Mona Lisa – L’Escapade
Vinyl | LP Cover (1:1) | FLAC + cue | 24bit/96kHz | 908 mb
Label: Arcane /87015 | Release: 1974 | Genre: Progressive-Rock
Formed in 1970, it was only in 1974 that French band Mona Lisa could perpetrate their debut album and start to bring their contribution to their country’s progressive rock arena and deliver one of the most accomplished expressions of theater rock. This band pursued a development through the paths of art-rock opened years earlier by Ange and was more than willing to leave a solid trademark on this specific road. In fact, this album received a noticeable heritage from the dark playfulness that inundated Ange’s first two studio efforts, and what’s more, Ange’s guitarist Mr. Brezovar was himself in charge of the production duties for “L’Escapade”, although the result of this first attempt of his turned out to be only partially credible. Anyway, through the limited range of sonic sources, the incomplete elaboration of the interplaying arrangements and the not-so-perfect sound production, you can tell that Mona Lisa had a voice of its own in terms of composition and musical expression right from the beginning. The album kicks off with a pastoral prelude entitled ‘Prelude A L’Escapade’, a lovely sketch of early Baroque moods dominated by classical guitar and flute and ended with a cymbal beat. Then, the sound of a cold wind and the distant melody of a bagpipe playing ‘Amazing Grace’ sets the opening stages of ‘Le Fantome de Galashiels’, a song signaled by somber moods and solemn dramatics, which makes it a perfect manifesto of what the whole album is all about. There is much intensity in this performance, but there is also a sense of constrain that properly highlights the mysterious aura that the track is intended to portray. The intensity level goes up quite a bit with the next two pieces, con ‘Voyage per l’Infini’ and ‘Les Vielles Pierres’ ? the former is a catchy mid-tempo prog rocker that raises the Ange reference quite vividly, while the latter explores an artsy dynamics with more power and fruition, abundantly bringing images of spacey Pink Floyd-meets-creepy Procol Harum-meets “Trespass” Genesis. A special mention goes to the lovely intro of a musical box playing ‘Pour Elise’: this melody can never seem to be a failure. IMHO, the last two songs capture the best part of “L’Escapade”, since they develop and schematize the most ambitious levels of expression and musicality that the band was capable of at the time. ‘Le Colporteur’ and ‘Petit Homme de la Terre’ are just great, clear signs that this band had enough artistic and intellectual sources to rival (or even surpass) any other compatriot band of the rock theater area. The Musea edition adds two bonus tracks: a demo version of ‘Les Vielles Pierres’ and a previously unreleased song, ‘Diableries’, which delivers a similar aura to that of ‘Le Colporteur’ only with a bit less of muscle. This is a great opening for a rock career destined to generate artistic glory for French progressive rock in the 70s, all specific faults aside: I grant a 3.60 star grade for Mona Lisa’s debut album since it is excellent in exclusively artistic terms.
A1 Prélude A L’Escapade
A2 La Fantôme De Galashiels
A3 Voyage Vers L’Infini
A4 Les Vieilles Pierres
B1 Le Colporteur
B2 Petit Homme De La Terre
Artwork – Gérard Lecoeur
Bass – Jean-Luc Martin
Drums, Percussion, Vocals – Francis Poulet
Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar – Gilles Solves
Electric Guitar, Violin – Christian Gallas
Engineer – Jean-Claude Robert, Sidney Hermann
Keyboards, Guitar, Vocals – Jean-Paul Pierson
Lead Vocals, Flute, Saxophone, Percussion – Dominique Le Guennec
Producer – Jean-Michel Brezovar*
Original issue Arcane, 1974.
Recorded at Studio Citadel, Besançon, October ’74.