Friday, April 3, 2015

Magma - 1984 - Merci


01. Call From The Dark (Ooh Ooh Baby) (7:20)
02. Otis (5:20)
03. Do The Music (4:25)
04. Otis (Ending) (1:32)
05. I Must Return (6:32)
06. Elephas Levi (11:15)
07. The Night We Died (3:40)

- Christian Vander / vocals, piano, Celeste, keyboards, percussion
- Stella Vander / vocals
- Guy Khalifa / vocals
- Benoit Widemann / synthesizer
- Simon Goubert / synthesizer (1,3)
- Francois Laizeau / drums, drum programming
- Marc Eliard / bass
- Phillipe Slominski / trumpet on (1,3,4)
- Christian Martinez / trumpet on (1,4)
- Michel Goldberg / saxophone on (1,3)
- Liza Deluxe / backing vocals
- Jean Pierre Fouquey / Rhodes piano on (2)
- Michel Gaucher / saxophone on (2)
- Freddy Opsepian / trumpet on (2)
- Christian Guizen / trombone on (2)
- Alex Ferrand / vocals on (3)
- Jean-Luc Chevalier / guitar on (3)
- Patrick Gauthier / synthesizer on (3)
- Paul Bayle / saxophone on (3)
- Denis LeLoup / trombone on (3,4)
- Arrigo Lorenz / Soprano sax on (3)
- Maria Popkiewicz / backing vocals on (4)
- Jerome Naulay / trombone on (4)
- Zaka / percussion on (4)
- Michel Graillier / Rhodes piano on (5)

Magma's glory days were a long way behind them when they recorded this oddity. Vander more or less quit the drum stool for this album, and it took something like 18 months to record in dribs and drabs. It gets off to a shaky start with 'Call From The Dark', which sounds like a stab at Zeuhl Euro-Disco. The Linn drums really sound out of place on a MAGMA album.

I imagine a lot of fans switching off at this point, but the album is worth sticking with. 'Otis' is a tribute to the great Otis Redding, which sounds incongruous but actually works remarkably well - Vander always drew on a variety of sources for inspiration, and Redding was as outstanding in his field as Carl Orff or John Coltrane were in theirs. The album is really lifted by a Renee Garber composition, Eliphas Levi, which starts and ends with some beautiful flute and is largely built around piano and massed voices. Haunting and beautiful, another side of Vanders muse which would be explored further in OFFERING, although in my opinion nothing by OFFERING can match it.

The cast of thousands, and the absence of any of the core MAGMA players aside from Christian and Stella Vander, make this seem like more of a solo project than a proper Zeuhl album. Persevere with the 80s production values, though, and there is plenty that is worthwhile on "Merci".

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