EDITION SPÉCIALE — Aliquante (review)

EDITION SPÉCIALE — Aliquante album cover Album · 1977 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Sean Trane
I’ve known ES for decades, having been given a copy of this album back in those days, and while I was still a bit too young to appreciate JR/F, I kept on regular but rare rotation, wondering why ES was not at least as well known as RTF, EH, WR, and MO as well as SM, or BrX…. Of course the superstar status of the members of those previously-mentioned groups, looking at ES, none of them reached the heel as far as fame was concerned. Clearly all four musicians were more than excellent at their trades,the most impressive being bassist Josquin Turenne induced a slight Zeuhl twist that is completely absent in other JR/F groups. Graced with a superb and intriguing artwork, Aliquante was ES’ second album (that was news to me still in the late 90’s, though) and it was to be the second last (I was aware but had also never heard the album), so I remained with a largely misinformed opinion of this group for decades. BTW, Ballester and Lorenzini were romantically involved.

Now having wisely stayed away from ES’s debut (only heard it twice at a friend’s house), it’s clear that Aliquante is from another galaxy than its predecessor. One of the main drawback of the debut is Ann Ballester’s vocals, which coupled with her rather good electric piano playing sounds like a third rate Steely Dan, something that will pursue the group to the end of its career. While all four musicians have clearly improved compared to the debut album, the main difference is that Aliquante is an-almost instrumental album: only two tracks are sung, the rest deploying a very solid and aerial JR/F somewhere between RTF and MO, but never reaching the awesome amount of virtuosity so present in those groups. While Vedra starts clearly on a Caravan-derived line, the track quickly develops a speed where our Canterburians couldn’t have followed. Even if newcomer drummer Gouillard‘s play is very reminiscent of Collins’ in BX, the group is often on RTF grounds without the ultra-funk of later albums (as I said Zeuhl is more applicable), but obviously the execution speed is limited. If they indeed overstretch their limits (the start of Temps D’Un Solo), it immediately sounds bizarre or out of tune.

And once Ballester’s vocals do come in the band, they sound better controlled but could’ve been done without as well, but if you don’t mind Steely Dan, you shouldn’t find much problem on this album. According to Ann, the recording of the album was rushed by their new label RCA, which might explain why it has much less vocals than the other two, but you might want to consider this a blessing. As for her keyboard playing, she’s right up there with her fellow musos, and there is little discussion about her choice of synth sounds, a trap that her much more illustrious compadres (Hancock, Zawinul, Corea) couldn’t avoid.

Whether the two bonus tracks are a useful addition is rather of a personal taste, but they’re both early writing/recording stages of the first two track of the next album Horizon Digital, but they beef up a rather short original album, so if Aliquante is the only album you’re planning on getting, they provide enough added value to the album, if you don’t mind their last album’s much more vocal statement. .Clearly the group’s better album, you’ll probably have to start with this one, while knowing that it’s probably the least representative of their works.

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