Band members Related acts
- Joey Armando -- timbales (1974)
- Rawn Bankley -- acoustic guitar (1971-73)
Marcel Beauchamps -- guitars, keyboards (1974)
- Marcel Huot -- drums, percussion (1972-76)
Yves Laferrière -- bass, vocals (1971-76)
Carlyle Miller -- sax, flute (1972-76)
- Michel Robidoux -- lead guitar (1971-72)
- Christiane Robichaud -- vocals (1971-76)
- Jean-Jacques Robichaud -- vocals (1974)
- Christian St-Roch -- drums, percussion (1971-73)
Robert Stanley -- lead guitar (1972-76)
- Ville Emmard Blues Band
- Yves Laferrière (solo efforts)
- Yvan Ouellet
Rating: 3 stars ***
Country/State: Montreal Quebec, Canada
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 5
Not to be confused with the San Francisco based female trio The Contractions (note the plural), these Quebec-based progheads trace their roots back to 1971 when bassist Yves Laferrière, guitarist Michel Robidoux, singer Christiane Robichaud, and drummer Christian St-Roch came together to provide backing on French keyboardist Franck Derieux's "Dimension M" album.
Columbia Canada catalog number ES-90155
With support from Derieux the four musicians decided to put together a band, quickly expanding the line up to include drummers Denis Farmer and Marcel Huot, keyboardist Robert Lachapelle, sax/flute player Carlyle Miller guitarists Rawn Bankley and Robert Stanley.
Signed by Columbia, 1972's "Contraction"
The instrumental 'Pixieland' was named after Stanley's nickname (Pixie')
(who was subsequently diagnosed with cancer and passed on after making a brief appearance on the song ''),
Columbia actually released a single off the album - 'Ste-Mélanie Blues' b/w 'Pixieland' (Columbia catalog number ).
"Contraction" track listing:
1.) Chant Patriotique (Garnier Poulin - Georges Herbert Germain - Robert Lachapelle) - 3:30
2.) Le Chat Bruinne (Georges Herbert Germain Yves Laferrière) - 5:10
3.) Délire (Garnier Poulin - Yves Laferrière - Robert Lachapelle)
4.) Trois Ou Quatre (Yves Laferrière) - 5:21
2.) 42 Nord (Robert Lachapelle) - 1:52
3.) Pixieland (instrumental) (Robert Lachapelle - Yves Laferrière) - 3:15
4.) Spleen (Robert Lachapelle - Yves Laferrière) - 2:45
5.) Fin Du Commencement (Yves Laferrière - Robert Stanley) - 1:50
In an interesting marketing move the band recorded and released two versions of the album; one with French lyrics (Columbia catalog number FS-90104) and an English version (Columbia catalog number ES-90160). In case anyone cared, the English version songs translated as:
1.) We Made It (Garnier Poulin - Georges Herbert Germain - Rawn Banlley - Robert Lachapelle) - 3:30
2.) Star Child (Rawn Banlley - Yves Laferrière) - 5:10
3.) A Minute To Myself (Carlyle Miller - Robert Lachapelle - Yves Laferrière) - 3:52
4.) Three or Four (Yves Laferrière) - 5:21
2.) 42 Nord (Robert Lachapelle) - 1:52
3.) Pixieland (Robert Lachapelle - Yves Laferrière) - 3:15
4.) Spleen (Robert Lachapelle - Yves Laferrière) - 2:45
5.) End of the Beginning (Yves Laferrière - Robert Stanley) - 1:50
Contraction are one of Quebec's most prized symphonic rock ensembles having only released two albums in their short lifetime, three if you count the English lyric version of their self-titled debut. In general, Contraction perform a sublime, melodic rock music that holds quite a bit in common with symphonic rock of the era with their keyboard-heavy arrangements, segments of complex ensemble work and strong vocal harmonies. Through their short career, the band was, in its most basic formation, a quartet of Christiane Robichaud, Robert Lachapelle, Christian St-Roch and Yves Laferriere.
On their debut album (Columbia FS90104), Contraction remind me strongly of pre-Rumours, Christine McVie-era Fleetwood Mac, particularly due to Robichaud's voice and the band's light and breezy rock style. Also similar to Fleetwood Mac is Contraction's song-focused approach, an orientation that makes few of their songs clock over four or five minutes in length. The symphonic stylings are generally in the instrumental layering, particularly the warm vocal harmonies, rich keyboard arrangements and flute and guitar overlays. The band never verges into any bombastic instrumental flights and the more complicated, rhythmically challenging segments tend to be used as introductions or bridges between the verses and choruses. Where Contraction excel is in their instrumental and vocal arrangements, a delicate balancing act that brings out the best in both. The keyboards are often dominated by piano, and the interplay among these, the rhythm section, and guitar are complex enough in their own right before bringing in the vocals which vary from solo approaches to choral harmonies with great diversity. The vocal gymnastics here remind me of the sort of thing you might find on a Mellow Candle album, for instance, where Robichaud will lay down one line while another pirouettes about it. It's probably the band's extreme restraint, particularly for the era, that makes it succeed so unquestionably, as they never go overboard on the dramatics.
We are pleased to have been able to remaster and reissue this album to CD. Contraction’s music, like that of several other groups from the 70s, is part of Québec’s musical heritage , and we are proud to share it with you. “ - Yves Laferriere and Christiane Robichaud of Contraction.
The duo quoted above formed the nucleus of Contraction. Both these musicians accompanied Franck Dervieux on his landmark recording “Dimension M” which appeared in 1971 and is possibly Québec’s earliest prog recording. This eponymous album is a continuation of the music inspired by those earlier sessions and may in a sense be an homage to Mr Dervieux whose debilitating illness did not allow him to follow his musical passion.
The music contained on this album is a collection of ballads and instrumental numbers which draws equal inspiration from Québecois folk music, British progressive rock, and American “flower power”. Québec has always been a “me too” nation so when folk inspired rock started sweeping the world, we got caught up in the whirlwind also. I don’t think, however, that the youth of the day fully realized what it was they were creating. Alongside Ville Emard Blues Band (VEBB), which Contraction joined for the 1974 Live In Montreal concert and recording, Contraction was forging a sound for the ages. Their brief legacy ( this self titled disc and 1974’s La Bourse Ou La Vie) may sound a little dated today, but it’s dated in a good way. Their nostalgic sound harkens us back to simpler, more idealistic times. But , I digress… you people want to know about the music, not be given a history lesson about a nation that almost was. As stated earlier, this debut record is an equal mix of soft ballads and subtle instrumental numbers. The former are vehicles of Christiane Robichaud’s celestial soprano voice. One listen to her clear, soaring pipes will have many of you asking :”Annie who?”. She should be considered as one of progressive rock’s best voices. She still keeps her singing chops well honed by teaching vocals to a new generation of Québecois youth. The instrumental numbers allow the musicians to showcase their ample chops. The 1-2 punch of Yves Laferriere (bass) and the underrated Robert Stanley (guitar)forms as formidable a duo as this province has ever produced. Stanley in particular shines as his blues-rock phrasings leap off the disc. The omnipresent drummer Denis Farmer (VEBB, Toubabou, Harmonium) fills out the sound admirably, alongside a plethora of guest musicians, which collaborate to create a wonderful album which sits loftily in the annals of all-time best Québecois progressive music ever committed to tape.
Once again I tip my hat to the folks at ProgresSon Music for breathing new life into the majestic album. This is a timeless classic which belongs in the collection of every serious prog fan out there. Highly recommended.
In writing this review, I’m having great difficulty coming up with
words to properly describe how utterly wonderful these Contraction CDs are.
It’s even hard to pinpoint a specific genre to place them in to give the
reader an idea of how they sound. The term “progressive rock” just seems
so inadequate to describe the music but for lack of something better, I
guess I’ll stick with that. It’s not exactly symphonic or jazzy or even
that unusual from much of the “soft rock” music that was coming out in
the early 70s but there are elements that just make the Quebecois band
something very special indeed.
There are perhaps
three possible reasons that Québécois symphonic prog Contraction achieved
near-legendary status among progressive rock fans. One, based on the sheer
obscurity of their albums, never issued on CD until 2005 by ProgQuébec;
two, based on their centrality to a vibrant Montréal prog scene in the
early- to mid-1970s; and/or three, based on the ingenuity and beauty of
their second album, La
Bourse ou la Vie. In my opinion, all three of these items are
contributing factors to Contraction's current status in the minds of
knowledgeable prog fans, but the third is certainly a predominant one.
Notably missing from the above list is "the ingenuity and beauty of
their debut album." Indeed, Contraction's eponymous debut pales in
comparison to La Bourse ou la Vie. On both albums, the band flirts
with the boundaries of soft rock, but there's a bit more of it here. Short
songs are anchored by Robert Lachapelle's excellent piano work and
Christiane Robichaud's soft but powerful voice, just as in La Bourse ou
la Vie, but the melodies aren't quite as strong, and at just over half
an hour, this is an album of songs just begging for a great central
composition to tie them all together. La Bourse ou la Vie had its
18-minute title track; there is nothing comparable here.
All of these songs are pleasant, even beautiful (see the delicate "Délire
(474 Rang de la Petite Côte d'en-Bas)"), but none reach out and grab
me quite like the songs on the next album. My favorites here are probably
"Pixieland," with its jazzy guitar solo, and "Fin du
Commencement," which benefits from a touch of funk and a lot more
energy than much of the rest of the album. If Contraction had not released La
Bourse ou la Vie and this album stood as the only recorded evidence of
their existence, it's doubtful that their reputation would in any way rival
what it has become. Nevertheless, a worthy effort and of course a must-hear
for avid fans of the band's second album or of Québec prog in general.
Notably missing from the above list is "the ingenuity and beauty of their debut album." Indeed, Contraction's eponymous debut pales in comparison to La Bourse ou la Vie. On both albums, the band flirts with the boundaries of soft rock, but there's a bit more of it here. Short songs are anchored by Robert Lachapelle's excellent piano work and Christiane Robichaud's soft but powerful voice, just as in La Bourse ou la Vie, but the melodies aren't quite as strong, and at just over half an hour, this is an album of songs just begging for a great central composition to tie them all together. La Bourse ou la Vie had its 18-minute title track; there is nothing comparable here.
All of these songs are pleasant, even beautiful (see the delicate "Délire (474 Rang de la Petite Côte d'en-Bas)"), but none reach out and grab me quite like the songs on the next album. My favorites here are probably "Pixieland," with its jazzy guitar solo, and "Fin du Commencement," which benefits from a touch of funk and a lot more energy than much of the rest of the album. If Contraction had not released La Bourse ou la Vie and this album stood as the only recorded evidence of their existence, it's doubtful that their reputation would in any way rival what it has become. Nevertheless, a worthy effort and of course a must-hear for avid fans of the band's second album or of Québec prog in general.
his early progressive group reminded me very much of the slightly later Canadian group, Cano, with whom they would fit very nicely. Both groups, like many Quebec groups, show a progressive kind of rock music which has a sophisticated and culturally developed feeling, with an essence that needs no rush and pushing, as if accompanied by a kind of environmental comfort, like by a tempering near-by lake. It shows a certain distinctive “class”, with calm progressions by the band and its instruments, while keeping it song based. This “class” has also a rich quality in the female singer, Christianne Robichaud. The instrumental “Pixieland” is the only harder and more “rocking” track, possibly through Yves Laferrière’s guitar ideas.
The front cover shows a beautiful surreal idea, of contractions in an ear, which have finally inspired to lead to the birth of this masterly and beautiful, mostly song-based album.
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: La Bourse Ou La Via
Country/State: Quebec, Canada
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve; small bullet hole top right corner
Catalog ID: 5364
After a two year break the band returned with a new label (Deram) and their sophomore release - 1974's "La Bourse Ou La Via". Co-produced by bassist Yves Laferrière and singer Christiane Robichaud, the set was dedicated to former mentor Frank Dervieux who had recently died. Musically the set wasn't a major departure from the debut. Firmly entrenched in the progressive genre, the song structures may have been a bit more complex with an added emphasis on instrumental interplay, but propelled by Robichaud's attractive voice (just wish she would have done less scat singing), they remained on the 'commercial' side of the genre. So how about some details? Sounding like a Steely Dan castoff, the opening instrumental 'Jos Coeur (ouverture)' didn't get things off to a promising start. The instrumental 'L'Alarme À l'Oeil' was a little bit better. Nice song, but the scatting quickly proved irritating to my ears. It would have been a far stronger composition as a straight ahead instrumental, or with a true vocal. Luckily with their adaptation of the nursery rhyme 'Claire Fontaine' things started to improve. Propelled by a simple electric piano figure and a nice flute solo (yeah I can't believe I said that), the song was one of the prettiest things they ever recorded. 'Sam M'Madown' was a weird stab at getting funky. I'll readily admit to cultural bias in that had I heard this track with an English lyric it probably would have done more for me. 'Jos Coeur (Fermeture)' was another instrumental that would have been stronger without the scatting. So what about the extended title track? Clocking in at over 17 minutes it wasn't perfect. Shifting all over the place the first instrumental section wasn't bad, though it paled in comparison to Robichaud's beautiful vocals on the ballad 'Tout Seul Comme Un Grand Piano''. The title track third section was pretty, but started out as a slice of hotel lounge jazz, before morphing into a jazz-rock fusion piece. While the songwriting was mixed, the album scored extra points from some first rate ensemble playing. Even if you didn't enjoy all of the material, these guys were tight. Special notice to guitarist Robert Stanley whose sustained filled rock chops always kept things from getting to far off track (check out the instrumental 'Jos Coeur (Fermeture)'). The closer 'L'Âme À Tout Faire' was reportedly inspired by King Crimson and built on the work of their mentor, keyboardist Franck Derieux.
Curiously there are a couple of online reviews that indicate like the debut there was an English lyric version of the album. I've never seen any evidence that's the case, leaving me to wonder if folks didn't simply get their facts confused with the debut. Anyone ever come across an English version of "La Bourse"? Let me know.
Ou La Vie" track listing:
1.) Jos Coeur (ouverture) (instrumental) (Yves Laferrière) - 1:01 rating: ** stars
instrumentl 'Jos Coeur' (which I think translates as 'your heart'), got of
to a enjoyable, atmospheric start, though I could have done without the
'L'Alarme À l'Oeil'
found the band plunging into full tilt progressive territory. Unfortunately,
once again, a decent melody was undermined by Christiane
Robichaud's screachy scatting vocals.
just as I was giving up hope for the album, along came the stunning ballad
'Claire Fontaine'. Robichaud initially sounded like she was singing
from the bottom of a well, but once drummer Denis Farmer and the rest of the
band kicked in, the result was a stunningly pretty piece of music that built
up more and more energy as it rambled along. Even the flute
arrangement didn't bother me on this one.
found the band trying to get down and funky ... imagine a French Kate
Bush being backed by the Avergae White Band. Yeah, it didn't do a
great deal for me either.
brief, opening segment of this tune wasn't all that good, so extending it to
almost five minutes didn't really do much to improve it in my ears.
I'll admit guitarist
Marcel Beauchamps turned in some nice work. Still, stop the damn
Over before you new it ...
of twists and turns, other than the scat segments, the title track was one
of the album's highlights with every band member getting an opportunity to
shine in the spotlight.
(in the beginning) saw bassist
Yves Laferrière get a couple of moments in the spotlight with good
effect. The final segment of the song found the
band migrating back to a more conventional and commercial song
structure. Powered by
Robichaud powerful voice, this was another stunning ballad which again
reminded me of a French Kate Bush.
aptly titled 'Tout Seul Comme Un Grand Piano'
(which I think translated along the lines of 'alone like a grand piano) was
a brief instrumental segment showcasing Robert Lachapelle
on keyboards. Pretty, but kind of lounge act.
Robichaud returned to the spotlight with the closing title track segment. Kind of funky. Kind of strange.
2.) L'Âme À Tout Faire (Yves Laferrière) - 4:58 rating: *** stars
The closer 'L'Âme À Tout Faire' found the band shedding sentimentality in favor of some guitar-powere jazz-rock moves. Nah, it wasn't exactly Jeff Beck, but built on a snazzy little Beauchamps guitar figure, it came close.
the failure to break commercially and internal disagreements saw the band
call it quits with various members subsequently starting solo
projects. Several tracks written and recorded for a projected third
album eventually reappeared on Laferrièrre's solo album "La
Cuisine Rouge" (Tamanoir Records catalog number TAM
Both Contractions LPs have been reissued in CD format by the ProgQuebec label: "Contraction" catalog number MPM03 and "La Bourse ou la Vie" catalog number MPM04.
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