strong enough to endure, and to continue to provide the listener with a solid dose of pleasure. I believe most of those Symphonic Prog lovers who are on friendly terms with Classical music will find Philippe Grancher's "3000 Miles Away" an interesting recording.
VM: June 9, 2006
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