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Garolou - Garolou (LP)
 

Garolou - Garolou (LP)

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Genre: progressive
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title:  Garolou
Company: London
Catalog: LPS 9027
Year: 1978
Country/State: Ontario, Canada
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve; Canadian pressing
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6177
Price: $20.00

Every time I start to think I know something about music, reality comes along and slaps me up the side of the head with an example of just how dumb I really am. This album's a perfect example ... I bought it while living in Brussels, Belgium back in the late-1970s. Because the lyrics were all sung in French I always thought Garolou were also French, or perhaps Belgian. Their mix of folk-rock was mildly entertaining, but at the time it didn't appeal to me enough to bother researching anything about the band. In fact, after playing the album a couple of times it sat in my shelves for at least two decades before I stumbled across it and decided to give it another audition. Fact of the matter is that when I rediscovered the album I couldn't remember a damn thing about the LP ...

First off, these guys weren't French. Lead guitarist Gilles Beaudoin, drummer Michel Stan Deguire, keyboardist Reginald Guay, bass player Marc Lalonde, and rhythm guitarist Michel Lalonde (yes, they were brothers). hailed from Ontario, Canada (no they weren't from Quebec). Next, what I originally thought was pleasant, if largely anonymous folk-rock turned out to be far more interesting and entertaining when I revisited it. Guess that goes to show that personal tastes change as we age. In the late '70s I was a teenager ... obviously I'm a little bit older now and a little more open to different sounds.

Brothers Marc and Michel Lalonde started their artistic careers as members of a Prince Edward theatre group. That led the pair to form a folk duo which then morphed into a full band. Originally know as Lougarou, the original line up featured the Lalonde brothers along with lead guitarist George Antoniak, drummer Michel "Stan" Deguire, and keyboard player Steven Naylor. Demos recorded at Morin Heights Le Studio caught the attention of London Records which saw the release a self-titled 1976 album (catalog number LFS.9022). Unfortunately the Canadian dance group Les Loups-garous hit them with a lawsuit, forcing a name change.





Reappearing as Garolou (cute), the band also underwent a massive personnel change that saw the Lalondes the only holdovers. Musically the band apparently made some major changes. Whereas the debut supposedly explored their interest in French-Canadian folk music (with rock edges), "Garolou" found the band opting for a more conventional and commercial sound. Yeah, exemplified by tracks like 'Alouette' and the acapella 'Wing-tra-la' traditional folk-music was still part of the repertoire, but this time around the band demonstrated they were equally capable of generating AOR moves - 'Aux Illinois' and 'La complainte du marechal Biron' would have sounded great on mid-1970s FM radio. As lead singer the Lalonde brothers were both quite good - I simply don't know the band well enough to be able to tell you which handled a particular track, though one of the two had a voice that was better suited to the rock material, while the other was better on the folkier numbers. The other standout was lead guitarist Gilles Beaudoin who repeatedly displayed a knack for injecting tasty, but understated solos.

- 'Aux Illinois' started out as a stark, slightly jazz-inflected electric keyboard propelled number, before suddenly shifting gears into a conventional rock song. Excellent song, with a kickin' melody and some excellent vocals (that have always reminded me a bit of a French Jim Morrison). Had the track been sung in English it could have rivaled a number of mega-selling hits by American AOR bands (think along the lines of Kansas or Styx). rating: **** stars
- I'm not sure which brother handled the vocals on 'La complainte du marechal Biron'. Whichever it was, technically voice wasn't as good as the other, but on this pretty ballad it really didn't make all that much difference. Add in some wonderful harmony vocals and a nice AOR guitar solo from Gilles Beaudoin and you had another song with commercial potential. rating: *** stars
- These guys apparently started out playing traditional French Canadian material and those roots showed on the 'Le depart pour les Etats'. My French is non-existent, but I think the song had something to do with French Canadian migration to the US in search of jobs. Pretty, but a little too 'music box' for my ears, though Beaudoin turned in one of the album's best solos mid-song ... I can picture a band playing this one at some cozy Quebec bar. rating: ** stars
- 'Je me suis habille en plumes' (which I think translated roughly as I'm dressed in feathers) found the band apparently trying to blend French Canadian folk material with a progressive-rock base. If you've ever wanted to know what Jethro Tull would have sounded like had they been French, well, here's your chance. The song's breezy melody had it's moments, though Reginald Guay's synthesizers didn't do a great deal for me. rating: ** stars
- Kicked along by Bobby Cussen's mandolin, 'Alouette' offered up a jaunty slice of traditional French-Canadian folk. Nice, if not exactly my taste. rating: *** stars
- 'Victoria' (always love the way they pronounced it Vik-tor-ria') was a catchy sing-along folk-rocker. rating: *** stars
- With Lalonde brother Bobby providing fiddle, 'La retraite de Bonaparte' (translated as Napoleon's retreat') was the album's stab at a Cajun flavored number. If you were into zydeco, this was right up your alley. Otherwise you probably won't be that impressed. The song featured another killer Beaudoin guitar solo. rating: *** stars
- The acapella 'Wing-tra-la' showcased the group's impressive vocal harmonies. Beautiful ... would love to know what it was about. rating: *** stars
- Clocking in at over ten minutes, 'Germaine' started out with a traditional folkie feel, but quickly exploded into a full blown slice of progressive rock; complete with the usual genre excess; including AOR guitars, waves of synthesizers, and scores of time changes. I'd love to say this was one of the highlights, but it wasn't. rating: *** stars

I won't try to convince you this was a masterpiece, but it certainly wasn't a complete wipeout ... Certainly worth checking out if you can find it at the right place.

"Garolou" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Aux Illinois (traditional) - 3:42
2.) La complainte du marechal Biron (traditional) - 5:24
3.) Le depart pour les Etats (traditional) - 5:32
4.) Je me suis habille en plumes (traditional) - 3:46
5.) Alouette (traditional) - 2:06
(side 2)
1.) Victoria (traditional) - 2:55
2.) La retraite de Bonaparte (Pee Wee King) - 2:44
3.) Wing-tra-la (traditional) - 4:27
4.) Germaine (traditional) - 10:30


For anyone interested, there's a nice band website at:

http://www.gastongagnon.net/
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