Saturday, January 9, 2016

Alice - 1970 - Alice


01. Axis
02. Onurb
03. Le Nouveau Monde
04. L'arbre
05. Valse
06. L'Enfant
7. Extrait Du Cerce
a) Final
b) Theme
08. Venez Jouer I
09. Mexican Song
10. Venez Jouer II
11. Tournez La Page
12. Fumée grise et marrons chauds

Bonus Tracks:
13. De L'Autre Cote Du Miroir
14. Viens
15. Le Nouveau MOnde (single version)
16. Que Pouvons-Nous Faire Ensemble?
17. Je Voudrais Habiter Le Soleil
18. Il Viendra

- Jean-Pierre Auffredo / hautbois, flûtes traversières et douce, saxophones alto et soprano, violon, guitares, piano, percussions, chant
- Bruno Besse / guitares, percussions, vibraphone
- Sylvain Duplant / basse, guitares, percussions, chant
- Alain Suzan / orgue, piano, basse, percussions, chant
- Alain Weiss ("Doudou") / batterie, percussions, cloches tubulaires, chant

I guess most of you understood where this band got its name. Alice is one of the first generation of groups to have done progressive rock in France, even if their sound often came close to the blues rock, they mixed in some heavy psychedelic ideas and threw in a couple pinches of prog purée in their music and achieved a very interesting album, recorded in London and released in early 70. Clearly the leader was multi-instrumentalist and singer JP Auffredo and his style on flute was reminiscent of Jethro Tull, Traffic but sometimes the Yardbirds as well.

Their second album Arrêtez Le Monde (stop the world) would be a tad more progressive and be released in two version: the original French version and its English counterpart called All Ice. The group would disband by the mid-70's but most members stayed active some releasing solo albums and others appearing on different project or joining groups (such as Alpes).

Alice is a bit of a UFO in the French sky, as they sounded un-French, even if they sang in French, and considering they were among the very first wave of prog group in the country along with Martin Circus and Ame Son. Not only did they record their debut album in London, but their music was very UK- influenced, drawing many comparisons, most due to JP Auffredo's wide array of wind instruments use, violin, guitars and percussion and piano. With a cute montage of band pictures and clothes tissues artwork, Alice's debut album is one of the cornerstone of the psych prog scene of their country.
Starting on a menacing keyboard and sax line accompanied by a descending bass line, Alice's opening of their debut album is one of the most striking one, the group continuing on its inertia, and set out for a superbly fun eastern-sounding instrumental, especially once Auffredo abandons his sax for a lovely flute. A short pastoral Onurb with seagulls in the backgrounds leads us into the great Nouveau Monde (later drawn out as a single and added as a bonus), where over a metronomic percussion, Auffredo's flute takes on Tull proportions. The vocally affected and effected L'Arbre is a great Yardbird-esque and ends in total chaos: absolutely great ending. The short Valse (waltz) is mostly a flute thing, Auffredo double-tracking himself, and Besse's acoustic guitar pulling some nice chords. L'Enfant is another great track with Auffredo now on the violin, we could imagine Family or String Driven Thing.

The 7-mins Cercle seems to indicate that this was only a part of a longer project, here reduced to a duet of movement. Venez Jouer (come and play) takes on another fun pace, with Auffredo always ready to switch between his many instruments. This track also sandwiches the Mexican Song (but the second part is insignificant), which is a little folk ditty, albeit of a lesser and rawer Santana. Turn The Page is a wild prog instrumental that merits its highlight, especially in the end with its impressive stop & go section. Much too short award. .

Coming as bonus tracks are the first few singles released by the group, the first prior to their debut album: De L'Autre Coté Du Miroir is a very 60's sounding French psych pop track, while its original flipside Viens (come) is a fuzzed-out affair, both likely to please psych collectors around the world, both tracks slightly veering prog. Next is a single version of Nouveau Monde (from the album) and it was coupled with a non-album track called Que Pouvons Nous Faire Ensemble (nearing the 5-mins mark), a dreamy hippy blues with a searing guitar in the forefront. Last up is Je Voudrais Habiter Le Soleil (I wish to live on the sun) recorded in 71 as a single (at least I guess), proof that prog could be sold (or at least marketed) as a single and despite a poor recording sound, it is an excellent song; while Il Viendra (he shall come) is again in the same psych/prog vein, sometimes sounding like The Beatles on a very wiold trip, sometimes like a cool Trower-led Procol Harum.

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