Contraction - s/t + La Bourse ou La Vie + Live 1974. 1972/1974 Canada



Contraction - s/t. 1972 Columbia
Contraction - La Bourse ou La Vie. 1974 Deram
Contraction - Live 1974. 2009 ProgQuebec. 1974 archival recording

CD reissue for Contraction: 2005 ProgQuebec
CD reissue for La Bourse ou La Vie: 2005 ProgQuebec

In addition to the ProgQuebec release of Live 1974, there's a mini-LP version on Belle Antique (Japan).

I originally had planned on featuring each of these separately, but then as I thought about it, they are intrinsically linked together.

Packaging: The debut was released in a single sleeve, a gatefold, as well as an English language version. The latter is pretty scarce, but the others are relatively common. La Bourse ou La Vie was released as a gatefold only. My first LP copies of each go back to the early 1990s. Modern dealers will try to pump these up as rarities, but there is a lot of supply, especially in Quebec. The tricky thing is finding mint copies. Canadian covers used the same materials as their American counterparts, and as such, the cardboard is subject to ring and edge wear, as well as seam splits. Many of these have languished in Montreal record stores for years, and have been worn down by being picked over and over. If they weren't stored in plastic sleeves prior, the situation is hopeless. Unfortunately I've never owned mint copies of these. As for CD's, ProgQuebec was the first to market, and closed the book on what needed to be done. The debut CD only features lyrics, but no history. I think the prevailing thought was that anyone who buys the first will most assuredly want the second (and honestly I have to agree, I can't imagine somebody liking one and not the other). And as such, La Bourse ou La Vie does feature a brief history, which is also included on ProgQuebec's website. The Live 1974 CD, that was released 4 years later, actually sounds better than the studio albums (it was a radio broadcast, so that partially explains why), and it features more unique liner notes. All 3 CDs are essential IMO.

Notes for Contraction: To appreciate Contraction it helps to enjoy the unique Quebecois songwriting style. First half of the album is a classic early 70s period piece, with the beautiful voice of Christiane Robichaud adding some sunshine to the otherwise dreary and smoky clubs of Montreal. The melodies are gorgeous, and the Franck Dervieux (his "Dimension M" album another must listen from the region) influence is quite apparent. Second half focuses more on instrumentals. Contrary to what may be my common inclination, I tend to favor the first side here.

Notes for La Bourse ou La Vie: And continuing with the contrary theme, I tend to disagree with my fellow peers, and I think the more straightforward debut is the (slightly) stronger album compared to the more overtly progressive La Bourse ou La Vie. I think the songwriting on the debut is a bit more engaging. However, the side long epic on La Bourse ou La Vie is their strongest moment across both albums.

Notes for Live 1974: "Live 1974" is a splendid radio recording, perhaps even better than the studio recordings proper. Most of the material is taken from their terrific debut, with the lengthy title track of the second representing the tour de force. Opening track is the English version of 'Chant Patriotique' from the first album, and since I've not heard the English version of the album, it's interesting to hear it with the different vocal inflections. As if to underscore that point, the second track does a bit of franglais, as it mixes French first / English second, which is entirely unique. Then there's the three unreleased tracks: 'Solid Shine', ' Le Temps Fuit comme une Ombre', and 'Sagesse' (and the latter also gets the studio version treatment), that are all unmistakably Contraction, and great to hear after all these years. The live renditions play it pretty straight to the original album recordings, but it's still a superb performance, with perhaps better sound, and significant unreleased material. Definitely a worthy addition to the collection.

1 comment:

  1. I guess I should consider myself lucky - I picked up both in a Montreal shop about two years ago in NM/EX condition :) I paid a bit more, but they are quite nice copies.

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