‘Le Grand Jeu’ (The Big Game) from French Canadian band Dionysos are compared to Uriah Heep a lot, mainly due to the use of Hammond.
Written by: Eric
ALBUM: Le Grand Jeu
LABEL: Jupiter Records
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Canada
LINEUP: Paul Andre Thibert – vocals * Philippe Bech – flute, keyboards * Andre Mathieu – hammond organ * Eric Clement – guitar * Jean-Pierre Legault – bass * Robert Le Page – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Narcotique * 02 Suzie * 03 La Colere * 04 L’age Du Chlore * 05 L’age D’or * 06 Agneau De Dieu
It never ceases to amaze me how much seriously good progressive music came out of Quebec in the 1970’s. Interconnected with Canada, the United States and France, the ‘Quiet Revolution’ of the previous decade brought a wave of cultural change to the predominantly French-speaking province not only politically, but artistically as well. This includes a number of innovative bands and artists that began to spring up in the clubs and student centers of Montreal and Quebec City during the early half of the 70’s.
This included the Ville Emard Blues Band, the groundbreaking avant sounds of L’infonie and the heavy psych rock of Sex. Not forgetting Les Champignons, Vos Voisins and the subject of this review Dionysos.
The band formed in suburban Montreal in 1969. As part of the newly found cultural awareness, Dionysos were one of Quebec’s first band’s to sing entirely in French. Signed to Jupiter Records, a pop label with a penchant for French Canadian garage rock, the band’s first single ‘Suzie’ was released in 1970 and apparently became a minor provincial hit.
‘Le Grand Jeu’ (The Big Game) saw the light of day a year later. Suffice to say this album is compared to Uriah Heep a lot, mainly due to the use of Hammond. I’ll throw other British heavies T2, Stray and Still Life.
However, the French angle easily separates Dionysos from their ‘across the pond’ peers. Stock blues rock in a swirling prog/psych blend makes for a well spent half hour listen even with the language barrier. Although I can tell you via the CD reissue liner notes opener ‘Narcotique’ covers all the usual the issues that mattered to youthful rebellion – drugs and organized religion.
I’m a little surprised how average ‘Suzie’ is considering its popularity, still the thick slabs of heaviness on ‘Agneau de Dieu’ (Lamb of God) and everything in-between backed by the driving organ work of Andre Mathieu and the bubbling dark edginess of front man Paul Andre Thibert pushes the whole shebang into its well-earned classic status. It’s a high dollar collectable if you are lucky enough to find an original copy which makes the reissue on the questionable Relic label all the more mandatory, even with its annoying tape flutter and clicks.
The band recorded another album ‘Le Prince Croule’ in 1972, but split two years later due to lack of support. With a couple of new players to beef up the sound, Dionysos reformed in 1976 and released a self-titled LP with shorter songs and a bluesier approach. It bombed and a flurry of solo projects followed with a surprise reunion in 1994. As a tie-in, a CD ‘Pionniers 1969-1994’ comprised of re-recorded classics was released and to the surprise of many turned out better than expected.