FRENCH TV

BAND OF DESTINY


TRACK LIST:

1. Everything Works in Mexico 11:55
2. Sekala Dan Niskala 6:20
3. Pardon Our French (Medley) 16:08
4. Tears of a Velvet Clown 13:18
5. When the Ruff Tuff Creampufss Take Over 11:41

Tracks 1 & 5: by Sary / Dale / Smith / Gard,
2: Smith, 4: Dale, 3: various French bands

LINE-UP: Mike Sary - bass
Warren Dale - keyboards; brass; woodwinds; vibes
Chris Smith - guitars, banjo; electric violin
Jeff Gard - drums

With:
Steven Dale - brass (1 & 4)
Stephanie Dale - piccolo (4)
Will Stewart - trumpet (4)
Pam Thomson - brass (4)
Richard Steiger - percussion (2)
Natalie Gilbert - vocals (3)
Denise Gilbert - recitative (3)
Howie Gano - string ensemble (3)

Produced by Sary & W Dale.
Engineered by W Dale & Gano.


Prolusion:  Rejoice: FRENCH TV has recommenced its 'translations' from Kentucky! "Pardon Our French" is the eighth album by this brilliant American band. Their subsequent albums that are reviewed on this site are listed here and here.

Synopsis: After listening to this album, it is especially unpleasant to recall Neo 'heroes', particularly those shamelessly capturing others' cultural spaces and legacies and openly parasitizing the gold fund of Classic Progressive, for whom the immortal works of great masters serve the screen for their commercial purposes and the poverty of their own ideas alike. I am not going to hold forth on the originality of French TV's music, their exquisite taste in everything that they work on, etc, as it won't be a revelation for any true connoisseur of music. But here is something different. Unlike those trying to avoid reproaches with "the alienation from people" or "excessive eclecticism", etc, the band never dreaded anything like this. Furthermore, they have restored the initial and the only true meaning of the word eclecticism - uniting differences into a single whole. On FTV-8, the band once again offers a stylistic synthesis, which isn't locked up within the idea of 'the genre's purity', but instead, shows a very cohesive variety of genres within itself. However, here (as well as on FTV-7), the balance of their traditional music formula (generalized, of course): "Afro-American Jazz - European Rock, improvisational thinking - structural compositional approach, swing - concentrated meter, bluesy concord - symphonic harmony - avant-garde dissonance" is broken. Like those on its predecessor, the arrangements on "Pardon Our French" are always in the state of constant development, and yet, they are thoroughly composed and are almost marvelously intricate, consistent, and beautiful, all simultaneously. The music is simply magical and is Fifth Element in its most intelligible and effectual (just perfect) form with symphonic and progressive Jazz-Fusion-related textures dominating over those of classic and jazzy RIO everywhere save Tears of a Velvet Clown, to which I'll get back below.

As for the essential particularities, Everything Works in Mexico
(1) sounds in places like a feast of Spanish, Oriental, and a sort of universal folk tunes. Its follow-up Sekala Dan Niskala is fragrant with spicy Eastern flavors almost throughout. When the Ruff Tuff Cream Puffs Take Over (5): it contains elements of Prog-Metal, and the Pardon Our French medley (4) those of Space Rock. Unlike the other tracks, this fantastically impressive collage of renderings of the songs from the repertoires of France's several classic bands was performed with only traditional Rock instruments and features some female vocals in French. Nevertheless, it fits very well into the general picture of the album and is the entity of its predominant stylistics, at least on the whole. Back to the first two tracks: Did you ever wonder why so many Western bands use Oriental melodies in their music? There is nothing in the world that would disappear without leaving a trace, and the music of the Middle East has filtered into Europe thanks to crusaders, of course! To keep my promise to return to Tears of a Velvet Clown, I have to say that this is a classic RIO, which, surprisingly, has a much stronger French feel to it than the album's title track, and not only because there are some typical French chanson tunes. Clowns shouldn't cry, but well, this is a rather humoresque number in any case, combining the band's typical originality with (ouch!) the influences of Etron Fou Leloublan. This superb masterpiece is my least favorite track on the album, and there is no contradiction in what I have said here.

Conclusion: It would've been pointless to expect anything but a masterpiece from these musical scientists-naturalists, and indeed, French TV has just presented us another gem on a silver platter. If only you aren't among those exclusively into Prog-Metal, "Pardon Our French" will be a source of the continuous pleasure for you, regardless of whether you cover all the progressive genres or not. (Top-20)

VM: July 29, 2004/PROGRESSOR (UZBEKISTAN) http://www.progressor.net/review/french_tv_2004.html

FRENCH TV: Pardon Our French

Five tracks - 60 minutes - and it's complex. This is the sort of album to which you have to devote your full attention. It might not strike you on first hearing as being a "classic" French TV album, but stick with it, play it, get to know it, learn to understand where it's coming from, and your devotion will be justifiably rewarded with an instrumental jazz-rock album that is almost out on its own. Although no "piece of cake" (hehe) a track like the 13 minute 'When The Ruff Tuff Creampuffs Take Over' coves so much fusion musical ground, you'll need three plays just to take in all it has to offer. With the accent firmly on melody, as is apparent throughout the album, it nevertheless twists and turns to dramatic effect with synths sizzling and soloing all over the place in mini-moog styleee, as solo and multi-tracked electric guitars chase, duel and generally ride out with the synths, a Brand X style bass anchoring it all down and drums rolling inexorably forward in lurching mode as the dynamics take over and fusion heaven begins to unfold.

By contrast, almost, the near 17 minute 'Pardon Our French Medley' is a wonderfully accessible and powerful instrumental amalgam of tracks by such French legends as Ange, Atoll, Carpe Diem, Shylock, Pulsar & Etron Fou, here all put into one giant musical melting pot with some scorching electric guitar work throughout, allied to solid rhythms from that department and seriously flowing playing from the arsenal of synths and keys, providing a truly breathtaking fusion of jazz-rock and prog-rock that keeps the mix of melodic prog and dramatic jazz-rock within suitably structured confines and delivers a blend of synths-guitars dominated music that ranges from the atmospheric to the downright explosive, every member of the band playing a vital role as the medley rolls by. Quite superb. By contrast, again, the 13 minute 'Tears Of A Velvet Clown' puts the jazz back into jazz-rock with a much more vari-sounding composition that features, wind, reed, brass and strings adding to the quartet's mix of complexity and dramatic flow, as the track stumbles forward yet never loses sight of its need to remain melodic and accessible despite the immense number of twists and turns along the way. The opening 12 minute track, 'Everything Works In Mexico' is probably the most Brand X-ish sounding piece on the album with some great bass work, crunchy drums and some fantastic solos from guitars, synths, keys and sax along the way. Finally the 6 minute 'Sekala Dan Niskala' provides a flavour of the East allied to the fusion sounds of the West on a track that mixes melodic sensibilities and cyclical rhythms to attention-grabbing effect. So, as I said, it's not the easiest album to accept, even for jazz-rock, but it's certainly one of their most adventurous yet, so try it out and see if it doesn't become, in a short time, a firm favourite among their already acclaimed roster of albums to date.
---Andy G, CD SERVICES (NEW ZEELAND)



French TV: Pardon Our French

Louisville, Kentucky's "best kept secret" has a new album out, and a good bet is that nobody in Louisville (other than folks close to the band) knows a damn thing about it. That's a real shame, as once again French TV ave unleashed another platter of invigorating progressive rock that mixes elements of Gentle Giant, Hatfield & the North, Frank Zappa, and some jazz, for an eclectic and challenging listen.

Made up of five lengthy tracks, Pardon Our French, has plenty of variety for the demanding listener. "Everything Works in Mexico" kicks things off in fine complex fashion, as intricate guitar, keyboards, and reeds weave in and out of each other while Latin rhythms offer up a nice ethnic flavor. "Sekala Dan Niskala" also has a similar style to it, although much richer as far as the percussion goes, with a raging electric guitar excursion at the end thanks to Chris Smith. Things get a little more serious on the moody "The Pardon Our French Medley", which starts out with some ominous keyboard sounds from Mike Sary, before turning into a whipping maelstrom of sax, clarinet, guitars, and keys. Again, the legendary Gentle Giant, as well as Goblin, come to mind here. Chris Smith's guitar work bears a striking similarity to Robert Fripp's at times, as evidenced on this cut especially. He shows off his talents on the violin & cello on the majestic "Tears of a
Velvet Clown", a very classical sounding piece that also features multiple reeds, horns and intricate percussion. Imagine the "big-band" sounds on Zappa's Waka Jawaka or The Grand Wazoo and you sort of get an idea of what is going on here, although perhaps not quite as bombastic. The last tune might just be the most complex & rockin' one on the CD. It's titled "When the Ruff Tuff Creampuff's Take Over", a raging barn-burner that exemplifies what French TV is all about. Intense keyboard, sax, and guitar lines weave around each other while the intricate bass and drum work keep everything afloat. There are also some neat quiet moments that they throw in on this piece that let Jeff Gard show off some nimble cymbal work, but these moments are short lived before the band comes crashing back with a vengeance. Amazing stuff!

Another fine piece of work by French TV, one of the USA's most overlooked treasures. Lovers of intense & complex prog rock can do no wrong with seeking this out.

Track Listing
1) Everything Works in Mexico
2) Sekala Dan Nikala
3) The "Pardon Our French" Medley
4) Tears of a Velvet Clown
5) When the Ruff Tuff Creampuff's Take Over

Added: August 7th 2004; Reviewer: Pete Pardo; Score: 4.5
SEA OF TRANQUILITY http://www.seaoftranquility.org/reviews.php?op=showcontent&id=1593


FRENCH TV 8: PARDON OUR FRENCH!
Rating: 4.5
Review by François Couture/ALL MUSIC GUIDE

If The Case Against Art, French TV's previous effort, had signaled a fallback to a simpler form of progressive rock (akin to the group's mid-'90s material), Pardon Our French! resumes where the glorious Violence of Amateurs had left off, coming back to a wild brand of avant-prog. The music is highly complex, odd meters passing by at light speed and riffs parading in an unruly fashion, each new one tugging the music toward a new direction — including symphonic progressive rock, bluegrass, circus music, jazz-rock, dark chamber rock, and cartoonish avant-prog. This time around, the band's nucleus consists of the ever-faithful éminence grise Mike Sary, Chris Smith, Warren Dale, and newcomer Jeff Gard, each musician playing two armfuls of instruments. The album begins with "Everything Works in Mexico," a ten-minute workout that will remain the simplest tune of the set, despite it being quite eventful. Clocking in at six minutes makes "Sekala Dan Niskala" the "hit single" of the CD, although its incredibly dense and shifting arrangements (among other things) disqualify it for massive radio airplay. Try cramming guitars, electric violin, viola, rebab, accordion, sampler, clarinets, saxophones, flutes, recorders, bass harmonica, bass, drums, tabla, dumbek, riq, and innumerable other percussion instruments in only six minutes of music! "Tears of a Velvet Clown" is the album's highlight, a truly mad piece of writing, featuring circus and fanfare elements woven throughout this epic. Fast-paced, complex, exhilarating, and hilarious like only French TV can manage to pull off. "When the Ruff Tuff Creampuffs Take Over" follows similar guidelines (!), but is somewhat less coherent. The obligatory cover track on this eighth record (the eight ball on the cover artwork gives it away) is actually a medley, "The 'Pardon Our French' Medley," a virtuoso run through songs by the key French progressive rock groups of the '70s: Pulsar, Shylock, Carpe Diem, Atoll, Etron Fou Leloublan, and Ange, whose "La Bataille du Sucre" is butchered in the opening minutes (even this French-speaking reviewer couldn't make out half of the lyrics). It is not as powerful as the Samla Mammas Manna cover found on The Violence of Amateurs, but it is nevertheless a connoisseur listen. Pardon Our French! will not rekindle U.S.-France political relations, but it should be welcomed with open arms by the few music fans who enjoy sportive, mind-boggling avant-progressive rock.

http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:16psa9wge23k~T1

FRENCH TV 8--PARDON OUR FRENCH!

Reviewer: dnslilly for PROGRESSIVE EARS
Date: 8/17/2004 Format: CD (Album)

The latest French TV album, Pardon Our French! (aka FTV8), twitches, squirts, squeaks, flows, soars, marches, stomps, cranks, hovers, trips, uses sonic commas, semi-colons, ellipses, does ballet and the Snoopy dance, goes to the circus and west but not yeast, bewilders. All in ways the faithful will love and virgin ears listening for something unusual might well appreciate. The bewildering part spans the whole hour. That’s because the music seems to evoke varying parts Yes, Frank Zappa and John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards…and none of them; yet it’s distinctive enough that familiar ears will realize that this is, indeed, Mike Sary and his musically-deranged posse. And yes, good news that is.

As usual, the song titles (i.e., “Everything Works in Mexico,” “Tears of a Velvet Clown,” etc.) sound like phrases and statements excised from a novel or essay – or likely a comic book. What’s also intriguing is whether the FTV gang names their songs before or after the songs’ creations (or along the way), as well as learning to associate these exercises in musical cinema with their titles. Take, for instance. “Sekala Dan Niskala,” which apparently opens with sitar, tabla, and xylophone dancing together until being joined by a scurrying violin, viola or fiddle, and then bass, and then searing electric guitar – all hurrying to catch something, until the pace slows down into a field of drama. Various instruments then turn into the chimes of some strange clocks. The clocks abruptly give way to more sonic rushing about that leads to the abrupt end of the song’s six-plus minutes. And that’s the shortest song on the CD, which is more good news for fans of FTV and prog rock fans in general.

To learn more about Sary and his partners in prog rock crime, click over to www.frenchtvonline.com. To express your feelings regarding this and other FTV music, or to buy your very own copies of said music, contact Mr. FTV himself at msarybeep@insightbb.com
http://www.progressiveears.com/Default.asp?bhcp=1

FRENCH TV-PARDON OUR FRENCH!

French TV return with a new release of their own brand of quirky jazz rock, progressive rock, flamenco, rock, classical elements, humorous twists and anything else that takes their fancy.

On their last release something changed for the better and it was not easy to define other than it having something to do with the band giving their music breathing space. Also, the swings of directional influences and instrumentation seemed to flow together rather than clashing and becoming ugly and tuneless as sometimes was the case earlier in their careers. I have to admit there are a few chaotic moments on this new offering but the space that the melody creates more than makes up for any short comings.

Overall, this album, like their previous one, reminds me of Tull's "Passion Play" in its intricacies and instrumentation, especially from the sax, acoustic guitar and keys. Plus, when the violin appears it adds colour and variation.

This is a well composed and arranged album which demonstrates the high class of musicianship from all concerned. Yes, there are the odd quirky moments but I must be in the right mood for this album at the moment or maybe I'm getting crazier because I really enjoyed this wonderful trip through French TV's unconventional masterpiece.

This album may be of interest to fans of Anglagard or anyone like me who thought that Tull's last two releases over 2003/4 were too bland, safe and boring.

This has to be in E.P.R.R. list of one of the best albums of 2004 in the jazz rock category. 95%
----Terry Tucker; EUROPEAN PROGRESSIVE ROCK REVIEWS
http://www.tandet.freeserve.co.uk/french_tv_2004.html

Published on: 16 Oct 2004
This intricately complex band has been laboring away for quite some time now, and to me, they fall into a category all of their own, and fit into a unique group of bands that offer the highest level of musical talent, paired with extreme technical brilliance behind their compositions. While these bands have nothing really in common musically, I feel that they are truely the most unique and progressive bands today, Miriodir, After Crying, Estradasphere, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, and French TV, are all bands that encompass outrageous musical talent, vision, and skilled composers at the wheel of musical direction.

It's as if these bands are comprised of angry and misled classical musicians that became rebellious towards their music and snobbish culture. Yet, what we gain from such twisted minds is some of the most interesting progressive rock music that the mind can handle. French TV has no boundaries, non whatsoever, they will bombard the senses from every possible angle, whether it's with mesmerizing complexity, or spacy synths, huge symphonic backdrops, and sizzling soloists. You better be prepared for something new every few seconds. As is the case with all French TV recordings, you will have to spend a good couple years of steady listening to fully digest all of what is French TV's music.

They also continue to improve as a unit, never relying on past accollades, the band depends on invention for their musical endeavors. And each member of the band, and it's guests are all providing the ingenuity for what sounds like spontaneous genius. When I referenced the bands above, I hold these bands in the highest regard for their dedication as musicians, and for their integrity towards progressive music of the most difficult variety. And as dificult as the music must be to compose, the ears of the listener must also be willing to comprehend the music in all if it's intricasies.

So in respect to what the band has acheived on this cd, prospective fans should consider the level of their appreciation for complexity and a broad spectrum of musical influence before taking the TV dare. As for fans of TV and the others bands listed here, you know what to do.
MJ BRADY;PROG-GNOSIS
http://www.silverdb.com/MUSIC_DBCDInfo.asp#

FRENCH TV: PARDON OUR FRENCH!


I can honestly say that after almost twenty listens I'm hardly any closer to having a grasp on this disc than I did on the first; that's not to say this is difficult music - it surely is not, in fact very accessible overall, yet the five pieces herein are so densely packed with changes - every measure...meter changes, changes in instrumentation or arrangements, stylistic changes, dynamic changes, it's just mindboggling, yet I can't stop hitting the "repeat" button. I suppose when you have a couple of guys in the band that play a zillion different instruments each (Warren Dale: anything with keys or reeds, Chris Smith: anything with strings) and an ambitious team of composers led by bassist Mike Sary that lean toward epic length pieces, this result is inevitable. The first to reveal itself is "Sekala Dan NIskala," a musical romp through west and east Asia; they cover it all with riq, tabla, dumbek, violin, rebab, flutes, sampled gamelon, and some instruments I can't even identify that sound very exotic. The disc's centerpiece is the sidelong "Pardon Our French Medley" that lifts themes from the works of six French 70s bands, and features guest female vocals. The marching band opening and ensuing circus themes in "Tears of a Velvet Clown" offers a dose of that unique French TV instrumental humor, while opener "Everything Works in Mexico" clobbers the listener with a dazzling array of changes and some nice Spanish guitar and violin work by Smith. This is one that just keeps on delivering play after play.
---Peter Thelen/EXPOSE #30; September 2004

FRENCH TV: PARDON OUR FRENCH!
Style: Rock In Opposition  
Sound: ++++
Composition: ++++
Musicianship: ++++
Performance: ++++
Total Rating: 16

To suggest that this Louisville, KY-based foursome is merely ecclectic is akin to saying that the Pacific Ocean is kind of damp. The simple fact is that these guys are stylistically ubiquitous. They command a kaleidoscopic flow of material that, although utilizing unrelated sequential relations, maintains a transcendent logic that remains definitive of the whole thoughout the 60 minutes that flew by while I was being, uh...amazed.

These five pieces all occupy their own habitus. The leadoff cut, "Everything Works in Mexico," features reedman Warren Dale on "toys," evoking some dislocated mariachi breaks. Bassist/mojo navigator Mike Sary moves things along by punctuating each number with Samla Mammas Manna-approved nimble fingered, crunchy uni-riffs. That French TV indulges in a bit of tomfoolery is no accident: the humor here (implied via the insert commentary - this is a mostly instrumental work) is more of the wonderfully politically incorrect Mort Sahl variety than the customary self-depreciation usually found in these veins. My only quibble is the indexing of the legthy opus "The Pardon Our French Medley," whose eight component sections are meshed together as a single, non-shuttle-friendly program. Why are disc masters still committing this blunder?

Yes, friends, this is some weighty stuff. Like fellow texture-slingers Farquhar, French TV knows how to take a sonic melange, a veritable quilt of abstraction, harness its nefarious energy centers, and imbue it with distinct identity and sense of direction.
-----John Patrick/PROGRESSION #47; Summer/Fall 2004

FRENCH TV 8: PARDON OUR FRENCH!
Reviewed by: Eric Porter, June 2006; PROGRESSIVEWORLD

For all its complexity, Pardon Our French! is an easy listen. As a matter of fact, it is a blast.  Drawing the listener in with their vast array of instrumentation, this is a tight and musically sound group.  The band is not kidding when they titled the first track "Everything Works in Mexico," because they throw in a ton of instruments and changes, and yet it all comes off without a hitch.  The authentic trumpet sound and nylon string guitar add a nice touch. The varied instrumentation gives each track a unique if somewhat schizophrenic character.

The playful spirit of  "…Mexico" is countered with the more experimental noisemaking and Asian sounding intro that takes place during "Sekala Dan Niskala."   The "Pardon Our French Medley" stays in the experimental mode, but creates a spacier vibe.  Accordions, harpsichords, woodwinds, and some heavily delayed guitar set the atmospheric moments.  The band adds sections with heavier guitar and bass, some offbeat piano playing (ala King Crimson's "Catfood") showing they are prepared to rock when necessary.  Guitar enthusiasts will dig the variety of tones and excursions provided during this track by Chris Smith. The only complaint I really have is that there are a few keyboard sounds that are a bit too processed for my liking, but they are few and far between.  The band manages to constantly demand your attention, never letting one moment last too long before injecting some new instrument, or spiraling off into a completely different direction.  The music is best described as unpredictable, and let's leave it at that.

Pardon Our French! left me impressed, but more importantly entertained and wanting more.  I want my French TV!!!!!!