Ange - Caricatures. 1972 France

It all starts here for the French theatrical progressive rock movement. Prior to Ange landing on the scene, most of the French bands of the era were singing in English and, more or less, were copying their European brethren across the Channel. Anyone who knows their history should know that isn't going to last long. And Ange is French with a capital F, despite originally forming from the borderlands of Switzerland and Germany. The music is as much about the language than it is the instrumentation. Even for those who don't speak French, the intonations, drama, and enunciation of words is fascinating. The general assumption is that Ange were looking to emulate Genesis, and there's some truth to that. It's a guidepost, but it doesn't tell the whole story. Ange brought back national pride, and arguably are the most famous progressive rock group to have ever emerged from France - not counting those who speak Kobaian of course. So if all instrumental albums are your bag, you've definitely arrived at the wrong place. But that's not to say there aren't long stretches of vocal silence, and one can certainly appreciate Ange strictly on that level too. The sound is raw and grimy, especially the organ, and is closer to what we now call proto-prog than a fully fledged Foxtrot. Yes, the production is muddy (see last paragraph), but that's part of its charm. Ange were to improve from here, but this is a very fine debut that has aged well.

Personal collection
LP: 1972 Philips
CD: 2013 Mercury/Universal (Japan)

Originals come in a single sleeve and is a relatively common album in France. The CD I own is part of a 7 CD mini-LP box set that is gorgeous (the box is Au-Dela du Delire). That was probably my last big purchase for mini-LPs, as I paid retail when it first came out. And it was worth every single penny. I had been limping along with that Disques Marianne CD prior. Believe me, the Japanese CD kicked its ass. When I went to sell it, I thought I might get 10 cents for it. On the contrary, it's quite collectible. OK then.

On this listen I heard the Japanese mini and the original LP one after the other. No matter what format and version you listen to, it will not clear up the production. So don't try too hard to find the perfect copy. It is what it is, as they say.

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