A band that tried to be original was Les Variations, which included three Moroccan Jews, an Italian, American and two French Tunisians. Based in Paris created some of the most vibrant and colourful hard rock to be pressed onto vinyl.
Written by: Eric
ARTIST: Les Variations
ALBUM: Cafe De Paris
LABEL: Buddah Records
SERIAL: BDS 5625
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: France
LINEUP: Robert Fitoussi – lead vocals, rhythm guitar * Jacques ‘Petit Pois’ Grande – bass * Jacky Bitton – drums, percussion, houd, lead vocals * Marc Tobaly – lead guitar, vocals * Maurice Meimoun – violin, houd * Jim Morris – keyboards, vocals
TRACK LISTING: 01 I Don’t Know Where She’ll Go * 02 Sit Back Home Again * 03 Superman Superman * 04 Maybe Forever * 05 Come Now * 06 Berberian Wood * 07 It’s All Right * 08 Everybody Got The Blues * 09 Shemoot (The Prayer)
Its no secret when it comes to ’70s hard rock, most bands followed the Led Zeppelin/Black Sabbath handbook and rarely veered from its blues based foundation looking for similar success with numerous imitators and little innovation.
One band that actually tried something a little more original was Les Variations which included an international line-up of three Moroccan Jews, an Italian, American and two French Tunisians. Based in Paris and steeped in the culture of North Africa or more specifically Morocco, Les Variations created some of the most vibrant and colourful hard rock to be pressed onto vinyl beginning with their 1969 debut ‘Nador’, one of the great early French rock albums that has yet to be reissued on CD.
The group played across Europe with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Yes and Cream while releasing a slew of good singles before signing with Buddah Records in 1974. While the music became more commercial, Les Variations never failed to impress with 1974’s ‘Moroccan Roll’ and their final album ‘Cafe De Paris’ getting a good amount of press while joining the touring caravan on both sides of the ocean with Queen, BTO, Aerosmith, Kiss, The Guess Who and Rush.
Deciding which Les Variations album to review first was a tough choice since their all their albums are excellent in their own way, but ‘Cafe De Paris’ was my first taste of the band so. Housed in a strange but beautiful gatefold sleeve the album opens with one of Les Variations best songs ‘I Don’t Know Where She’ll Go’ that spins like a dervish with swirling colours, ethnic spice and memorable choruses.
The track received air play in the States, but never charted significantly which is a shame considering the dullness of pop play lists during this period that could have used some shaking up from these world music upstarts. The rest of side one is made up of standard rockers with tasteful light ethic touches here and there although I favor the flip with ‘Berberian Wood’ funking it up and the instrumental ‘Shemoot (The Prayer)’ mixing pop with a huge Moroccan influence.
Book ending two above average hard rockers on an album that should have become one of the year’s biggest success stories, only to see the band split following the U.S tour.
Paired with ‘Moroccan Roll’, ‘Cafe De Paris’ was reissued on CD by the French ‘Magic’ label a few years ago and is still in print. For those who like their rock ‘n’ roll with that ‘something different’ both albums are highly recommended.
Les Variations on Video
Entire Album (Select Tracks)