L'Heptade

L'Heptade

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L'Heptade is the third and final album from Harmonium
Harmonium (band)
Harmonium was a Canadian progressive rock band from Montreal, Quebec.-History:Lead vocalist and guitarist Serge Fiori met Michel Normandeau in a theatre music meeting on November 1972. Later on in 1973 they met bassist Louis Valois and became Harmonium. In November 1973 the group performed their...

. It was released as a double
Double album
A double album is an audio album which spans two units of the primary medium in which it is sold, typically records and compact discs....

-LP
Gramophone record
A gramophone record, commonly known as a phonograph record , vinyl record , or colloquially, a record, is an analog sound storage medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove...

 in 1976 and is considered by some critics to be one of the most important Québécois albums in popular music.

Album description


L'Heptade is composed of seven core songs, in order: Comme un fou (Like a mad man), Chanson noire (Black song), Le premier ciel (The first heaven), L'exil (The exile), Le corridor (The hallway), Lumières de vie (Lights of life), and Comme un sage (Like a wise man). These seven songs were mainly written by the band leader Serge Fiori
Serge Fiori
Serge Fiori was the lead vocalist and guitarist for Harmonium, an influential progressive rock band from Quebec. After Harmonium broke up he pursued a minor solo career.- Biography :...

. The title, heptade, is the compound of two Greek affixes, hept- (seven) and -ade, which expresses both the notion of group (décade, pléiade) and epic movement (as in Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

). Fiori mentioned, at the beginning of the live album of L'Heptade, that the album, framed in seven songs, was evoking the journey of a man in one day through seven levels of consciousness. Clues that the whole journey occurs in a single day are given on the original album. For example, a rapid sigh of a man waking up, followed by steps on a cracked wooden floor can be heard in the prologue, the first musical movement preceding the first core song. A man preparing to sleep can be heard in the finale of the album.

All seven core songs include at least two, sometimes up to six, different melodies, often with lengthy solos. Serge Locat offers among the finest ever performance on synthetizers, most notably at the end of "Le premier ciel", and on piano in "Lumières de vie". The voice of Serge Fiori, thanks to his falsetto
Falsetto
Falsetto is the vocal register occupying the frequency range just above the modal voice register and overlapping with it by approximately one octave. It is produced by the vibration of the ligamentous edges of the vocal folds, in whole or in part...

 (head voice), sometimes broken by emotion, and tainted by his peculiar accent, succeeds to create an emotional intimacy. His singing is often counter-balanced by a chorus formed by some of the finest Quebec singers of the time, including among others Beau Dommage
Beau Dommage
Beau Dommage is a Canadian rock band from Montreal, Quebec, who achieved popular success in Quebec and France in the 1970s. The group's style included rich vocal harmonies and elements borrowed from folk and country music.-History:...

's Pierre Bertrand, Les Séguin's Richard
Richard Séguin
Richard Séguin is a Canadian author, composer and singer.His music career began in the 1970s with the duo "Les Séguin", with his twin sister Marie-Claire. He has had a solo career since 1977....

, and Ville Emard Blues Band Estelle Ste-Croix. The signature of Harmonium, that is, the rich sound of the 12-string guitar, still remains the backbone of a few songs, particularly in "Comme un fou" and at the end of "Le corridor". But L'Heptade offers a much more sophisticated music than in the past. Lush arrangements, innovative use of piano, electric piano, and synthesizers, and the sophistication of the melodies are some elements that set this album as a full-fledged progressive rock.

The other musical titles listed on the album represent musical interludes of classical, minimalist signature. These interludes are the result of the collaboration between Fiori and classical music composer and teacher Neil Chotem
Neil Chotem
Neil Chotem was a Canadian composer, arranger, conductor, pianist, and music educator. His compositional style is eclectic but conservative, and often incorporates elements of jazz and popular music...

, and are played either by a single synthetizer or with the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal.

The lyrics of the album have a strong metaphysical underpinning, but the main topic of the whole album is clearly the personal, inner conflict of the main character. A major theme, recurring in all songs of the album, is the antithesis of the world: the Black and White, the Light and Darkness, the Day and Night. The struggle to unite these antitheses appear to be, in the first disc of the double-album, a metaphor of, or perhaps the source of, the internal conflict of the main character. The second disc, in turn, appears to suggest that these antitheses can be overcome through love, but that true appreciation of love appears to be possible only with an uplifting mind. In the original cover of the album, the only printed lyrics were a section of "Lumières de vie", where the character begs to be spoken of love in order to overcome both nights and days (...Lumières de vie... parle-moi d'amour, assez pour éclipser les deux [la nuit, le jour] pour toujours).

Reception


The album was (and still is) one of the most popular double albums in the history of Quebec popular music, selling over 100,000 copies after a few months. Nevertheless, at the time, it had less impact in Quebec than the two previous albums, because of the not-radio-friendly lengthy songs and the sophisticated melodies. Critics largely offered a warm reception to the album, particularly in the world of progressive rock
Progressive rock
Progressive rock is a subgenre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of a "mostly British attempt to elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility." John Covach, in Contemporary Music Review, says that many thought it would not just "succeed the pop of...

, where it was praised well outside the borders of Quebec. Harmonium was invited to tour with Supertramp
Supertramp
Supertramp are a British rock band formed in 1969 under the name Daddy before renaming to Supertramp in early 1970. Though their music was initially categorised as progressive rock, they have since incorporated a combination of traditional rock and art rock into their music...

 in Europe, where they contributed, with Supertramp, to the spread of the ondes Martenot
Ondes Martenot
The ondes Martenot , also known as the ondium Martenot, Martenot and ondes musicales, is an early electronic musical instrument invented in 1928 by Maurice Martenot. The original design was similar in sound to the theremin...

 into popular music.

Harmonium was later invited to perform as the headliner in Vancouver
Vancouver
Vancouver is a coastal seaport city on the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. It is the hub of Greater Vancouver, which, with over 2.3 million residents, is the third most populous metropolitan area in the country,...

, where a live recording of the album was later edited and published on CD, and in Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

, where the performance was recorded by a team from the National Film Board of Canada
National Film Board of Canada
The National Film Board of Canada is Canada's twelve-time Academy Award-winning public film producer and distributor. An agency of the Government of Canada, the NFB produces and distributes documentary, animation, alternative drama and digital media productions...

.

This album is now regarded as one of the masterpieces of the Quebec musical scene, and has sold over 200,000 copies since its release.

Trivia

  • At $90,000, the production of L'Heptade was, at the time, the most expensive ever in the Quebec music industry. While a large part of this amount was provided by a new contract signed with CBS, the musicians still had to contribute to the financing of the production.http://www.bigbangmag.com/dharmonium4.php
  • L'Heptade was recorded in a country house belonging to the Fiori
    Serge Fiori
    Serge Fiori was the lead vocalist and guitarist for Harmonium, an influential progressive rock band from Quebec. After Harmonium broke up he pursued a minor solo career.- Biography :...

     family, in Saint-Césaire
    Saint-Césaire
    Saint-Césaire is a commune in the Charente-Maritime department in southwestern France.-Population:-References:*...

    . By listening carefully, cracking of the floor can sometimes be heard.
  • The original matrix of this album was damaged by a water flood
    Flood
    A flood is an overflow of an expanse of water that submerges land. The EU Floods directive defines a flood as a temporary covering by water of land not normally covered by water...

     in the offices of CBS. As a consequence, the CD version was recorded from a vinyl record.
  • Monique Fauteux is the interpreter of "Le Corridor".
  • Michel Normandeau, the co-leader of the band, left the band at the beginning of the recording of L'Heptade. He thus appears only as contributing to the guitar playing of the first song, as well to the lyrics in many songs of the album. He never specified the reasons for his departure, even recently on a fan forum, stating only that the departure was due to normal and expected differences between two persons.
  • On June 23, 2008 as part of St. Jean Baptiste Day celebrations, Gregory Charles
    Gregory Charles
    Gregory Charles is a Quebec performing artist of French Canadian and Trinidadian origin.-Biography:...

    , the Laval Symphony Orchestra, the World Choir, and several singers performed a re-orchestrated version of L'Heptade in Laval, Quebec
    Laval, Quebec
    Laval is a Canadian city and a region in southwestern Quebec. It is the largest suburb of Montreal, the third largest municipality in the province of Quebec, and the 14th largest city in Canada with a population of 368,709 in 2006...

    . Charles had collaborated with Neil Chotem
    Neil Chotem
    Neil Chotem was a Canadian composer, arranger, conductor, pianist, and music educator. His compositional style is eclectic but conservative, and often incorporates elements of jazz and popular music...

    prior to the latter's passing.

Track listing


All interludes by Neil Chotem. All music and lead vocals on the remaining tracks by Serge Fiori except where noted. All lyrics by Serge Fiori and Michel Normandeau except where noted.

Side one

  1. "Prologue" (interlude) – 4:20
  2. "Comme un fou" (music: Serge Fiori, Michel Normandeau) – 7:50
  3. "Sommeil sans rêves" (interlude) – 1:25
  4. "Chanson noire" – 8:12
    • "A. Le bien, le mal" (lyrics: Serge Fiori) - 3:39
    • "B. Pour une blanche cérémonie" (music: Serge Fiori, Serge Locat) - 4:32

Side two

  1. "Le premier ciel" – 11:19
    • "L'appel" (Interlude) - 0:10
    • "Le premier ciel" - 11:09
  2. "L'exil" – 12:56
    • "Sur une corde raide" (Interlude) - 0:17
    • "L'exil" (lyrics: Serge Fiori) - 12:39

Side three

  1. "Le corridor" – 8:10
    • "Le corridor" (lead vocals: Monique Fauteux) - 6:33
    • "Les premières lumières" (Interlude) - 1:37
  2. "Lumières de vie" – 14:12
    • "A. Lumières de nuit" - 6:59
    • "B. Éclipse" (instrumental) (music: Neil Chotem) - 1:27
    • "C. Lumière de jour" (instrumental) (music: Serge Locat) - 3:09
    • "D. Lumière de vie" (instrumental) (music: Serge Fiori, Serge Locat, Louis Valois) - 2:38

Side four

  1. "Comme un sage" – 14:04
    • "Prelude d'amour" (Interlude) - 0:41
    • "Comme un sage" (lyrics: Serge Fiori) (lead vocals: Serge Fiori and Estelle Ste-Croix) - 13:23
  2. "Épilogue" (interlude) – 2:50