Reviews in this issue:
- Clearlight Symphony
- Clearlight - Forever Blowing Bubbles
- Clearlight - Delired Chameleon Family
- Clearlight - Les Contes Du Singe Fou
- Clearlight - Visions
- Cyrille Verdeaux - Nocturnes Digitales
- Cyrille Verdeaux - Messenger of the Son
- Cyrille Verdeaux/Pascal Menestreyl - Ethnicolor's
- Clearlight Cyrille Verdeaux - The Best Of Rainbow Music 1975 - 2000
- Cyrille Verdeaux/Pascal Menestreyl - The Tribal Hybrid Concept
- Cyrille Verdeaux - Journey to Tantraland
CYRILLE VERDEAUX, was born July 31, 1949 in Paris. In 1963 at the age of 14, he entered the prestigious French National Conservatory of Music in Paris studying composition, harmony, and piano. From 1966 to 1968 he won first place in student composition three successive times. During the student uprisings of 1968 he was dismissed from the Conservatory for his revolutionary activities. He then attended the Nice Conservatory earning a Masters diploma, returning to Paris to form the band Babylone with guitarist Christian Boule.
In 1973 he became the first French artist to be signed to a British Label. Richard Branson's Virgin label, establishing themselves in an instrumental niche with the likes of Mike Oldfield, Tangerine Dream, Gong, Klaus Schulze, released the first record of Verdeaux' compositions in 1975, titled Clearlight Symphony. In the slipstream of Oldfield's Tubular Bells this album became a minor hit.
Clearlight's second album Forever Blowing Bubbles was released by Virgin in 1976 and featured an ensemble cast of French musicians and showcased a mix of heavy rock with classic, psychadelic and jazz influence.
Simultaneously, Cyrille Verdeaux composed and recorded the musical score to the film Visa de censure # X by Pierre Clementi. The resulting soundtrack album entitled Delired Chameleon Family was subsequently released by EMI Records in 1977. The movie and its score were considered important artwork. They were purchased by the French Museum of Modern Art and were often shown.
In 1977 RCA Records in Europe released the third real Clearlight album, Les Contes Du Singe Fou also known as the "mad monkey" record. This album leaned much heavier on influences of other Progressive Rock bands such as Genesis or Jethro Tull, mainly because of the visionary lyrics courtesy of British vocalist Ian Bellamy.
Once again the pure sound of Cyrille Verdeaux' piano is accompanied by an army of synthesizers to create a work that is considered a progressive rock masterpiece, thanks also to the part played by the improvisational work of violinist Didier Lockwood.
The fourth Clearlight album, Clearlight Visions was released in 1978 by Polydor Records. Featuring virtuoso Didier Lockwood on violin, Cyrille Verdeaux took the reins of production for the first time, fusing his classical and rock strains with the Sitar and Tabla. Clearlight followed Visions with successful tours of England and Europe, appearing in prestigious concert halls such as the Olympia Music Hall and the Cathedral of Saint Etienne du Mont.
After the 1979 tour with Gong Verdeaux disbanded Clearlight to embark a solo career.
The tragic death of his 4-year-old son, Jonathan became a catalyst for Cyrille to study and travel the World. He visited India where he studied music, yoga and meditation in various ashrams. The practice of these disciplines has had a large influence on his life and his music since then.
In 1980 Cyrille traveled to the United States and released the albums Offrandes and Nocturnes Digitales on Fortuna Records. He spent the next eighteen months in India perfecting his studies of yoga and music. When he returned, he released Prophecy on Fortuna Records with Bernard Xolotl and also the albums Moebius and Shambala on the Record Company "Soundings of the Planet".
In 1982 Cyrille teamed up with producer/engineer/manager Josh Goldstein to help re energize his musical career. In 1983 the albums Flowers from Heaven, Piano for the Third Ear, Messenger of the Sun and Journey to Tantraland were born.
In 1984, these albums were used to create the KUNDALINI OPERA, released only on cassette tape by Eurock.
In 1985 the album Messenger of the Sun was released on Catero Records, an independent label of the famed CBS producer and engineer Fred Catero. The record company declared bankruptcy four months after the release, preventing it from getting proper distribution and promotion. One track from this album, Remember Jonathan did receive wider exposure, a piano solo composed by Cyrille as a requiem for his son Jonathan. Released by Windham Hill Records on their Piano Sampler album, it also was part of the video Winter.
In 1987 Cyrille returned to France, embarking on a career teaching music while continuing to compose and produce music. Rhapsody for the Blue Planet was released on Emen Records in 1988.
Using digital keyboards, a computer and digital recording, Cyrille created Clearlight Symphony II. The album continued the main theme of the original Clearlight Symphony but it took symphonic keyboard music into a new domain by using new inspiration and new technology. The album was released on Mantra Records in 1990.
In 1994, Cyrille returned to Santa Cruz, California, where he recorded with local singer singer-keyboardist Gunnar Amundson a modern remake of Les Contes du Singe Fou, entitled In Your Hands. Musea records in Europe released the resulting Clearlight record.
From 1995 to the present, Cyrille Verdeaux has continued to work on new material, experimenting with new composition techniques, utilizing samples, computer software and modern technology. He also launched the Clearlight 888 label and website, on which he re-released most of his albums from the past, as well as some new albums, such as The Tribal Hybrid Concept and Ethnicolour's, both collaborations with Pascal Menestreyl, the piano-album Impressionist Visions and an upbeat aerobic exercise album Aerobix.
Derived from the Clearlight 888 Music website.
Tracklist: 1st Movement (20.28), 2nd Movement (20.29)
Clearlight Symphony was the debut of Verdeaux on the Virgin Label. The LP was originally released in 1975 on Richard Branson's Virgin label. For his first recording, Verdeaux could choose the musicians he wanted to work with and initially he chose his old Babylon-buddy Christian Boule on guitar, Gilbert Artman on drums and Martin Isaacs on bass.
As these French artists were little known in the UK, and another Virgin-contracted band Gong was becoming a big hit in that country, Branson persuaded Verdeaux to collaborate with some members of Gong for the second movement on the album. In order to boost extra sales through the involvement of Gong members Steve Hillage (guitar), Didier Malherbe (saxophone) and Tim Blake (synthesisers) this second movement was put on side 1 of the original LP, with the initial first movement with the French musicians being degraded to the second side. On this cd release this has been corrected and the two movements have been swapped again, making it a bit confusing for people who already owned the original album and got used to the order, but it does restore Verdeaux' original symphony and actually works better that way.
The 1st movement opens very quietly with serene piano, almost like film music. A (synthesised?) violin comes in and the whole continues beautifully calm and serene for a while.
After about 4 minutes the first synthesiser, an ARP 2600 comes in, which reminds me a lot of Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygen part II (which is basically a showcase of the ARP). But seeing that this album was written in 1973 and released in 1975, while Jarre's Oxygene didn't see the daylight until '76, it sort of brings up the question: who was first?
The whole band joins in creating a very chaotic piece of music, out of which an excellent guitar solo with wah-wah effect emerges. This is then followed by a beautiful, almost classical piano piece, with some synthesisers and a gently washing mellotron in the background. The combination of classical music and the synthesisers is simply stunning, and it even gets better when Christian Boule introduces a very Mike Oldfield-ish guitarsolo. The last 10 minutes of the track seem to muddle along a bit, without going anywhere.
The whole track has a very strong Tangerine Dream feel over it and for the first track alone this album would appeal to any fans of that band! The synthesisers and mellotron sound a lot like some of the works of Vangelis, try picturing a combination between Heaven & Hell and The Mask and you know what I am talking about.
The 2nd movement is a completely different story. The involvement of Steve Hillage, Didier Malherbe and Tim Blake of Gong becomes evident after the very first tone, as a fast, powerful drum rhythm takes the track immediately into a completely different direction. After six minutes the whole thing changes completely and evolves into a typical sixties tune, with an excellent organsolo and a very much Hendrix-like guitar. The 2nd movement is completely different from the first, and shares only one thing: it is about 5-10 minutes too long, as it wears out after a while. I wouldn't want to say boring, but it doesn't manage to capture full attention for the entire 20 minutes of its length.
In conclusion I would say that any Tangerine Dream fan should (or already do) own a copy of this album, but it would also appeal to fans of Mike Oldfield, Vangelis, seventies' Gong (of course) or anyone generally enjoying classically influenced long instrumental compositions.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Clearlight - Forever Blowing Bubbles
Tracklist: Chanson (4.43), Without Words (7.40), Way (8.15), Ergotrip (6.24), Et Pendant Ce Temps La (4.42), Narcisse Et Goldmund (2.39), Jungle Bubbles (2.44) Bonus Tracks: Sweet Absinthe (7.49), Without Words (Mellotron remix) (7.44), Flute Aquatique (2.45)
The second Clearlight album was recorded shortly after the release of Symphony. Determined to venture into new territories, rather than getting stuck in repetition, Verdeaux teamed up with bassist/vocalist/composer Joel Dugrenot, who wrote two of the five compositions. The result is a varied album with mainly shorter compositions, most of which have an improvised nature, thus a sort of extension of what we already saw on Clearlight Symphony.
Other musicians on this album include violinist David Cross (King Crimson) and guitarist/flutist Jean Claude d'Agostini (Magic Circus).
The opening track Chanson (song) is one of the two Dugrenot compositions on the album. Dugrenots voice can best be described as a French Peter Gabriel and the song has a strong Genesis feel; the vocals resemble the early years, while musically it sounds a lot like The Lamb.
Without Words is, as the name suggests, an instrumental piece, pretty much in the vein of Symphony. Weird sound effects (the sound of popping bubbles) introduce a fast piano riff, to which the rest of the band starts playing along. After about two minutes the whole thing changes into something which seems to have been lifted straight from Symphony before heavy guitars come in and the track goes into a typical jam-style Clearlight direction.
A remix of this track appears as a bonus track on the album and lays a greater emphasis on the mellotrons and other keyboards, which were somewhat obscured on the original mix.
Way, the second of the two Dugrenot compositions, is another instrumental. Again, this has a strong Genesis feel, with a 'singing' guitar. Later, the guitar gets a more Mike Oldfield style. This is a pretty good track, with particularly good bass work - a lot more structured than the previous. The track ends by literally speeding up the recording towards fast forward speed.
The first track of the second side starts again with quiet sound effects. Once again, after the band starts playing, the music seems to have been lifted off a Genesis album. Guitarist Jean Claude d'Agostini's playing is definitely a cross between Steve Hackett. And again, as this is the second of the Verdeaux compositions, after a while the music gets very chaotic and not particularly accessible or easily likable.
Et Pendant ce temps là is based on a theme that briefly passed in the track Way. A bit like a different spin on the same subject. The instrumental track is mainly played on synthesisers, backed by drums, bass and piano.
Narcisse et Goldmund, penned by Beatrice d'Eaubonne and sung by Brigitte Roy, is a beautiful, folky piece, with flutes, violin, 12-string acoustic guitar and piano. Beautiful, yet it seems somewhat out of place among the other tracks.
Once again we hear the bubbly sound-effects, for the final track of the original LP, Jungle Bubbles. This track is a bit of a hybrid between African (alike) rhythms, played on bongos and congas by Verdeaux himself and drummer Christos Stapinopolous, and 'modern' instruments and effects. All in all it's an incredible weird track, with unrecognisable music played backwards at high speed, weird notes played on flutes and a very abrupt ending.
This re-release contains three bonus tracks, which were remastered in 2000 from the original 16 track master tape. Sweet Absinthe was recorded for the original album, but left off the LP because of its length. This track features Symphony veterans Christian Boule (guitar) and Gilbert Artman (drums) and a lengthy, Oldfield style instrumental, which builds up to a typical Clearlight chaos.
The final track, Flute Aquatique, is a remix of Jungle Bubbles, but with a greater emphasis on François Jeanneau's flute and the percussion. I like this version of the track somewhat better, as the backward played music is barely audible.
The band doesn't seem to have a good sense of direction on this album. The music goes everywhere and is very chaotic, and although the music is far from bad, the inconsistency of the album tends to lower my rating. The album definitely contains a few gems, like Chanson, Way or Narcisse et Goldmund but on the whole it's too much chaos for my taste.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10.
Clearlight - Delired Chameleon Family
Tracklist: Raganesh (6.48), Weird Ceremony (4.24), La Fin Du Début (5.10), Le Boeuf (8.38), Novavanna (13.38), Ananta (9.42)
This recording was never intended as a proper Clearlight record, but 'happened' when Verdeaux was set to record the soundtrack for the French film Visage de censure n' X. Things however, went slightly different from what was planned...
Verdeaux: The record was done in 4 days of improvisation and spontaneous happenings, because the studio was packed with musicians mainly loaded with Hashish and LSD. Most of them were not invited, but spontaneously went to the studio because they had heard the street Tam-tam say quickly that a very unusual and free-based jam session was happening in Pathe Marconi's studios. So, I was proposing along with guitarist Yvan Coaquette the musical themes on the piano, and was playing it with the drummer and after, everybody was freely improvising on it. When all 24 tracks were packed, we were moving on to the next one and so forth. 4 days and 4 nights almost non-stop. The poor engineers were making relay between them...
Verdeaux' account above sums up the album perfectly. The album features 6 tracks, none of which have a clearly marked beginning or ending and the whole thing is one big psychadelic jam. Among the 14 musicians featured on the album (or at least, in the credits) are Clearlight regulars like Christian Boule (guitars and bottleneck), Joël Dugrenot (bass), Tim Blake (percussion and tampoora) and Gilbert Artman (percussion and vibraphone).
The musicians were clearly having a good time during the recording, as at one point during the monsterjam Novavanna someone "sings" "Give me more... tequila.... give me more.... brandy.... " and these are just the legal drugs he's after. The list goes on for a while, with a whole ensemble playing shuffle and generally having a lot of fun. This track is in any case the weirdest of the whole lot. Between the various jazz-style jams there is a point where you can literally hear the musicians think: "Gheez, I wonder how fast I can play this thing..."
The other vocal track on the album, La Fin du Début is a bit more "normal". The piano-melody sounds eerily similar to Springsteen's Backstreets (which was not released until '78!) and the atmospheric music seems almost structured. It is just that the Janis Joplin-style vocals of Valérie Lagrange give away that no-one in the studio was sober at the time. Her lyrics randomly jump from French to English and back and don't make any sense at all!
You can also hear the "progress" as the recordings went along. As the tracks advance, not only do they get longer, each track also contains less structure than the previous! Album closer Ananta is the utter culmination: No one seems to play in time or in tune; all building towards their own climax, which, not entirely surprisingly, never really comes...
The movie, which Verdeaux describes as "very nouvelle vague Française", is basically a 1-hour clip without dialogue and features Delired Chameleon Family integrally as soundtrack. Basically the music is as nouvelle vague as the movie, I guess. I mean, if you smoke the right stuff with this music, you don't need a movie anymore! Which is good, in a way, as the movie isn't really available anywhere in the world (it wasn't that much of a hit, as you may gather) apart from the Museum Pompidou in Paris, which has a copy.
If you are into late-sixties/early-seventies psychedelic stuff than this album is a must-have. For the more conservative prog fans it may only be interesting for a few spins every once in a while. There's plenty good stuff to be found, but then again, there's enough crap too.
All in all, this is not an album to be taken seriously. And in that respect, it's good fun.
Conclusion: 7+ out of 10.
Clearlight - Les Contes du Singe Fou
Tracklist: The Key (Total - 12.42) [I. The Outsider (5.17), II. A Trip To The Orient (5.45), III. Lightsleeper's Despair (2.40)], Soliloque (5.21), Time Skater (Total - 15.29) [I. Prelude (1.50), II. Countdown To Eternity (4.28), III. The Cosmic Crusaders (9.11)], Stargazer (2.32), Return To The Source (3.41)
In 1977 this third Clearlight album was released by RCA records in Europe. "The tales of the mad monkey", the title reads, and it is a bit funny that this was both the first Clearlight album which featured a French title, and the first Clearlight album which was completely sung in English!! I don't know the reasoning behind this, but marketing-technically this can't have been a clever move.
The album featured an international all-star cast, consisting of Symphony-veterans Tim Blake on synthesisers and Didier Lockwood on violin, bassist Joel Dugrenot, who also played and sang on Clearlight's second album Forever Blowing Bubbles, Francis Mandin on synthesisers, Yves Chouard on guitars and Serge Aouzi on drums and percussion. The vocals and hardly interpretable lyrics, courtesy of British vocalist Ian Bellemy complete the ingredients for a classic progressive rock album
And progressive rock it is, as the album is once again a step in a whole different direction than Symphony. It is still built around Verdeaux's classical grand piano, but the Tangerine Dream and Gong references have now been replaced by Jethro Tull, Genesis and even a hint of Yes.
As the original mastertapes of the recordings weren't available anymore, the CD has been recorded directly from vinyl. However, the overall sound quality is, apart from the occasional crackle or hiss, remarkably well.
The album starts with the first of two epics on the album. The three-piece The Key-suite. Ian Bellamy's vocals sound a bit like Tull's Ian Anderson and are very pleasant. The second part of the suite, A trip to the orient is the first of many instrumentals on the album. This is a typical Verdeaux composition, with the classical piano accompanied by a full band playing a very experimental sounding type of fusion rock. It takes a while to get used to the (mainly improvised) violin solos of Lockwood, which sometimes sound completely out of time, place and tune. People who don't like King Crimson will immediately know what I mean and I think that fans of that particular band will adore Lockwood's playing.
The last track of the first side of the original LP is a particular gem: Soliloque is a beautiful, erm, soliloquy of Verdeaux' piano.
Then the second side continues where the first side ended: Prelude sees solely Verdeaux quietly tickling the ivories of his piano.
This was the mid-seventies, when the standard was set by a band named Genesis and the track Countdown to Eternity would easily fit on any Genesis album of the early seventies. Bellamy sings as if he's Peter Gabriel himself and the whole sounds almost exact like the opening to Supper's Ready, but then with piano, instead of guitar. However, it doesn't seem to lead anywhere, whereas Lover's Leap is a real introduction to the Genesis-masterpiece, Countdown to Eternity just continues in the same style for a while. So not a copy, but more a derivation.
After this bit of semi-plagiarism it's time for another nine minutes of instrumental music in The Cosmic Crusaders with again leading roles for Verdeaux' piano and Lockwood's violin. And it's especially that violin which is completely differently played than one would expect from a classical instrument. This is more jazz than classic, and it gives a nice contrast with the piano, which is played in a very classical way.
The album has got a lot to offer for fans of seventies progressive rock, although the improvised stuff may be a bit difficult to get used to. Not a masterpiece, but still a very pleasant album.Conclusion: 7 out of 10.
Clearlight - Visions
Tracklist: Spirale D'Amour (7.00), Messe Caline (6.23), Au Royaume Des Mutants (5.47), Full Moon Raga (9.54), Raga (Coda) (0.50), Songe De Cristal (3.45), Paix Profunde (2.56), Bonus Tracks: Guitare Elevation (4.52), Crystal City (5.27), Shanti Lotus (7.45), Heymae (5.03), Vision Nocturne (3.32), Orage, O Espoir (5.43), Songe De Cristal (Remix) (4.06)
Not content with the poor sales -resulting from lack of promotion- of Les Contes du Singe Fou, Cyrille Verdeaux felt the need to produce the next Clearlight album independently. Freed from any limitations he ensembled an international all-star cast to create, what most fans call, the definite Clearlight Album. The 15 artists that can be found on the album include Clearlight-regulars Christian Boule (guitar), Didier Lockwood (violin) and Didier Malherbe (saxophone).
This album is also chosen as the color Blue for the Rainbow Music series.
The album opens with the brilliant Spirale D'Amour which can also be found on the Best of Rainbow Music compilation. It was my favourite track of the compilation and to my delight the version on this album is even longer. Not one, but two full-band jams, alternated with calm piano pieces. This is as good as free-style jam session progressive fusion-jazz-rock (is that an official genre yet?) can get.
The disadvantage of strong openings is that it's difficult to live up to that level with the rest of the track. Messe Caline although not a bad track at all (there are no bad tracks on this album) is a piano/synthesiser track that misses the near-orgasmic excesses of Spirale D'Amour, apart from the ending where Didier Lockwood's violin joins the ensemble.
Au Royaume Des Mutants, the only vocal track on the album, starts very promising with haunting chords, though it takes a while to get used to the vocals. I don't know who sings the track (the liner notes don't tell) but it clearly isn't an Ian Bellamy (of Les Contes) or Joel Dugrenot (Bubbles). Musically however, the track is great, the two Didier's (Malherbe and Lockwood) are very prominent with a haunting saxophone and menacing violin.
The centrepiece of the album is Full Moon Raga which appears in its live version on the Best of Rainbow compilation. In its studio version it's actually better (which is strange, since it was recorded live in the studio anyway). The array of regular instruments, like guitar, synthesiser, violin and saxophone is extended with more exotic instruments like Tabla drums and sitar.
The goal of the composition seems to be to go faster and faster and the track ends with a (mediocre) drum solo. Calmness returns with a short coda, played on sitar.
The album finishes with a beautiful serene piano piece Songe de Cristal, followed by a weird effects-laden piece Paix Profunde.
This re-release is filled to its limit with bonus tracks. The first track Guitare Elevation is a tremendous piece, which makes me wonder why it was left off the original release in the first place. Great piano work accompanied by the roaring guitar of Christian Boule - this is easily the best track on the album (well, perhaps bar Spirale D'Amour).
The cover image, painted by Brazilian artist Sergio Macedo, depicts the Kundalini Yoga, which later inspired Cyrille to an entire series of albums. Oddly enough this album, where the whole Kundalini-thing seemingly all started, is not among those Kundalini albums, but is used for the six-CD series Rainbow Music.
Like most Clearlight albums, the free-form, jam style way of composing the tracks has resulted in a very chaotic and somewhat inconsistent album, yet on Visions it works out better than on the previous two band albums. The balance between chaotic improv and serene quiet pieces is just right, therefore making it a highly recommended album
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Cyrille Verdeaux - Nocturnes Digitales
Tracklist: Wind Talks (10.08), Piano Strings (11.35), A Piece Of Love (5.20), Claire De Lune (5.30), Ceremony (8.36), Bon Sens (8.05), Agadir (6.00), Orque A Vent (7.14), Melancooly (4.00)
After disbanding Clearlight, Verdeaux composed a few albums worth of songs, many of which were inspired by his new passion for yoga and meditation. Obviously much of this music would not have fitted in the Clearlight philosophy therefore making solo releases inevitable.
One of these albums was Nocturnes Digitales. Originally conceived in 1980, but never really available until now. I am not entirely sure about the recordings, but judging from the excellent sound quality, the whole thing has been re-recorded for this release. The album is chosen as the colour Orange for the Rainbow Music collection.
At first glance it seems rather boring for fans of progressive rock fans. No guitar, no drums and mainly atmospheric, mellow tracks. However, judging from the Long Songs List there are plenty prog fans who rate the likes of Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream as prog, and therefore this album is also featured in this review special. All tracks are played with such splendour and skill that any prog fan who is even remotely interested in electronic music will enjoy this album.
In any case, my Mum loves the album and I had trouble getting it back from her :-)
Although the music should be classified as "New Age", it is far from boring. Album opener Wind Talks is a long track with delightful (synthesised) flute, whereas other tracks, like Piano Strings or Agadir are mainly piano tracks. A more classical approach can be found on A Piece of Love and Bon Sens, which can best be described as Baroque, with harpsichord, church organ and massive orchestration.
Orgue A Vent is, as the name suggests, played on church organ. Not exactly Rick Wakeman, but this isn't your Sunday-mass either.
Verdeaux played all instruments himself and is aided by his old Clearlight colleague Gunnar Amundson, who did the tabla programming on the first track Wind Talks and Don Lax, who plays violin on A piece of love.
The cover shows a beautiful photo of the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia, by photographer Martin Gray. The liner notes include a short history about the Angkor complex.
The disc is an enhanced CD and when played on a computer you get a brief biography of Verdeaux, a discography and a link to the official website.
Although not progressive rock pur sang, this cross-over between classical, synthesiser, and new-age music will definitely appeal to many fans of the genre.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10.
Cyrille Verdeaux - Messenger of the Son
Tracklist: Overture (7.11), Astral Journey (4.46), Energy (5.20), Ballad In 7 Steps (4.08), The Key Of Enoch (5.51), Vibrato (7.55), Magic Circus (4.43), Deep Death (4.02), Full Sun Raga (6.16), Remember Jonathan (3.18) Bonus Tracks: Voyage à Atlantis (6.23), Création Sunthétique (6.30), Rêve Avec Krishna (4.22), Set The Spirit Free (4.25)
Although Messenger of the Son is not his first solo album after the disbanding of Clearlight, this is the album where he returned to his progressive roots with, what the liner notes say, A progressive rock tour de force, Messenger of the Sun, restates the Clearlight ethos of classical, jazz, rock and symphonic music fusing into a rich tapestry sound as Composer/keyboardist Cyrille Verdeaux lays out a magical vision of synthesizer and piano. This is also the album that comes the closest to the old Clearlight work and will therefore probably appeal the most to prog fans, and finally, it's my personal favourite of the whole bunch.
When I was younger I used to be quite a bit of a Jean-Michel Jarre fan. However, as I grew older I found Jarre's sterile, computerised compositions lacking something. This album however, seems like the perfect album Jarre never produced, as it is synthesiser rock with feeling, with emotions, with real instruments and most importantly, with a wide array of diverse styles.
The album opens with the great Overture which is also featured on the Best of Rainbow Music. The intro is a bit longer than on Best of Rainbow, which gives the track an even greater atmosphere.
Astral Journey is a quiet, atmospheric track with Jarre-like soundscapes and a beautiful piano solo. This is the Waiting for Cousteau that never was. Energy is another track which could have come from the Jean-Michel Jarre stable, a fast paced sequencer based track, which does not sound unlike Jarre's Equinoxe 4.
Ballad in 7 steps is another great track. After a fast piano-intro a heavy, Oldfield-like guitar comes in, while pounding drums introduce one of the heaviest bits Verdeaux has ever recorded. After this "intro" calmness returns with a piano melody, which is repeated till the end, while the other instruments come back in and play several solos and the drummer tries to break the world-record speed-drumming. All in all a great, fun track, which could have been extended a bit further even, if it was up to me.
The next track, The Key of Enoch is something completely different again. Easy paced jazz-like bass and ditto rhythm are accompanied by spacy sounds. Although I don't really like the horn-style synthesiser sound at the first part of the track, it's the guitar-like sound of the second part, which really makes the track. I'm saying guitar-like, because it sounds like a guitar, but according to the credits, there is no guitar in this track. So hats off for whoever produced that out of a synthesiser.
Vibrato can also be found on the Best of Rainbow music compilation. A super-fast paced track where several synth solos alternate and drums and piano go completely crazy. Superb stuff!
Magic Circus gives us time to relax. An easy acoustic guitar melody, accompanied by glockenspiel and piano. This sounds like very early Oldfield; a bit like Verdeaux' version of Tubular Bells.
More Tubular Bells-type moods in Deep Death, which is mainly a moody piece featuring piano and guitar. Halfway there is also a bit played on the ARP 2600, thus creating the inevitable link with Jarre's Oxygene but also with Verdeaux' own debut Clearlight Symphony.
Full Sun Raga is the counterpart of Full Moon Raga, off Clearlight's 1978 album Visions. Basically this track is not that much different, other than that it's played mainly with synthesisers instead of violin, guitar and sitar. Actually I like this version better, especially in the context of the album.
The last track of the original album, Remember Jonathan is a beautiful ode to Verdeaux' son, who died at the age of 4. A beautiful piano-piece and a perfect closer for this album.
The album is re-released on Verdeaux' own Clearlight888music label, however, my review copy was the version that was re-released on the Musea label in 1995, which contains four bonus tracks of the album Rhapsody for the Blue Planet, which will soon be re-released on Verdeaux' Clearlight label. The new Clearlight version of Messenger contains different bonus tracks and therefore I shall refrain from reviewing these.
All I can say is that judging from the four tracks present on this album here, it seems a wise decision to rerelease the Rhapsody for the Blue Planet album.
In conclusion I'd like to say that this is probably the best thing Verdeaux has ever done. A varied album, with great compositions.
Conclusion: 8+ out of 10.
Cyrille Verdeaux / Pascal Menestreyl - Ethnicolor's
Tracklist: Terre Australe (4.58), Shawnee Froid (4.02), Zeph Here (5.17), Aztec Tartare (5.13), Rain Dance (5.19), Dream With Krishna (4.08), Transe Connexion (5.48), Odysseus (4.21), J'ai Du Bon Tabla (6.37), Bird Of Paradise (3.15), Amazone Cora Zone (5.42)
Ethnicolor's is the first collaboration between Cyrille Verdeaux and ethnographer Pascal Menestreyl and is aimed to raise awareness to environmental issues. The music is a combination of sampled ethnic sounds and voices, with modern synthesisers and rhythms. Also present are ethnic drums, wind instruments and sampled sounds of animals like wolfs, foxes, birds, dolphins, orcas and whales.
The album's title immediately brings to mind a Jean-Michel Jarre track with the same title, off his 1984 masterpiece Zoolook. However, although the idea is the same (sampled voices combined with modern synths), the execution is completely different. Where the music on Zoolook was created by playing entire melodies with the samples, here the samples serve as an enhancement to the music, with the main melodies played on synths. Therefore the music reminds more of Enigma and even Mike Oldfield than of aforementioned Jarre.
The album adequately portrays the colour Green in the Rainbow Music collection and two tracks are featured on the compilation: the Enigma style Terre Australe and the mellow Amazone Cora Zone.
Shawnee Froid is a great mix between world music and modern synths, as North American Indian Sioux, Shawnees, Navajos, Crees, Zunis, Apaches and Budas are mixed with beautiful synth chords. Jarre's Revolutions album comes to mind, as the same type of drums are used here, and also the synth chords show much similarity.
In different vein is Zeph Here, which starts as an atmospheric New Age track, but changes completely when particularly heavy percussion (part programmed, part real) takes over. A soft bamboo flute gives an eerie effect. Great stuff!
We jump across the globe again for the Caribbean sounds of the intro to Aztec Tartare. Once again heavy percussion effects dominate this track, backed by various exotic sounding synth melodies and Colombian pan flute.
The Rain Dance is a combination of traditional North American tribal chant with modern dance rhythm. Although reminiscent to the other Verdeaux/Menestreyl collaboration Tribal Hybrid Concept, this track is far better executed.
Tranquility returns with the very New Age Dream with Krishna. On this track you hear Indian flutes combined with a real thunderstorm, creating a very eerie atmosphere.
Trance Connexion is another more upbeat track. After a very mellow start, programmed drums come in and the track gets very similar to both Terre Australe and Shawnee Froid (the same type of samples are used here). The track also features some good bass-playing, even though this is probably played on synthesiser.
A very chaotic and haunting organ introduces flute and piano, before massive chants of New Calendonia, Fiji, North African Kabilia and Native American Shaman start - Odysseus is a massive track.
J'ai du Bon Tabla is a very fun track, more in the vein of Jarre's Zoolook, where the samples are used to play melodies, to a very funny effect. And while speaking of fun, if the underlying keynote of this album is to create a positive energy, or whatever, then Verdeaux and Menestreyl have succeeded, as you can't possibly listen to this album without getting a grin on your face - at least, I can't.
The beautifully serene Bird of Paradise, is a track where the song of birds of paradise are mixed with Tibetan Bells, Native American Zuni voices and a beautiful synth melody. This track reminds me of one of Verdeaux' earlier albums Nocturnes Digitales
Again, this is not particularly rock yet I have the feeling that it will appeal to many of our readers. If you are open minded and like an original approach to electronic music, and don't mind the occasional bit of new age or world music, then I'm sure you'll enjoy this album.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.
Clearlight Cyrille Verdeaux - Best Of Rainbow Music 1975 - 2000
Tracklist: Spirale D'amour (Blue) (5.32), Terre Australe (Green) (4.58), Ouverture (Red) (5.51), Dream Train (Violet) (7.30), Bons Sens (Orange) (8.05), Clearlight Symphony II (Yellow) (4.52), Amazon Cora Zone (Green) (5.40), Keep Up Berlin (Kundalini Opera) (4.01), Vibrato (Red) (7.54), Agadir (Orange) (5.56), Full Moon Raga (Red) (10.22)
Rainbow Music is a box set of 6 cd's from Verdeaux' long career, each portraying one of the rainbow's six colours. Although the some of the individual cd's, nor the box set are not available anymore, this album is a compilation of tracks from the six individual albums, or colours.
The box set was created in the nineties, when Verdeaux completely devoted himself to New Age music and judging from the cover of this compilation you might consider this to be just another New Age compilation. However, as the music spans 25 years of his career it contains anything from the piano-prog of his Clearlight years, to the rich synthesizer feasts of the eighties, to fusion-jazz-rock, to a bit of world music and yes, there is a fair bit of spiritual floating going on as well. New Age? Sure, but a pretty darn good piece of New Age I might say.
The colour Violet is associated with eternal love and unity, spiritual motivation, idealism, divine wisdom, understanding, charm selfless service. The album chosen to portray this colour is the 1995 release Impressionist Music, which is currently unavailable. Clearly set in the New Age chapter of Verdeaux' career, this album featured his acoustic piano, combined with natural sounds representing the four elements (the piano being the fifth) and was inspired by composers such as Debussy, Ravel, Chopin and Satie. Inspiration was also drawn from French impressionist painters such as Monet, Renoir, Gaughin and Van Gogh (yep, he is called French in the liner notes...).
The track featured from this album is Dream Train a very classical sounding piano piece, accompanied by some train sounds. It's a beautiful piece, although it loses some of its strength throughout and it seems as if Verdeaux misses a few notes every once in a while, but maybe that's just my untrained ear.
Blue is the colour for universal love, the colour of the spirit, and its attributes include communication, creative expression, peace, truth, loyalty, honesty, reliability, gentleness, commitment and endurance. All that combined should sound like the 1978 album Clearlight Visions. The fourth Clearlight album and the first first independently produced. The album stands as true fusion music, a combination of composed music with improvised solos, straddling between progressive rock, classical, modal jazz and Northern Indian raga styles. The album features 15 musicians, among which Clearlight veteran violinist Didier Lockwood, Gong saxophonist Didier Malherbe and Steve Hillage guitarist Christian Boule.
It's a pity that only one track of this album is featured, as it is definitively one of the best tracks on the album. It makes me curious about the rest of the Visions album (isn't that what compilations are all about?) and I'll definitely try and obtain it, if I get a chance. (The album is still available through the website).
The blue track, Spirale D'Amour starts very New Age style, with some bird-sounds, a calm piano and a flute, and sounds like a reworked version of Soliloque, off the Mad Monkey album. But then the rest of the band joins in and improvised violin-, saxophone- and synthesizer-solos alternate to the point of chaos, before calming down again for a beautiful serene piano/flute outtro.
The second track is slightly less interesting, Amazone Cora Zone deals with the rainforest of the Amazon Basin, the life it gives, and the destruction it's facing.
Yellow is the colour of logic, efficiency, warmth, radiant, flexibility, self-awareness, humour, self-control, focused will and personal power. Not too surprising that the album chosen to portray this colour is a remake of Verdeaux's biggest success: Clearlight Symphony. In 1990, utilising new technologies and synthesizers, Verdeaux teamed up once again with Pascal Menestreyl to rewrite and rerecord the Clearlight Symphony, simply titled Clearlight Symphony II (currently unavailable).
You may draw comparisons with that other instrumentalist signed by Virgin records back in 1973, who also had that hit album, which he rewrote and recorded. However, Oldfield's Tubular Bells II didn't see daylight until '92, so once again Verdeaux wins the "who came first contest". The album is currently unavailable.
The track featured on this compilation is called Clearlight Symphony II, so it is a bit unclear as to which part of the symphony it is (Clearlight Symphony II is broken up into 5 movements). It retains the same feel of the original, but it sounds a lot more polished and also a bit fake, with drum computers and all. Fortunately a great guitar solo saves the track from becoming too boring.
Orange, the auric colour for family, procreation and sexuality, with attributes such as sensuality, passion, vitality, family orientation, tolerance and optimism. The album Nocturnes Digitales roots firmly in New Age ground. Synthesised soundscapes combined with piano, this is ultimate music for relaxation.
Of the two tracks featured on this compilation, the best one is Agadir, a beautiful serene, heavenly piece. The track Le Bons Sens gets a bit boring after a while, it is purely based on musical scales, played on synthesizer and piano. Still not bad, just a bit too long.
The last colour of the rainbow is Red, the colour for life and vital energy, with attributes in relation to the physical, survival, self-preservation, instinctual, grounded, spontaneous, stability.
Released in 1985 the album Messenger of the Sun (sometimes also called Messenger of the Son) is described as: "a progressive rock tour the force, restating the Clearlight ethos of classical, jazz, rock and symphonix musics, fusing into a rich tapestry sound as composer/keyboardist Cyrille Verdeaux lays out a magical vision of synthesizer and piano".
Sounds good? Wait until you hear the tracks. No less than three tracks found their way to this compilation. First the Overture, a piece that starts as a classical piano piece not unlike Manuel Brueco's Concierto de Aranjuez, but played on piano. It builds up tension until it explodes in a synthesizer feast in the best tradition of the likes of Jean Michel Jarre, before slowing down to just the piano - only to go back to that synthesizer climax again!
The second track is Vibrato a top gear track, which comprises all the elements of jazz-rock. Mainly a long string of guitar- and synthesizer solos, this is excellent stuff.
The third track Full Moon Raga is the longest, and also the final track on the compilation. It starts slowly with a sitar and synthesizer soundscapes, again, a bit like Jarre. Then the rest of the band joins in with a very fast rhythm and heaps of chaotic, improvised solos. This is all a bit too improvised for my taste and the track ends with a horrible drum solo. A very poor ending of the album. The drum solo is accompanied by a sort of applause, as if it is a live version, but it doesn't say anywhere.
(editor's note: the track Full Moon Raga actually appears on Clearlight Visions, the information is wrong in the liner notes.)
Then last, and also least, there is one more track to be found on this compilation CD. Taken from another 7-CD box, dealing with the seven Chakras of life: The Kundalini Project.
The track featured from this project is the horrible Keeping Up Berlin, a fusion between Brazilian drums, playing a reggae rhythm, accompanied by some mid-eighties' Casio-keyboards and sampled rap-voices. In one word: terrible!
It's a real shame that this track is featured on the compilation, and especially in the middle, where you will have to program your CD-player in order to skip it. A pity.
Conclusion: You don't have to believe in all the spiritual wizardry of the liner notes (and cited in this review) to enjoy this album. Mind you, I think that people who pick up this album just because of the words of the liner notes, in order to live a better live or so, may not fully understand what it is all about. For me it is still the sound of music that counts, not the message. And in this case, the sound I like a lot!
I'd say of all the Verdeaux albums I've had the pleasure of reviewing, this is your best bet, as it comprises all the different styles of Verdeaux' long career.
Cyrille Verdeaux / Pascal Menestreyl - Tribal Hybrid Concept
Tracklist: Trance Fusion (5.27), Guimbarde Blues (5.43), Organic Dance (4.50), Youyouganda (5.27), Trance Pire (5.31), Gorilla SOS (4.20), Soufi Dance (5.45), Inuit Rock (6.13), Tuvas Bene (5.32), Papoo Ceremony (6.21), Keeping Up Berlin (4.09)
The Tribal Hybrid Project is the second collaboration between Verdeaux and ethnographer Pascal Menestreyl. Menestreyl is a graduate of the Geneva Conservatory in Electro-Acoustic music and is a specialist in sampling techniques and reconstructing sound documents.
On this album Verdeaux plays all synthesisers and composed the tracks, while Menestreyl added samples from all over the world and mixed up the most impossible combinations - indeed, a tribal hybrid concept.
It is supposed to illustrate the first of seven Chakras and is the first chapter in a box of seven albums, called the Kundalini Project.
The first Chakras is in charge of life and death energies; designed to energise the body and to celebrate life. The samples that are used are of Inuits, Papoos, Tuvas, Ethiopian and Kurdish singers, as well as samples of various wild animals, facing extinction, such as Lions, Stags or Jaguars.
The Tribal Hybrid concept is written to assist in the halting of these trials of tears, the massacres of innocents all around the globe.
Eh, yeah, so what do we get when we actually play the disc. It just sounds like an incredible chaos of sounds, backed up by a terrible techno-beat. The combination of digitally sampled tribal chants and animals, combined with modern rhythms is supposed to send a message of peace and fraternity, but frankly, it made me reach for the door.
This is just not it...
And I wonder to whom it might appeal. The rhythms are too complicated to interest anyone on the dance floor, yet the compositions are too boring to interest us prog-rockers. Fans of world-music or true believers of the messages preached in the liner notes will be let down by the fact that the original tribal chants are completely destroyed, no, they are utterly raped by the techno-shit that Verdeaux and Menestreyl put in it.
Original? Yeah, definitely, and it all sounds quite happy and cheery, but a song that combines Pygmies from Uganda, Aborigines from Taiwan, Efe pygmies from Africa and Shioux Shaman, backed with East Indian and African drums and the aforementioned techno-rhythm, just goes too far.
Oh, and as a bonus track we also get the horrible Keeping Up Berlin once again. Yeeha!
No, it's a pity, but this album is just way beyond appreciative - a missed opportunity maybe, but I think Verdeaux should just stick with the type of music he played before.
Conclusion: 3 out of 10.
Cyrille Verdeaux - Journey to Tantraland
Tracklist: Shambala (9.46), Rainbow Bubbles (6.28), Journey To The Center Of The Head (9.47), Moraga Hall (5.45), Flute-miroir (4.53), Meditation Lyricon (17.04), Flying Carpet (6.36)
Journey Into Tantraland is the second album in the Kundalini Opera and is for the second Chakra: Svadhishthana. This Chakra relates to the genitals and is linked to with energies and thoughts of sexual nature...
To be honest, I have my doubts about that Kundalini Opera. The first album was the horrible Tribal Hybrid Concept and now this second album lies at completely the opposite end of what isn't even remotely Progressive Rock: New Age. Some people say New Age is the most basic form of Progressive Rock and although I agree to that to within a certain extend (Jarre, Tangerine Dream, Some Klaus Schulze, nineties' Mike Oldfield and also earlier Verdeaux work like Nocturnes Digitales) this album completely misses the rock factor. The seven tracks are mainly long strings of synth chords, some sound effects and a tiny bit of bamboo flute, but definitely nothing from the rock chapter.
I must also admit that I don't know anything about this type of New Age music either. I admit it's beautiful, definitely relaxing, yet I can't see the connection with the sexuality that is so extensively depicted in the informative booklet. Therefore I shall refrain from rating this album from a DPRP-viewpoint. The album clearly doesn't belong on this page -were it not for the artist- and I don't think it will be of much interest to our readers apart from the ones that are really into New Age.
A nice touch about the album is that it is an enhanced CD. The small enhanced bit includes a bio and discography of Cyrille Verdeaux as well as a link to the official website.