Harmonium-Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison

1975; Polygram(defunct)

(Hey folks-it's been a while since I've reviewed something-2011 hasn't been blowing me away and I haven't talked about progressive rock in a while-so I decided to put up this review of one of my favorite prog albums from back in the day. This appeared slightly earlier on progarchives.com, and while I don't think anyone who reads this blog visits that site, I felt it was best to tell you just so you don't think somebody else ganked this if you ever wander across it on Google or something. Also, this one might be changed slightly for language and grammar and whatnot. Enjoy!)

Si On Avait Besoin D'une Cinquieme Saison, besides having one of the hardest-to-type titles of all time for non-native French speakers, is the rare album that deserves its lofty reputation and more, a work that is all at once grand, sweeping, warm and intimate. Virtually unknown outside of its native country of Quebec and hardcore prog circles, it is without question one of the most overlooked albums of the '70s and a triumph for folk music as well as of progressive rock.

Harmonium takes the folk elements of a group like Simon and Garfunkel and distills the weepiness from it, adding shades of jazz as well as symphonic elements that are fittingly august but tasteful and nuanced, leaving music that is emotionally charged but never overwrought or pitiful. Saison is a record that is truly joyful in places, with a coat of melancholy that keeps the experience layered.

More than that, it is an album that feels strangely private, like the band is putting on a special concert just for you. The vocals are often borderline whispered and even at its most grand the lack of percussion leaves the album feeling oddly compressed, as though it were composed in an open field but preformed in a small room. It leaves the music with a wistful quality that's hard to describe: The music feels like it was made to be bigger than the album that contains it, so instead of merely bursting to get out it scales itself back and translates all of its drama and glory into a form that's more easily expressed for recorded musical purposes. The effect is often nothing short of magical.

Speaking of magical, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the album's centerpiece, and Harmonium's magnum opus as a band, the side-length "Histoires Sans Paroles," or "History Without Words." It's an apt title as the song proves to be a mesmerizing instrumental work, immaculately composed and lushly preformed, something akin to Pink Floyd's "Echoes" as played by Nick Drake. Cosmic yet pastoral, harrowing and somehow comforting at the same time, the song is one of contemporary music's most overlooked epics and the quickest 17 minutes of your entire life.

In a pair of genres rife with unambitious groups who are content to ceaselessly mimic their inspirations, Saison is the rare progressive rock album that is as beloved by diehards as it is by the casual listeners who stumble upon it; it's a testament to the creativity and innovation that can inhabit both the progressive and folk genres simultaneously, an olive branch between complexity and emotional resonance, and a heartwarming work that quiets troubled souls and puts worries at ease even as it supplies a stage for its own enthralling emotional ride. It's the musical equivalent of a soft kiss and it's an album that nobody who desires a balanced music collection can afford to miss out on.



  1. you write so good, so tasty. you write like a professional writer. anyway, I'm asian and may be thousand miles from you. Though my english skills are so (fucking) terrible, but the emotion of hearing this song might be same as you, i guess. When hearing this song "History without words", all the difference between you and me, or the nationality and any other differences from everywhere are being distilled or fold into only one fundamental element of mankind. Sometimes, i know that the music is stronger than the most precious book or the most beautiful love.