Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
A must for Gentle Giant fans
BENJAMIN MILER | Veneta, Oregon | 09/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"American prog rock had been frequently accused of being pale copycats of their English counterparts. It's worse in Canada: a better portion of their prog rock scene is ignored outright. The big exception being Rush, who made it big even in the States. They were also very popular with the hard rock/heavy metal crowd thanks to the band's music heavily influenced by such. And then you have bands like FM and Saga, who most of their albums are easily available, but then they have their detractors as being too influenced by the mainstream and of AOR.
What I found out was the province of Quebec had a prog rock scene all their own independant of the English speaking provinces. Many years ago I bought an album from Claude Léveillée called Black Sun (1978), which was a decent, but not essential prog album in my book. Far more recently I bought the self-entitled 1976 album from Pollen, both albums from Sloche, J'un Oeil (1975) and Stadacone (1976), and now Et. Cetera. I've been really impressed by these albums, and it proves that Quebec's prog rock scene was fully capable of holding their own to their European counterparts.
It's apparent that Gentle Giant had a big impact on the Quebec prog scene of the '70s. Pollen, Maneige, and Sloche all show their GG influences to some degree, but none more so than Et. Cetera. This group released their one and only album in 1976 on the Apostrophe label, apparently a label ran by the band, since their only instrumental composition was entitled "Apostrophe" (which means it has absolutely nothing to do with the instrumental Zappa song). What separates this group from Gentle Giant, is they feature female vocals from Marie Bernard Pagé, not to mention all vocals are in French. She tends to do the high-pitched vocals that Kerry Minnear would do in GG. She also handles keyboards (with the help of a second keyboardist), she even handles something called an Ondes Martenot, a prototype synthesizer invented in the 1920s. This is the only prog rock band I know of to use one, this instrument was more commonly used in avant garde classical and in sci-fi (including none other than the female chorus you hear on the original 1960s Star Trek TV theme song). The rest of the keyboards are typical of prog rock: Minimoog, string synths, clavinet, electric piano. Well, the music is just as complex and elaborate as GG, with lots of vocal harmonies that are undeniably GG-like. This album came out in 1976, just as Gentle Giant, as a prog rock band was coming to an end (Interview was their last prog album, they went for a much more straightforward pop route in the late '70s with The Missing Piece, Giant For a Day and Civilian). There's the occasional folk influence that might bring to mind Harmonium, or the more acoustic moments of Pollen. Maneige (which I am not familiar with yet) is another band Et. Cetera is compared with, and perhaps a little Sloche (particularly when that band showed their GG-influence the most like on "Algébrique" or "Isacaaron").
Apparently keyboardist Denis Chartrand later sacrificed his credibility at the altar by playing for Celine Dion, much like what happened to Pollen's Claude Lemay. What's up with Quebec proggers later playing for Celine Dion? Probably the money. Drummer Pierre Dragon ended up in a band called Trick of the Tail, which, unsurprisingly (given the name) was a Genesis tribute band, at least keeping his credibility as far as prog rock goes. Not to mention Marie Bernard Pagé had went on to other musical ventures, including being in other bands.
Clone bands often get a bad reputation. Everyone knows about Triumvirat and Starcastle, how both bands get a lot of negative attention of being ELP and Yes copycats respectively (even rock critics were never kind to either band), but in my opinion as long as a band copies another band's sound, that they do it well, and Et. Cetera did a great job sounding like Gentle Giant, with their own touches (like female vocals in French). A great album and highly recommended to all GG fans!"