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Pollen Import

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, July 12, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

From 1976 comes one of the top 5 French Canadian progressive rock albums of all-time. An absolute masterpiece!

Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 12, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Ais
  • ASIN: B0009WLY9A
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #507,517 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
When one thinks of Canada's prog rock scene, one would obviously think of Rush, they were the only group that made it big in the States. Then there's Saga and FM. But all these came from Ontario. But neighboring Quebec was a province that thought itself different, culturally and socially from Anglo-Canada, in that they spoke French and had closer European cultural ties. That meant that province was more friendly to prog rock than say, Ontario or British Columbia. If you thought Canada's prog rock scene seemed too influenced by New Wave and AOR (FM, Saga, and 1980s Rush, for example), Quebec's scene seemed more strictly in the traditional European prog style. That province gave us groups like Et. Cetera, Morse Code, Maneige, Harmonium, Sloche, and this particular one-shot, Pollen.

Pollen managed to release one album, a self-entitled album in 1976 on the KebecDisc label, before calling it a day. They were a four piece group with Jacques Rivest (vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, keyboards), Sylvain Coutu (drums, percussion, vibes), Claude Lemay (keyboards, flute, vibes, bass, vocals), and Richard Lemoyne (acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, bass). It's interesting to note that Claude Lemay would later totally throw all his credibility down the drain by playing for the ever dreaded Celine Dion. But way before playing for the lady who stunk up the airwaves with such atrocities as "My Heart Will Go On" (from Titanic), he was in Pollen, simply one of the greats of Canadian prog rock, bringing to mind all the prog greats such as Gentle Giant, Ange, perhaps some Pulsar and Harmonium, without being a copycat of any of them. All members, aside from the drummer are credited to keyboard duties, and you get plenty of Moog, piano, electric piano, and Hammond organ.
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Format: Audio CD
I've been to Quebec a couple of times, and I love the robust music scene there, especially some of the fantastic jazz fusion artists. I happened upon this old prog gem during my last visit, and a worthy addition to the prog canon it is. Pollen's self-titled album is a one-off affair with French-Canadian vocals that remind me of PFM or some of the other Rock Progressivo Italiano bands of the 1970's. As an "only album", I was a bit disappointed that it only contained 38 minutes of music. But there is a full album sound to it all, and it holds the symphonic prog lover's interest plenty well. I'll provide the obligatory band similitudes: Genesis and Gentle Giant predominantly, but hints of Nektar and England as well. Add the French vocals, and you get a pretty unique stew. This is keyboard driven prog with a very good guitarist - in fact, there are a few guitar-led instrumentals that really made me sit up and pay attention. (These guys were good!)
Great cd cover art; and the newest release has some great info and additional pics of the band too. Good shtuff....

I value interesting music that is played and recorded well. This cd's rating was based on:
Music quality = 8.3/10; Performance = 9/10; Production = 9/10; CD length = 5/10.
Overall score weighted on my proprietary scale = 8.3 ("4 stars")
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Format: Audio CD
As other reviewers have shared, Pollen is at or near the top of the heap of Quebecois prog bands of the 70s. They are far more symphonic than most of their peers.

This album has grown on me as I listen. It seems to gain steam as it "progresses" through the track list. The first cut puts me in mind of VGG and Gentle Giant and while it has some interesting instrumental breaks it is probably my least favorite cut on the album. The next two cuts are more acoustic numbers; the first a lively cut with some great acoustic guitar work and the second a more pastoral ballad. Both are quality. Next is a brief cut that moves quickly through its 3 minute and change running time. Its pleasant enough but as I think back on the album it is the one cut that sort of blends into the woodwork, if you will. The real gems are the final two cuts. The first of these really finds the band showing off their muscular chops and the second, clocking in at over 10 minutes, allows the players to stretch out and truly display what they are made of. The last track is by far my favorite.

This album has quality compositions which are only improved by stellar performances. The ensemble work is first rate. Nothing is overdone and none of the pieces overstay their welcome. Each of the troop show true ability on their respective instruments. My only real hesitation with Pollen's offering is that I find that the melodies aren't terribly memorable.

Since I am coming at it 30+ years after its release, a lot of water is under the bridge and a lot of other prog has since been produced. As a one-off in 1976 it would have been interesting to see how this band would have developed over time. Sadly, it appears we will never know.
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Excellent 70's prog, with a Gabriel/Foxtrot Genesis era sound. especially in the vocals, and keyboards.
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