I still can’t, for the life of me, figure out why this group never attained greater notoriety or why, for the longest time, I had not even heard of them. The best explanation that I can come up with is that those sneaky Quebecois have been hiding this stuff from me for all these years and only recently has their devious plot been foiled by the fine folks at Progresson music. Thanks to them, I’ve discovered the wealth of great music recorded by Maneige and many other outstanding acts from that area.
Ni Vent... ni nouvelle, the band’s third album was recorded during the final weeks of 1976 and released on Polydor records in the spring of the following year. Stylistically, they went through some minor changes, mainly by shortening the length of their songs. The music was still the potent mixture of fusion, classical and rock but now they would have tracks that maybe radio stations could handle. I believe this may have gotten them a modest amount of success in Canada but those achievements didn’t necessarily cross over the border into the U.S.
Describing the Meneige sound is a rather complex task because mere labels and colorful adjectives just don’t seem to do the group justice. Calling them a skilled fusion band with heavy classical moments barely scratches the surface. One thing that really stands out is the excellent percussion from Gilles Schetagne and Paul Picard. The creative use of vibes reminds me a lot of Zappa with both the jazzy sound and instrumental expertise. The percussion really stands out but never seems to totally overpower the other players. Another key element is the flute work of Alain Bergeron. His beautiful tone gives the music that undeniable classical, chamber music element. Also making significant contributions are Vincent Langlois on keyboards guitar and sax, and Yves Léonard on bass.
The tunefulness of Maneige never ceases to amaze me. Each new track showcases a new and brilliant aspect of the band. The music seems more composed than improvisational but these guys are so smooth that I could be wrong; it’s like a perfectly working machine. These guys are very accomplished players and that element is always present but they have no problem becoming fun and funky without losing dignity. All this and they still managed to find time to throw in experimental elements and fun studio trickery. I could go on and on.
I had seen pictures of this album on the Internet but I never really saw the detail in Richard Packwood’s artwork. There’s a cool Close To The Edge thing going on here that I never caught before. I’d really like to see a copy of the original LP. And what’s that the kid is hiding? Maybe this is why it took me so long to find out about Maneige…hmmmm.
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