XII Alfonso - Odyssees

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Musea Records
Catalog Number: FGBG 4303.AR
Format: CD
Total Time: 68:24:00

For a long time the debut of French band/project XII Alfonso has been compared with the better Camel output. Their debut album The Lost Frontier, filled to the rim with Celtic elements, was well received all over the world, and sold remarkably well. It was probably due to the fantastic voice of Caroline Lafue that this album was taken to unknown heights.

On the follow up Odyssees, unfortunately on which Caroline no longer helps out, as she has been replaced by much weaker vocals. In "Odyssee" these weak voices even remind me of the Jane Birkin period (remember the soft spoken/sung world hit "Je T'aime Moi Non Plus" of Jane Birkin and husband Serge Gainsbourg?). Luckily the instrumental parts are of an extremely high quality so that we can fully appreciate the talent of the brothers Claerhout and keyboard player Stephane Merlin.

"Eclipse" is sort of an ode to space travelling, including some authentic voice-overs from astronauts. Just like on the band's debut, XII Alfonso is able to keep the balance between instrumental and vocal parts, between (mainly) French and English lyrics. It remains a collective who next to the already mentioned threesome uses a lot of guest musicians who will all contribute to the unique sound.

It is mainly the acoustic simplicity which is the main attraction of the XII Alfonso music, whilst on the other hand, the band doesn't shun the experimental. "Lithophonia" lets you hear the sound of stalactites and stalagmites, recorded in the caves of Pech-Merle. Sounds out of 25,000 year old remains that have now been transferred onto the latest digital format! "Ou Vont Les Amants" is very romantic, what with the Saint-Preux like piano by Mickey Simmonds (Camel, Fish) and the highlight of the legendary Dan Ar Braz. "Tout Passe" makes me think of some old French soundtrack which is probably due to the use of the accordion. It's as if you hear French cheese and red wine dripping out of your speakers!

The percussive "Noria" includes a lot of Arabian influences but all of the rhythm vanishes during "Le Dernier Voyage," which is the kind of serenity in the style of Gordon Giltrap. Very folksy is "Dominique Larrey," in which you can hear some bagpipes. As a bonus track on this lengthy album we are treated by means of the live recorded "En Castille" with the Minimum Vital twins Jean-Luc and Thierry Payssan as guests. Without any doubt a wonderful album this Odyssees; as always very varied, filled with craftsmanship and a dream for lovers of acoustic music with a folksy twist.

Eclipse (7:26) / Odyssee (5:58) / Lithophonia (3:09) / Message 95 (4:15) / Tomorrow (1:43) / Ou Vont Les Amants ? (7:43) / La Revolution Des Oeillets (8:25) / Nil (2:56) / Invisible Links (Part 2) (4:30) / Tout Passe (4:35) / Noria (5:07) / Le Dernier Voyage (2:11) / Dominique Larrey (8:26) / Bonustrack : En Castille (Live) (4:40)

Philippe Claerhout - guitars, lithophones, vocoder, e-bow
Fran?ois Claerhout - keyboards, programming, lithophones
L. Dupont - bass
Stephane Merlin - keyboards
Laure Oltra - voice and lyrics
Judith Robert - vocals
Sandrine Roug? - vocals
B. Auzerol - bass
Thierry - drums, percussion
St?phane Rolland - guitars
Michael Geyre - organ
Philippe Roug? - phonolithes, flute
Dan Ar Braz - guitar
Mickey Simmonds - keyboards

The Lost Frontier (1996)
Odyssees (1999) This Is (2003)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin FR

Added: January 1st 2000
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website: www.progressiverockbr.com/xiialfonso.html
Hits: 2018
Language: english


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