(All Album Reviews by avestin)
A sublime opus by Opus-5
Opus-5 released this lovely gem in 1976, a wonderful mix of symphonic-rock, jazz-rock and folk. Varied and melodic, the music here is delightful and uplifting. The songs are by no means one-dimensional and have enough changes in them to keep things not only interesting but also enchanting. The flute is always a good attractor in such an album plus the drums, conga, timbales and other percussions by Jean-Pierre Racicot are very well done and add fantastic flavour. The band members backing vocals also enhance the experience along with the effective bass work and the piano having fun all over and the occasional acoustic guitar. The main singing vocals are clear and caressing. Had I not known this was a Quebecois band, I would have though this is a French band, because of the vocals; the accent is impeccable.
Well as you can understand from all of this, the musicianship is top notch. But that’s not enough, is it? As noted above, they compose a lively and cheerful sort of prog-rock mixed in its core with jazz-rock with a tinge of folk-ish elements (best exemplified by the percussion and flute).
The first song, “Le temps des Pissenlits”, is a good opener, that fools you as it changes mood after the intro into the main theme. However, I think they could have developed it somewhat more and added a segment to it. But lets not be too petty and be happy with this magnificent opener.
“Il etait Magicien”, opens softly but then changes pace and speeds up a bit and goes back, with the aid of the synths, to the original pace and introduces the main theme. What is wonderful about Opus-5 and this song perhaps shows it best, is the ‘painting’ done with the instruments. Listen to the acoustic guitar, the flute and piano as they play back and forth, in the background and foreground, sometimes unnoticed and at other times in ‘plain view’, you’ll hear how well they add layers to the foundation of their melody. Further on into the song, there’s a lovely interplay between heavy and light sounds, played between with the flute and piano very well building two contradicting segments that together synergize to a superb whole. After that there is some great ‘playing around’ by the band members and the ending gets more ‘rocky’ as it reaches a peak, and then a mild and tender outro by single instruments. This piece is quite jazzy, though mostly in a mid-slow pace, but still bouncy enough to make me move and shake my head to it.
“Les Saigneurs” starts with the acoustic guitar, gives a sort of medieval feel. It slowly gains strength and then makes way for the entire band, which also chants together the main theme, getting reinforcement from the flute and piano. This is a wonderful piece that is well developed and executed, my favourite on the album. There’s much going on: contradictions, interplaying of themes and instruments and changeovers. This is the most fascinating and complex piece here that shows how well they knew to construct a complex, brilliant and haunting melody. Another great thing here is how well it all sounds, how clear each instrument is heard. This song alone makes it worth getting the album (but the others are great as well as you can understand from what I wrote so far).
I won’t go into the two remaining songs, but they are of no lesser value or quality.
Though Opus-5 is less mentioned when speaking about bands from Quebec, this is in no way a band or an album to ignore. On the contrary; in my opinion it’s one of the best to come from Quebec and an outstanding album in its own merit. They seem to lose the attention to the other great bands such as Harmonium and Maneige but they should be mentioned in the same breath as far as I’m concerned, even if they have only two releases.
This is a gem not to be missed; not only for the excellent musicianship but also for the magical mood and wonderful melodies.