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7 Jan 2017

Mona Lisa “Grimaces” 1975 France Prog Symphonic Rock

Mona Lisa  “Grimaces” 1975 France Prog Symphonic Rock
Founded in 1973, in Orleans, this is a symphonic band in the style of Genesis, but with a distinctively French flair (Because of it’s peculiar stage show they are 
labeled as French Theatric Symphonic in some sources). 
Another close comparison is Atoll, with some references to Osanna and Premiata Forneria Marconi. 
The first album was recorded with Christian Gallas on electric guitar and violin, Jean-Luc Martin on bass, Jean-Paul Pierson on keyboards, guitar and backing 
vocals, Francis Poulet on drums, percussion and backnig vocals, Gilles Solves on additional guitars, and , ?Dominique LeGuennec on lead vocals, sax, flute, and 
percussion. Solves would not remain for the next album, and Gallas would be replaced by Pascal Jordan for the third release. This lineup stayed intact for two  
Disillusioned by lack of success, singer Dominique LeGuennec left the band. He was soon followed by Jordan. This led to a major reshuffling of personnel, and 
assignments. Drummer Francis Poulet pulled a Phil Collins, and became the lead singer for 1979’s “Vers Demain.” This would be the last of any semblance of the 
original Mona Lisa. 
In 1998 Le Geuennec reformed the band with most of the members of Versailles. A younger band, who were influenced by Mona Lisa and Ainge. This Lineup recorded “De 
l'ombre a la Lumiere,” and “Progfest 2000” (with only one change in personnel). 
The band is described as being highly orchestral, and very theatrical. Dominique LeGuennec receives constant comparisons to Peter Gabriel. They may not have had 
the notoriety of their contemporaries, but they are strongly recommended……… 

The second album from this French band who is by now turning into the band they were mostly known as. A band in the Ange modus. 

We are talking theatrical symphonic prog here. Although with a lot more folk prog than I am used to by this band though. The Jaqcues Brel and Genesis influences is still here. But some more Bretagne like folk rock is also present here. 

Mona Lisa is more theatrical than Ange in many respect. Dominique Le Guennec sounds even more theatrical than Christian Descampes. Mona Lisa takes this style to excess on this album and looses the melodies in the process. There is no great songs on this album. Despite of that, the music is good. But it lacks the melodic qualities they later developed on the two following albums. 

This is a good album and well worth checking out for those into French symphonic prog………… 

Even on its first record “L'Escapade” (1974), MONA LISA appeared as a dedicated follower of the theatrical, emotional and melodramatic rock created by ANGE. The emphasis, the sensibility, the vocal subtlety of Dominique Le GUENNEC goes beyond the usual style. He “lives” his lyrics and surprises the listener by performing an expressive and suggestive music that evoke GENESIS. The group got better with each album. “Grimaces” (1975) and especially “Le Petit Violon De Monsieur Grégoire” (1976) are two different landmarks of their technical maturity, that is evident thanks to a Steve HACKETT style of guitar and the growth of the singer’s vocal power and charisma. “Avant Qu'Il Ne Soit Trop Tard…” (1977) is a success for this band, given that it mixes the vocal emphasis with the theatricality of its music, and it also goes beyond this thanks to a great instrumental variety and truly captivating and powerful melodies. Dominique Le GUENNEC decided then to leave, and the vocals were then offered to drummer Francis POULET. “Vers Demain” (1979) shows then a come-back to more concise and direct theatrical rock. Still, the former, after the final split-up of his true band, went back again to his first love at the end of the century. He gathered again the other musicians of VERSAILLES in order to re-create this lost alchemy. “L'Ombre Et La Lumière” is then MONA LISA’s comeback. This 1998 album shows a music that has remained as expressive, poetic, melodramatic and suggestive as ever. This unique formula was by the way the sensation of the year 2000 edition of the famous ProgFest, creating a great enthusiasm amongst the American audience due to their typical French style ! You can find this exceptional show on the Musea CD “ProgFest 2000”, as well as on DVD. No doubt about it, this is the inspirational quality that allows MONA LISA to remain among the greatest of the French-speaking line-ups of the Seventies. A true landmark of the Seventies French Progressive rock scene !…. 

Rock theatre was a very popular medium of entertainment among French audiences in the seventies. It is well known that Peter Gabriel’s electrifying performances with Genesis had a huge impact in this respect, but Ange, too, was a group with an unique vision and their own original ideas. 

This group from Orleans belonged to the French “rock theatre school”, as initiated by Ange. Possibly, Mona Lisa was the most artistically successful among the early pioneers (they were formed as early as 1970). “L'Escapade”, recorded at Citadel Studios in October 1974, was a competent debut album, but marred by a rather thin and tinny sound. It was produced by the guitarist from Ange, Jean-Michel Brezovar (this being his first attempt at such a job). Musically, this only hinted at things to come, with obvious Genesis influences throughout, particularly on the Hackett­style guitar parts. Other features were an uncommon organ sound and Dominique Le Guennec’s passionate, sometimes even disturbing, vocals and flute. Overall, the album sounds only half-formed and a bit unfocused, as if their ideas were not recorded on the tape the way they had been intended. 
Not satisfied with their debut album, Mona Lisa recorded “Grimaces” at Azurville Studios in September 1975, aided by Jean-Pierre Massiera and Bernard Belan. Their sound had now matured considerably with much more variation in the use of instruments, higher intensity and more memorable musical themes. The vocalist had now developed a very distinctive, loud and expressive style. Listening to the songs it’s easy to imagine Le Guennec acting in some outrageous costume (like he did in their popular live performances). The album is full of musical highlights, such as “Le Jardin Des Illusions” and “Accroche-Toi Et Suis­Moi”. It’s easy to assume they were influenced by Genesis’ “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”, released the previous year. 
Even so, Mona Lisa were capable of improving on a very good album. Their third one was their masterpiece, equalling the best works of Ange and Genesis on the title track (a suite of three pieces filling the whole of side two). This was due to carefully-constructed compositions and a more accessible sound. The group worked on the album for several months with Massiera and Belan engineering. Recommended listening… Scented Gardens of the Mind - by Dag Erik Asbjørnsen, ….. 


L'Escapade - 1974, Arcane 87015 (CD reissue by Musea, 1991, FNAC MUSIC 672 024/Musea FGBG 4032.AR) 
Grimaces - 1975, Arcane 913050 (CD reissue by Musea, 1994, FGBG 4119.AR) 
Le Petit Violon De Mr. Gregoire - 1977, Crypto ZAC 6402 (CD reissue by Musea, 1995, FGBG 4009.AR) 
Avant Qu'il Ne Soit Trop Gard - 1978, Crypto ZAL 6440 (CD reissue by Musea, 1995, FGBG 4107.AR) 
Vers Demain - 1979, Crypto ZAL 6483 (CD reissue by Musea, 1994, FGBG 4120.AR) 

- Dominique Le Guennec / lead vocals, flutes, sax, percussion 
- Jean-Paul Pierson / keyboards, vocals 
- Christian Gallas / guitar, vocals 
- Jean-Luc Martin / bass, vocals 
- Francis Poulet / drums, percussions, vocals 

A1 La Mauvaise Réputation 3:30 
A2 Brume 5:05 
A3 Complainte Pour Un Narcisse 4:25 
A4 Le Jardin Des Illusions 6:35 
B1 Accroche-Toi Et Suis-Moi 6:00 
B2 Au Pays Des Grimaces 6:15 
B3 Manèges Et Chevaux De Bois 7:00

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..





Cassete Deck

Cassete Deck