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Neo - Neo CD (album) cover

NEO

Neo

 

Crossover Prog

4.39 | 20 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
5 stars HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Please permit me this indulgence but when an astonishing one shot wonder stays buried for 34 years and you are the lucky one to add them onto our website as well as reviewing it, it feels kind of giddy! I have been waiting for 20 years to review this mother, one of my fave French prog albums. Oh what a feeling!

The band's name is Neo, they are from France and have absolutely nothing to do with either the prog subgenre or the exuberant hero in the Matrix, both of whom came much much later. Back in 1980 when punk was ruling the musical oceans (not for long, you bastards!) and the media had puked on the prog rock coffin, these resolute French musicians did the unthinkable by unleashing this instrumental monster on totally deaf ears. The liner notes tell the brief tale of a group of talented individuals led by bassist Andre Paul and saxophone player Didier Erard, who just wanted to create complex instrumental music that would encapsulate their influences, ranging from Yes, Pink Floyd, Weather Report, Blue Oyster Cult, Santana and Soft Machine, well, in fact, all the prog heavies from the Golden era. With keyboard maestro Schlapp handling a wide variety of synths and e-pianos, organs and such, while being ably assisted by firebrand guitarist Andre Pellerin and the nimble drumming of Eric Haven, the cast is set for a wonderful ride that will assuredly stun everyone who sets their ears to this masterpiece. How to best describe the glittering music? Well, imagine a space rock /fusion version of vocal-less Gong (the Daevid Allen period) with touches of Isotope (a rockier jazz), some slippery Santana guitar and of course, lots and lots of saxophone.

From the twirling raucousness of Pellerin's guitar on the nearly 7 minute "Osibirisk" , sounding like a cross between Jeff Beck and Donald Roeser (aka Buck Dharma) , you will start exhibiting nervous giggling, totally unexpectant of such whirlwind playing. Didier Erard comes in with the greasy sax as if clearly taking his place on center stage as well, booming bass and prominent drumming sliding right in as if a well-oiled machine. This is splendid progressive rock of the highest caliber, exalting, fresh and quite delirious. Schlapp glitters ivory gold with utter control and intelligence (seems like that lovely Elka Rhapsody 610 sound again so particular to French prog). Just a glorious opener.

What distinguishes this band from many others is their insistence on hitting you from the get go, no wimpy intro fluff from these boys! Boom, there you are, immediately catching your attention as proven by the seductive "Scene de Chasse", another similarly sized bass- fueled Godzilla. Pellerin really pulls some California-trippin' from his axe, the Santana influence clear and dear. Sax ripples in the breezy wind, shoved along by the remaining crew, all in tight unison. Neo enjoy the volcanic experience, going from eruption to gentle flow, turning on a dime seemingly at will. All these gymnastic moves do not sway the melodies, which are, outright memorable.

A couple of shorter exercises simply blur any expectations, as the highly contemplative "Joiwind" swoons in gently with a synthesizer that seems to have ridden the "Midnight Express" without sounding like disco/electronica , just content to show off some powerful prog rock moves. Serene and unforgettable. Pretty much Schlapp thinking he is Tim Blake, Paul rolling his bass and some slick drums. Damn good! While its cousin "Neoplasme" veers into spacier confines, a platform for some cosmic guitar rambling that are from the Steve Hillage/Christian Boule School of galactic picking.

As if that was not enough to persuade and subdue, the "plat de resistance' is judiciously placed in the core of the album, the epic "Sortie de Bain" being a splashing 10 minute workout that will leave you breathless, owner of a remote heartbeat that just keeps embracing all the progressive divinities we all enjoy so deeply, namely sound, technique, emotion and paroxysm. From serious to playful, pastoral to incandescent , Neo delivers with limitless fury, as Pellerin, Erard and Schlapp trade massive blows, secure and confident in the tremendous rhythmic support that is closer to jazz-rock than anything maudlin. A brief drumbeat half way through ignites a bass frenzy that chooses to waltz with a deranged sax blurt, hurtling along like some bulldozer thinking it was a Maserati. Wow! I need a glass of chilled Montrachet, phew!

Decompression comes via "Plage II" a brief synthesizer etude that has a spirit like no other, a respite in order to refresh 'la bouche' et 'les oreilles'. This ends the normal programming, as two bonus tracks are included for your listening pleasure.

"Jazz n Roll" is exactly as described, a bouncy longer number with a wicked elastic bass that would make Pastorius, Babbington/Hopper very green with envy , a boom-boom-tchak drum fill and keyboard flexes that will astound and sensually influence your audio experience. The technique displayed here is almost eerie, so utterly relaxed and confident, the mind boggles at times it's that powerful and impressive. Who are these guys, you will ask yourself? Jaw-dropping piece, easily!

"Song 4 Miles" needs little explanation, a tribute to the jazz/fusion legend, a jungle rhythm lush with soaring percussives, a clear and resonant melody with some Weather report-like feel, funky and shake your ass fun. An upbeat finale to a stellar piece of music. If you ever wondered which album you would need to make your collection utterly unique, well it's this one. Available from all fine prog suppliers because they know this is a concealed gem! Go hunting now, y'all ! I am still giggling at the sheer thrill of it all..

5 buried treasures

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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