Widely hailed as France's finest and most important progressive band, Ange released this live album at the peak of their popularity, ambition and talent, providing a fitting epilogue to the most consistently impressive period in their extensive history. At least, that's what I've read; Ange isn't a band I was previously familiar with, perhaps due to their use of native language and folk influence that unreasonably deters the rock mainstream from publicising their achievements in the English-speaking world. Considering this is prog rock, which was as much about expanding horizons of acceptability as it was about indulgent organ solos, this is particularly disappointing, but I was glad to finally have the opportunity to hear the band in this compact "greatest hits" style collection.
The band plays a distinctive style of symphonic prog very similar to early Genesis under Peter Gabriel, with a looming mellotron presence that reminds of King Crimson's classic debut (a little French for you, there). It's a little difficult to approach for newcomers, and will take a second listen before specific songs are able to define themselves, but it's still a nicely varied album of the lighter, more romantic and theatrical side of classic prog, particularly suited to Genesis fans. Christian Decamps is obviously a charismatic and engaging frontman, amusing the crowd with his lengthy introductions and interjections that although unintelligible to me, still put across the right message.
The songs are mostly taken from the previous few albums, with one notable exception in the form of the thirteen-minute 'Le chien, le poubelle et la rose,' unique to this recording and demonstrating the band at its romantic best. The only other song of unnatural length is 'Dignité,' extended from its original version to a sixteen-minute jam of sorts, and possibly the finest song here, though significantly overlong in the true prog spirit. The other ambitious highlight is the penultimate 'Hymne à la vie' trilogy which is classic symphonic rock, if a tad grandiose, while the rest of the album flits between this typical style and a darker tone more in line with King Crimson, particularly the excellent central 'Sur la trace des fées' from the Jacotey album, also represented by the equally good radically different 'Ode à Emilie' which is lighter with some cracking guitars.
It's always interesting when approaching and enjoying a collection of this sort to investigate the original studio albums and decide which ones you'd probably enjoy the most, and for me it's the Jacote album I'd be most interested in pursuing, though the two very different samples here don't really give me much clue what to expect. The opening songs from Au Delà du Délire are also fine, but as stated earlier, it's hard to really appreciate the nuances of these songs without being overly familiar with their place in the band's evolution, and their participation in the original studio releases.
Fortunately, the sound quality is excellent, a little surprisingly so for a live album released in the late seventies, and none of intricacies are lost, though from the photos included I assume there was a significant visual aspect in the form of melodramatic stage theatrics and Genesis-style costume changes that added another layer of intrigue. I'm sure this is a near-essential album for Ange fans as an excellent live record, but isn't the most suited to newcomers, however prog-hardened they may be.
1. Fils de lumière
2. Les longues nuits d'Isaac
3. Ballade pour une orgie
4. Ode à Emilie
6. Le chien, le poubelle et la rose
7. Sur la trace des fées
8. Hymne à la vie - cantique
9. Hymne à la vie - procession
10. Hymne à la vie - hymne
11. Ces gens-là