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Album Review

Released two years after Prince des Hauteurs, Motis' second effort fixes about every flaw found on the debut CD: less crowded lyrics, more variety in the arrangements, more consistent songwriting. As a result, L'Homme-Loup ("The Wolf-Man") comes through as a very strong album of French progressive folk with Medieval leanings. The basic instrumentation is acoustic and folk-tinged (mandolin, flute, and percussion), but singer Motis adds a lot of '70s vintage keyboard textures, including Hammond organ and Mellotron. Musically, the result lies somewhere between Songs from the Wood-era Jethro Tull, Ange, and Blackmore's Night. The Ange reference results from the majestic use of Mellotron chords and a rather theatrical vocal delivery (although not as overtly theatrical as Ange's Christian Décamps'). The lyrics, all sung in French, tackle the usual Medieval topics, drawing characters and situations from famous Old French texts such as the Roman de Renart, the Chanson de Roland and Chrétien de Troyes' writings. L'Homme-Loup is not about folk dances and recasting traditional folk songs; the group write their own songs in a well-defined prog rock/folk-rock vein, with occasional surprises (the Beatlesque trumpet solo in "Madrigal"). "P'tit Louis," "Les Normands," and "Madrigal" are particularly well-written and offer memorable melodies. Motis' music could easily turn into something overinflated and self-indulgent, but it never does, even though it comes close once or twice. The rather narrow sound palette found on Prince des Hauteurs made the group's debut a hit-or-miss experience for French-deaf listeners, but this more colorful, overall stronger release is definitely more appealing in that regard. Recommended. ~ François Couture, Rovi

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