Clearlight - Les Contes Du Singe Fou

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Clearlight888Music
Catalog Number: C8M-003
Format: CD
Total Time: 40:45:00

Les Contes Du Singe Fou was the third album released by Clearlight, originally released by RCA in 1977 and here lovingly reissued by Daniel Shapiro and Clearlight888Music. I say lovingly, because one look at the vividness not only of the albums cover on the booklet, but on the CD itself suggests that this wasn't just a hastily produced reissue to cash in on ... well, to cash in on something. The resurgent popularity of progressive music, I suppose. In fact, whilst at the ProgFest CD Convention I spoke with Shapiro about this, and said to him much the same thing I'm telling you now, that I thought it was fantastic. I hadn't even heard the music yet. The original album design is retained in the center of the booklet (I'm guessing the original release was a gatefold), but the lyrics are also reprinted on the pages preceding and succeeding, as otherwise the text is rather small. On the center pages, the lyrics are in both English and French, though they are sung by Ian Bellamy in English.

In fact, as the liner notes state, John Wetton was originally tapped to do the vocals but it never came to pass. Nevertheless, the project got a singer with a good set of pipes in Bellamy. But the thing that leapt out at me, besides the stellar keyboard playing of Verdeaux (piano, organ, Apr-Odyssey synthesizer, etc), is the violin playing of Didier Lockwood. Wow. I don't half wonder if Kansas' Robby Steinhardt didn't find Lockwood an influence. This is contemporaneous with their Point Of Know Return, so a direct influence from this to that or that to this is impossible. Well, I'm just speculating here. I also hear hints of Genesis and ELP here, the former in "Countdown To Eternity" which sounds vaguely like "The Fountain Of Salmacis." The ending to track nine reminded me of two separate tracks - the outro to Clapton's "Layla" and the outro to the Beatles' "A Day In The Life."

A neat effect that never fails to impress me is that of suspended time. Here it occurs during "A Trip To The Orient." The track begins with that sense that the "scene" is frozen, or at least playing in extreme slow motion. It hangs there, fraught with tension. The tension building even when cymbals crash (Serge Aouzi) and Lockwood's violin cuts a jazzed swath across the scene. Verdeaux slowly builds from two keys to the whole keyboard, dueling with Lockwood's violin...almost as if in struggle. At about two minutes into "Lightsleeper's Despair," we hear Yves Chouard eke out a mean guitar solo. It's here that I also thought of Kansas.

The instrumental intro to "Time Skater" (a three part suite) is simply fabulous. This is, for me, the highlight of the album. All the elements are in place (except vocals), Verdeaux, Lockwood, and Aouzi. It is one part classical, one part contemporary instrumental (which is not meant as a euphemism for new age, by the way). The piano and keys carry over into track five, here much more classical than before, but just as beautiful.

If there are any problems, it is in the mixing balance. Whether this is faithful to the original or something that came about with this reissue, I don't know, but on the first track, "The Outsider" (part of one of "The Key" suite), Bellamy's vocals get lost behind the instrumentation. On the all-instrumental passages and tracks, this is not a problem.

The Key: I The Outsider (5:17) / II A Trip To The Orient (5:45) / III Lightsleeper's Despair (2:40) / Soliloque (5:21) / Time Skater: I Prelude (1:50) / II Countdown To Eternity (4:28) / III The Cosmic Crusaders (9:11) / Stargzer (2:32) / Return To The Source (3:41)

Cyrille Verdeaux - grand piano, clavinet, organ, Arp Odyssey synthesizer
Francis Mandin - Arp Odyssey synthesizer
Tim Blake - EMS and VCS3 synthesizers
Yves Chouard - guitars
Ian Bellamy - vocals
Didier Lockwood - violin
Serge Aouzi - drums and percussion
Joel Dugrenot - bass

Symphony (1973)
Forever Blowing Bubbles (1975)
Delired Cameleon Family (1974)
Les Contes De Singe Fou (1977)
Clearlight Visions (1978)
Offrandes (1980)
Nocturnes Digitales (1980)
Prophecy (1981)
Flowers From Heaven (1983)
Piano For The Third Ear (1983)
Journey To Tantraland (1984/1999/2001)
Complete Kundalini Opera Box Set (1984) (6 cassettes)
Messenger Of The Son (1985)
Rhapsody For The Blue Planet (1988)
Symphony II (1990)
In Your Hands (Les Contes De Singe Fou) (re-recording, 1994)
Impressionist Musique (1995)
Tribal Hybrid Concept (1998, w/Menestreyl)
Ethnicolours (1998, w/Menestreyl)
Best Of Rainbow (1999) (sampler of box set below)
Complete Rainbow Box Set (1999) (6 CDs)
Aerobix 99 (1998)
Best Of Kundalini Opera (1999) (sampler of box set below)
Complete Kundalini Opera Box Set (1999) (7 CDs)
Infinite Symphony (2003)
Impressionist Musique (tba)

Genre: Symphonic Prog

Origin FR

Added: October 1st 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1090
Language: english


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