Band: French TV

(Pretentious Dinosaur Records)

Title: #3: Virtue In Futility CDOO1
#4: Intestinal Fortitude 1 CDOO2
#5: Live: Yoo-Hoo!!! CDOO3
French TV is a musical vehicle for the talents of American bass player Mike Sary. Other band members come and go but Sary remains the constant within the group framework. His style is an eclectic mix of avante-garde progressive rock that pays homage to the likes of Zappa, Gentle Giant and the Canterbury scene. Complex patterns and time changes abound these recordings as Sary challenges perceptions and continually threatens to upset the musical apple cart! Unfortunately, the band's first two albums : "French TV" and 2: "After A Lengthy Silence"are almost out of print so we cannot report on them and have to be content with volumes 3, 4 & 5.

Virtue In Futility is an instrumental work that sets the unconventional style that is to follow. If you like the more adventurous art/prog styles then this is an ideal album to start with. All songs are written by Sary and his weird perspective is evident throughout. A compelling album, full of depth and texture. Intestinal Fortitude sees the band take a distinct step towards the more mainstream progressive arena and this appears to be mainly as a result of new member Tony Hall on guitar. Tony writes a couple of tracks and seems to add an extra guitar dimension. Another first is that three of the six tracks have vocals. Hall on the very impressive "Perseids" and drummer Bob Douglas on "No Raven Tonight", very Edgar Allen Poe inspired and an ambitious rendering of the Van Der Graaf generator track "Pioneers Over C". A very different release to the 3rd album but Sary's proud and punchy bass still reminds you that this is his band. Live: Yoo-Hoo!!! is (surprise, surprise) a live album recorded in 1995 in Kentucky in front on an enthusiastic but I would imagine rather small audience. Yoo-Hoo!!! sees a return to the style more evident on Virtue in Futility and features tracks from all the previous four albums plus a new track written by keyboard player John Robinson. Tony Hall is replaced on guitar by Dean Zigoris and he is more than an able substitute.

The sleeve notes are informative and give an insight into the mind of Mike Sary, an intelligent and socially responsible guy with a zany sense of humour. I love the picture in the booklet of Virtue In Futility showing Sary playing bass while his son covers his hands over his ears. This is a man who doesn't take himself too seriously and lets his music do the talking. Do yourself a favour and give him a listen.


Wow, this is some music you need to pay attention to, not for backdrop at all. The band is playing a hybrid form of RIO inflected fusion, albeit, it's very accessable to most fusion listeners. Some bands that come to mind are: Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Zappa, Miriodir, Henry Cow, Happy Family, yet unlike these bands mentioned, they are a bit easier to digest, lot's of shifty time signatures, interesting mood swings, quirky and squonky sax riffage, all in all, the sound of the band is very adventurous without being so technical you would need a musical theory phd to understand. 

----Reviewed by MJBrady for ProgGnosis on 25 Aug 2001


(1994, 55:17, Pretentious Dinosaur Records CDOO1)
(1995, 71:03, Pretentious Dinosaur Records CDOO2)
(1997, 69:41, Pretentious Dinosaur Records CDOO3)

French TV are a band, or rather a project with this name by bassist Mike Sary~ which came to existence as early as 1983. Mike was so kind to sent us his 3 latest albums to review which have been released some years ago (last minute news: Maurice is going to do an even newer one soon! -ed.). To pinpoint exactly what kind of music French TV make is quite tricky. They have been compared to anything from Frank Zappa, Brand X, Bruford or even VDGG (this might be because of their version of "Pioneers over C” on the "Intestinal Fortitude" album.

"Virtue In Futility” is an almost instrumental album (apart from one track) that expects a lot from its listener. Ranging from free-form jazzy stuff to almost Irish jig like music. But mostly this disc lies in the Canterbury style with the odd nod to King Crimson. Mainly due to the extensive use of sax.

Of the 3 discs "Intestinal Fortitude" is my favorite. A vocalist was added on several tracks giving these a more VDGG sound "H To He” period (as said, this is not too strange considering this album has a "Pioneers over C" cover on it).

Though the album opener lies more in the lines of the previous album there is also room for subtle moments on this disc. "Perseids” has a lovely acoustic interlude that starts getting very Genesis like when a flute is added and continues in the Genesis mood even when it gets more heavy.

"Yoo-Hoo" is a thorough live-recording from tracks from most albums. You would expect French TV's music to be too difficult to reproduce live. But they succeed with flying colors. All in all 3 fine discs for the more "serious" music lover. Neo-prog fans should stay clear of this though.


French TV: 5 Live: Yoo-Hoo!!! (CD, 69:4 1); Pretentious Dinosaur Records CDOO3

French TV is a brilliant, eclectic band that launches from a Canterbury-style base into oft-humorous instrumental journeys occasionally invoking the likes of Frank Zappa. This live session Is alternately whacky and charming, resembling circus music one moment and sensually virtuosic prog-rock the next.

These nine tracks are full of abrupt changeups and sendups. And while incredible players, French TV refuses to take themselves too seriously. Just check out the song titles "The Souls of the Damned Live in Failed Works", "Hey! REAL Executives Jump From the 50th Floor!" or "The Family That Oonts Together, Groonts Together".

Immediately telling is the CD cover art, a cartoon portraying a crowd of people with pigsheads holding their noses and running from a theater with French TV on the marquee.

Self-effacement aside, a more apt reaction would be amusement and genuine reverence for the band's musical dexterity. Mike Sary (bass), John Robinson (keyboards), Bob Douglas (drums, percussion) and Dean Zigoris (guitars, guitar synths) all deserve medals for proving that progressive music can be awe-inspiring and intentionally funny at the same time.
---John Collinge PROGRESSION

French TV Live: Yoo-Hoo!!! (Pretentious Dinosaur C0003, 1997, CD)

French TV is a real American anachronism: a complex unit (with their unique brand of improvisation) based in the heart of country music land: Louisville. Live, they play their own refined style, which isnt much like anybody (except for possibly Gentle Giant circa "Acquiring the Taste"), and that's great, mind you! Plus, they do it LIVE and that's the key conditional word to consider. The album cover says it all: a rabble of pigs running break-neck from a movie premiere! What on earth did they encounter, you might ask? French TV don't take themselves too seriously, in fact quite the opposite; flamboyant self-parody is the modus operandi of the band. They would like you to listen to their serious work with a grain of salt. Recorded in a small recital hall, you'd think It would be difficult to recreate these elaborate studio pieces without culling down on studio favorites. But all the pieces are enhanced by a rich chemistry between the players, though they may be under-rehearsed. John Robinson reminds me of Kerry Minnear (Gentle Giant's brainchild arranger and keyboardist) while Dean Zigoris has a jazzy approach to his six string playing. So if you thought these guys were just a studio band, you couldn't be further from the truth. Not bad for a bunch of self-anointed Smurfs, so track this down. It's worth your hard earned dollar and appreciates on replay .
-Jeff Melton/ EXPOSE

French TV 5 Live: YOO-HOO!!!(Pretentious Dinosaur Records) By Robert Gruber
Longtime local faves French TV explore a different part of the galaxy with their latest, YOO-HOO!!! Recorded live to ADAT, YOO-HOO!!! showcases the TV's tightness as a unit, as well as their playfulness and their ability to spark creatively off of one another. Keyboardist John Robinson utilizes many different sounds and styles, as adept at riffing a classical theme on piano as he is playing what sounds like kid's TV themes on Casiotone. Guitarist Dean Zigoris swings between funky chops and jazzy chords, always tasteful and precise. The rhythm section of Mike Sary and Bob Douglas work almost like a trapeze act, flying high, doing insane aerial flips, catching each other right when it seems like one or the other might be plunging toward the net.

A bizarre, perhaps even annoying sense of humor drives this combo-consider song titles like "Friendly Enzymes" or "And the Dead Dog Lept Up and Flew Around the Room!" This reminds me of stuff my cool friends (who would alternate between Zappa and the Firesign Theatre) were listening to in high school. Indeed, had this album been released in 1977, French TV would doubtless have been worshipped as gods, courted by every musician magazine, festooned with all the finest instruments that endorsements could provide. Who knows- as we enter the new millenium, French TV's time may finally be at hand. Prog-rock may reign once morel!! (....or maybe not).

French TV: Yoo-Hoo
Canterbury-fusion band French TV from Louisville, USA first arrived on the musical scene in the early 1980s. Founded by composer and bass player Mike Sary - the band went through various personnel changes before stabilizing - almost -in the mid-Nineties. In saying that, Mike is the only member to have stayed with the band since its inception. French TV's first two albums were released in the Eighties and have long been deleted. Rumour has it that both French TV (1983) and After A Lengthy Silence (1986) will be re-released by Italian label Mellow Records, but
that has yet to happen. The band's third album, Virtue In Futility, was released in 1994. Between that and the release of the fourth album Intestinal Fortitude in 1995, Mike completely re-arranged the band line-up.

The 1997 live album Yoo-Hoo pretty much features the same line-up as for Intestinal Fortitude - Mike Sary on bass, Bob Douglas on drums and percussion, and John Robinson on keyboards remained with guitarist Dean Zigoris, the one newcomer. He replaced Tony Hall, which meant that those tracks featuring Tony on vocals would no longer feature in the French TV live set. The result is a totally instrumental set featuring tracks from all four studio albums with lighter arrangements to allow them to be played by the four-piece. Yoo-Hoo was recorded on 3rd November 1995 at the Kentucky School for the Blind Recital Hall.

The set opens with "Happy Armies Fight In Their Sleep" from the band's debut album. This is pure jazz-rock (if such a thing can be defined) very much from the Brand X/Bruford stable - a high-energy number which really wakes up the audience. The cover notes mention a "loud CRASH" midway through the song "right after Dean's chicken noise" which is "Bob dropping a ten foot heavy-duty chain on top of an inverted cymbal on stage". I guess that underlines what the live French TV experience is all about!

"The Tingler" was one of the band's newest tracks, a John Robinson composition with various pseudonyms (John's Spooky Treat, The Creeper, etc). Rather than showing further evolution of the band's sound, this is very much a step back to the "having-fun" jazz-rock days; a bouncy tongue-in-cheek tribute to Vincent Price. Spooky like the 1950s horror films are - that is not at all!

"Clanghonktweet" has emerged from Virtue In Futility as being the track of the album. Played live, the intricacy and virtuosity is quite stunning - the speed is actually a little too much. Personally I feel that a lot of the instrumentation which made this track in the studio is missing when the quartet play it live. Okay, so John can make violin noises on his keyboards - but it isn’t the same… "Friendly Enzymes" is a track from the band's second album After A Lengthy Silence. For once Mike takes central stage with a momentous bass riff around which the rest of the band works. The bass is a much-maligned instrument, and it is nice to see it given its rightful place as lead instrument (spoken like a real bass player!)

"The Souls Of The Damned Live In Failed Works" is the only track from the band's fourth album. I described it as being a "classic French TV track from the Sary stable". Its inclusion - and more noticeably the absence of any other tracks from Intestinal Fortitude - outlines how the band's live set had not necessarily evolved in the same direction than that album pointed. It misses the live sax player, but otherwise works as well as in the studio with Dean adding the sampled voice.

"The Family That Oonts Together, Groonts Together"is another classic French TV track to emerge from their Virtue In Futility album. Again, this shows the difference between the studio and the live arenas. While this is a quality song played live - John's piano solo is especially effective - it lacks a certain something without the saxophone bits.

Every band has one - the track that has become so entrenched in their live set that it has to be trotted out every date on every tour. "And The Dead Dog Lept Up And Flew Around The Room!", apart from being the missing line from the nursery rhyme Hey Diddle-Diddle, is French TV's albatross. This has been a constant part of the band's set since the release of Lengthy Silence and Mike is happy being hypocritical about its perpetual inclusion - "I never get tired of this one". John is then given the spotlight for his improvised introduction to the Steve Roberts composition "The
Artist's House" from the French TV album. This is a beautifully mellow track which the band happily mangle towards the end by breaking into a dinky reggae version with a rag-time piano melody line. Strangely enough, it does work!

"Hey! Real Executives Jump From The 50th Floor!", the track which opened their third album, closes the set here. The band has built this from the six-minute studio version into an extended fourteen minute improvisation as the band members develop the composition, each given the opportunity to shine. This is the equivalent of the rock band being introduced member by member to add their little twiddly improvisations to the final song - but less contrived and better to listen too! After about nine minutes the song seems to die, and you will be forgiven for thinking the whole thing is over - but hang on in there and you get the triumphant finale. It's well worth waiting for! I guess this bit made more sense at the gig…

This is an impressive live re-creation of French TV's studio material. I have never seen the band in the live arena, but know from experience that when these jazz-rock guys get on stage they are quite capable of playing as fast and as intricately as in the studio - if not more so! And the live arena gives the band the scope to further develop and improvise the compositions as only real musicians can (or dare) do. Personally whenever I play live, I like to know what everyone else is going to do next - even if I may not know what I'm doing! Practice may make spontaneity more
realistic - but in this case, the spontaneity comes purely from the joy and buzz of playing in front of a receptive audience.

As for my impressions of the album, I was disappointed that the band have not incorporated more of the there more progressive Canterbury music evident on their last studio album. However, that apart, the material they include is played very well. This is pure jazz-rock played with aplomb; I would liken the album to the Brand X album Livestock. The "live" feel has been totally lost in the editing with the audience input minimal at best. This will never compare with the classic live rock album such as Second Out, Bursting Out or Live & Dangerous but that is the nature of the
beast. Jazz-rock concerts rarely have the same rock audience feedback - mainly I feel because most of the time the crowd is too busy staring open-mouthed at the band's technical performance. But that does not pull away from the fact that this is an impressive performance by any measure.

Yoo Hoo is release on the French TV's own Pretentious Dinosaur label.
-----Frank Blades-ALTERNATE VIEWS 1999


French TV is a jazz-rock band with heavy Canterbury overtones based in Louisville, USA. The band is the brainchild of bass player Mike Sary who has remained the only permanent member since the bands founding in the early Eighties. French TV's first two album, the debut album French TV(1983) and the follow-up After A Lengthy Silence (1986) are now both deleted. The bands third, Virtue In Futility released in 1994 album re-stabilized the band's reputation after years of recording and playing live without a release. Between 1994 and the release of the Intestinal Fortitude in 1995 saw a complete change in the band's line-up. Indeed Mike once stated that there was in fact two versions of French TV - the studio band recording Intestinal Fortitude, and the live band playing the earlier material.

The Intestinal Fortitude line-up of French TV consists of Mike on bass and Chapman stick, Tony Hall on electric and acoustic guitar and vocals, Bob Douglas on drums and vocals, John Robinson on keyboards md backing vocals. In addition, various guests have been drawn into the studio: Gregory Acker -sax, flute and slide whistle, Peter Rhee on violin and Gary Hicks on trumpet. For once Mike has shared the writing chores, making this perhaps the first true French TV "band" album. The line-up was to prove pretty stable and for the 1997 live album "Yoo-Hoo" only one personnel change was evident.

Um Tut Sut opens the album in very Canterbury-style. This is a cracking, high-energy progressive fusion track with the band playing tightly throughout At almost nine minutes this is not an easy introduction to the album, but the music is much more accessible than on previously, echoing the Canterbury genre, reminding me of the like of National Health and Hatfield and the North.

No Raven Tonight sees the first French TV track with lyrics. Lead vocals are handled by Bob, and sung very much in the mode of Peter Hammill's work with Van der Graaf Generator. The whole mood is of something rather different for French TV. This is a strangely dark track, for all its dinky keyboard and percussion lines. Three seconds longer than Um Tut Sut, it seems a lot longer. Whereas Um Tut Sut was a light and energetic track, Raven is more looming and feels the full nine minutes of its length. This is also the first track not totally written by Mike; being a
Sary/Fowler/Mullen composition - and this is evident in the noticeable change in genre and mood of the piece. I liked it!

Perseids is a Tony Hall composition, an immense fourteen-minute epic with Tony taking the mike from Bob. This is a cracking track, switching moods, tempos and timbres with ease. The mass of the track is instrumental - the track comes in three parts - Dispersion, Spiralling and Reign Of Ice. I suspect "Spiralling" is the section with lyrics; it is a complete change from the instrumental "Dispersion"."Reign Of Ice" expands progressively on the melody line of "Spiralling".

Black Day, White Light, another Hall composition, is more in the old-styleFrench TV jazz-rock mode; pure Brand X fusion power. Peter's extended violin solo is superb, weaving around the unpredictability of the bands instrumentation, and that is matched by Tony's own guitar solo which teeters on the edge of discord only to emerge again and again triumphantly. A truly magnificent track.

The Souls Of The Damned Live In Failed Works is a classic French TV track from the Sary stable. It is a complex jazz-rock composition with various elements from their previous album including some Garbarek-esq sax lines from Gregory. In a way this is a throwback to the earlier French TV sound, and is almost out-of-place amongst the other tracks. Tradition French TV fans will love it - I prefer the newer direction! The album closes in style with a haunting cover of the Van Der Graaf Generator track Pioneers Over C. I guess that after Raven, the band felt that Bob's vocals were ideal for a VdGG cover - and VdGG's music is something which does fit with this new French TV sound.

This album shows a distinct change in the tone of French TV. For a start, the introduction of vocals has changed the French TV sound - but it is more than that. There is more seriousness in this album than its predecessors. Previously I have felt that French TV was an outlet for Mikes off-beat humour as much as his prolific musical talents. It is almost as if by writing songs with stupid titles such as "The Family That Oonts Together, Groonts Together " from Virtue In Futility, he is attempting to build a wall around his baby- a protection against the slings and arrows of critics such as I.

With Intestinal Fortitude there are none of these pretensions - this is delivered as a serious album with proper titles and an underlying overtone of musical professionalism which the earlier albums lacked. While there is still elements of the older jazz-rock French TV, especially evident in Black Day, White Light, the proggie Canterbury elements are more at the fore, making this album more accessible to those of us who are not Jazz purists. I read one review that claimed that Intestinal Fortitude shows a band not afraid to move in some different directions! I would put it rather differently; in my view Intestinal Fortitude shows that after handling the initial upbringing, Mike is not afraid to hand over the development of his baby to others. It is a brave step - and one that I think has paid off.

Hot on the heels of "Virtue In The Futility" we come to this 1995 release. The opening track is very diverse with a slice of fairground flavoured music, a few bars of almost orchestral music and a large chunk of complex jazz rock. This, at times, is extremely indulgent and is all over the place, although it ends with some tasteful guitar. Track 2, "No Raven Tonight", has a rock opera feel about it which develops with soulful violin and is 9 mins of pure magic. The three-part "Perseids" is mellow sounding with melancholic violin floating around, this is a laid back section with all instruments being underplayed. An acoustic guitar and flute heralds in pt. 2 which is almost classical sounding while part 3 has a quiet opening till the tempo picks up with an eventual violin entering for the climax. This whole 14 min track is totally unmissable.

"Black Day, White Light" opens very quietly, almost symphonic, then with frantic guitar and keys we end up with the climactic side of French TV getting an airing. There is a tremendous violin in the mid section before this piece winds up with some sterling work on the guitar by Tony Hall although overall this track is extremely diverse and cluttered. Track 5, "The Souls Of The Damned Live In Failed Works", is a dark and threatening piece that ends with a cacophony of sounds and textures.

The album finally winds up with the 14:43 "Pioneers Over "C" which is a "Van Der Graaf Generator" track. I have not heard the original, but this version opens with almost symphonic keys, theatrical vocals and guitar. This is typical 70s fusion with time changes and mood swings. Yeah, at times it does sound as though Peter Hammill could be singing. So to sum up, a drop in consistency compared to their last one although when this album's good e.g. tracks 2,3,5 it's hard not to like but it's let down especially by "Um Tut Sut", "Black Day, White Light" and the VDGG track. 74%
----- - - - - - - - - - -- -Terry Tucker/EUROPEAN PROGRESSIVE ROCK REVIEWS

FRENCH TV - INTESTINAL FORTITUDE (1995) Pretentious Dinosaur Records
An unflinching look at the twisted soul of Mike Sary (bass, Chapman Stick), the Bob Gaines (MAD Magazine founder) of prog. This fourth release has another "usual cast of idiots" playing alongside Mike (I wonder if he paid them).

While not as "out there" as MOVING GELATINE PLATES or as looney as THE MUFFINS, Mike does give it his best shot. It's music as satire. From distinct low-brow playing to pseudo-intellectual vocals to real (look what we can do!) prog.

Take a little bit of social (un)consciousness, mix it with wry wit, add a bit of the bizarre, then stir it up with some fine, fine playing, and you have something so totally uncommercial it borders on good. Real good.
- - - - - - - - - - -HvD/MUSIC UNCOVERED

FRENCH TV 4: INTESTINAL FORTITUDE (CD) Pretentious Dinosaur Records
The guys in this Louisville, KY avant-garde group stick their tongues completely through their cheeks on this nutty, covoluted excusion through Canterbury-style progressive and off-kilter artsy set-ups. This is like rolling down a bumpy mountain road at midnight with your headlights off-it's anyone's guess what the next bend has in store.

So who says progressive music lacks a sense of humor? INTESTINAL FORTITUDE is a hoot. At least, that seems to be the spirit in which it was performed. There's no other explanation for tracks like "UN TUT SUT", which sounds like a dememted take on circus music.

Not that French TV is totally off the wall. They also come across with some rather engaging stuff, such as "PERSEIDS", with its contemplative flute and guitar passages, and "BLACK DAY, WHITE LIGHT", which features a killer ethnic riff. Other highlights include "NO RAVEN TONIGHT", which sounds like a cross between Van der Graaf Generator and Genesis, and the 15-minute cover of Van der Graaf's "PIONEERS OVER C."

In the final analysis, these guys are great players. And smart. And perhaps in need of analysis.
- - -- - - - - - - - - John Collinge/ PROGRESSION MAGAZINE

The first surprise here is that a Canterbury-influenced outfit called French TV actually hails from Louisville, Kentucky in the USA. The twists and turns certainly do not end there. French TV has actually been around since the early '80's, although they have gone through numerous personnel changes and delays between albums. The best way to describe them is to start with a Canterbury foundation, and add a dose of RIO, classical, and experimental avant-garde. Top the whole thing off with a helping of tongue -in-cheek humor. Like all music of this style, listeners might fine it hard to love this album at first. the strange this is that, upon subsequent listenings, the complexity and depth of the arrangements begin to tug at the senses. French TV covers a lot of ground with a musical range that includes frenzied instrumental pieces with circus-like keyboard playing, soft classically-inspired movements, dark experimental haunts, and Elizabethian orchestrations. Comparasons that come to mindare FRANK ZAPPA, GENTLE GIANT, GRYPHON, MAGMA, HATFIELD and the NORTH, and OZRIC TENTACLES. The brains behind the band belong to bass and Stick player Mike Sary. Joining him on this album are Tony Hall (guitar, vocals), Bob Douglas (drums, vocals), and John Robinson (keyboards, vocals). They also enlist additional help that includes sax, flute, violin, and trumpet. While there are vocals in some of the songs (which are pretty good), they mostly take a back seat to the instrumental arrangements. Fans of the genre (you know who you are!) and others will find French TV very satisfying, and will be drawn back for many listens along with a few laughs.

Released in 1995, INTESTINAL FORTITUDE is the 4th and most recent studio outing for French TV, though there is also a live album from 1997. It features 6 long tracks and one hidden track. You've probably heard a lot of hidden "bonus" songs before, but probably none like this! It's a rather amusing recording of the band talking and then arguing (albeit rather politely) while noodling. The six album tracks are all long pieces with ambitious themes. It's amazing how they can switch gears between crazy eclectic jams and tasteful, quiet passages with such ease. VAN
DER GRAAF GENERATOR fans should also note that they do a pretty tasty cover of the bombastic "PIONNERS OVER C". This album improves with every listen. Given the proper attention, Canterbury music can prove to be the most rewarding. The cd has a disclaimer that says "CAUTION: Not dancing to this recording may greatly increase your longevity". I would like to add one more note: "WARNING" Listening to this cd will make you wonder why you liked JOURNEY and BOSTON so much in high school". In all seriousness, this is a must for fans of Canterbury, RIO, Zeuhl, and the like.

Personal note: I should probably point out that I do NOT favor such bands as MAGMA, VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, ZAPPA, nad HENRY COW. While I respect their talent, I just don't like it. Any reviewer who praises everything they hear has no credibility. It probably is a sin to some if I speak ill of those legends, but I firmly believe in honesty when it comes to reviews. That said, I really do enjoy this album. While it is every bit as experimental as those mentioned above, its eclectic complexities are also pleasing to the ear.

"BLACK DAY, WHITE LIGHT": This one starts out with a nice acoustic intro, but soon kicks into a killer guitar riff that builds into a driving groove that is extremely catchy and complex at the same time.
"UM TUT SUT": A great psychodelic circus romp of an instrumental. It reminds me a bit of the up-tempo side of HAPPY THE MAN.
"NO RAVEN TONIGHT": A dark and poetic take on the characters in Poe's "The Raven". Great use of violin and flute.
- - - - - - - - - - -PROG-NET

EXPOSE ROUND TABLE: French TV - Virtue In Futility (Pretentious Dinosaur CD001 1994)

---Peter Thelen:
Four years in the rnaking, and no less than seven years after the second album this latest offering by Louisville's French TV is certainly worth the wait. One unanswered question is why it took from October 1990 until now to release it...l've been hearing rumor of it for at least four years- Wayside would periodically mention it in the 'coming soon' section of their catalog, and rumor had it available on cassette for a while~ although nobody could ever produce a copy for me. Well, it's finally here, folks!

French TV is bassist/composer Mike Sary. and whoever he happens to be playing with at any point in time. On most tracks, Fenner Castner handles the drum kit, quite impressively, I might add. Arrie Bratton handles most guitars, while keyboard duties are shared by Bob Ramsey and Paul Nevitt, and woodwinds are shared by Reid Jahn and Bruce Krohmer. Other musicians fill in on piano, violin, trumpet, etc. Aside from one track. the album is entirely instrumental.

The music here is a rich blend of jagged edged rock, Canterbury/RIO, fusion, melodic prog rock, classical, and plenty of humor. In addition, Sary's bass style frequently reminds me of Janik Top (Magma), although played in an entirely different context. Limited comparisons might be made with the rock elements of Djam Karet, the inventive melodic of However's "Sudden Dusk" or Happy The Man, the complexity of Henry Cow, the busy and multilayered spects of Zappa's instrumental works, and to a degree, the downtown sound - although most is original enough to defy any instant identification. Tracks like "Real Executives Jump From The 50th Floor", "Slowly I Turn", "Clanghonktweet", and especially the jazz-fueled "Empate" deliver on many different levels. Occasionally it bogs down a bit, but it's always quickly rectified.

But no album is perfect. The stinker here is "Friends in High Places", in essence some programmed synth tracks overlaid with tapes of the Iran-Contra hearings and other bits and pieces of Reagan and congress from the same period, in an attempt to make a political statement. Hey, it's old news! This piece would have sounded very appropriate on the second French TV album way back in 1987, when all this was happening, but eight years after the fact its power to change things is lost, and now just amounts to kicking a dead horse. Thank god for programmable CD changers.

Overall, though, I'd recommend this album highly, Sary has managed to produce an album that effectively bridges many styles, doing it all seamlessly within his very unique musical vision. Hopefully the fourth album won't take so long!

---Mike McLatchey:
Louisville is as unlikely a place for progressive rock as any, yet that's where bassist Mike Sary's French TV hail from. Its been lO years since their debut album, yet "Virtue In Futility" (an apt title) is only their third. 7 years on from the last one and not much has changed, French TV still remain a collection of influences from all over the map - Yes, Genesis, Zappa, Brand X Gong, the Canterbury bands and many more. You'll hear a little bit of everything on this one.

As a whole, all these disparate influences seem sort of hodge-podge. At times the music is breathtaking and splendid at others its stodgy and boring. A fusion track here, melodic "prog rock" here and wait a second - Reagan? Ollie North? Yes, yet another band trying to make a brash political statement! I assume this one was done pretty soon after the second album, as the topic - the Contra scandals - seems a mite outdated. The music underneath does nothing to save it either, a sequenced background with occasional gated sounding orchestral explosions. Personally, I think there's better places for this - I'm sure most would program this out anyway.

I think trimming off about 20 minutes from this would have made the overall effect much more impressive, there really is some good music here yet with all the filler it leaves me sort of in the middle. 7 years is far too much time for musicians with the talent of Sary's group to make an album like this. .10 years on and French TV still rate as promising, yet still primed to make a classic. Maybe next time?

--Rob Walker:
French TV hails from Louisville, KY and has a handful of releases to their name since their inception in the early/mid-1980s. Led by bassist Mike Sary, they play an aggressive, complex, and somewhat eclectic type of prog which incorporates elements from a variety of styles including symphonic, fusion, and RIO. The seven tracks on Virtue In Futility cover a lot of musical ground, shifting constantly from one feel or style to another, and showcasing the considerable talent and versatility of the group.

Listening to this for the first time, one could easily mistake it for a new Japanese release; it has the same spirit, drive, and attitude as bands like Il Berlione, Ain Soph, and Kenso. There is some great interplay between the guitar, keyboards, and saxophone, all supported by active, powerful bass lines and solid, often busy drumming. The music is full of abrupt time changes and driving riffs which provide a launching pad for some fiery guitar sax solos. These in turn fade into mellower, more melodic passages, featuring some nice trumpet solos and other guest appearances. There are a few less than spectacular spots on the CD-~ one track consists of a collage of excerpts from the Iran-Contra hearings mixed with some sound effects and drums, and while it is good for a few listens, it rather quickly becomes one of those tracks you skip over every time you get to it. Another track has a main theme which sounds like it was taken right off of Jethro Tull's Warchild album.

The quality of the rest of the music on this CD goes a long way to make up for these blemishes; I just wish there was another track or two of the good stuff. Out of the 55 minutes of music on this disc, roughly 35 minutes are top-notch prog. The whole package is wrapped up by Sary in a delightfully humorous way, featuring entertaining liner notes and song tides like "Hey! Real Executives Jump From The 50th Floor". In all, Virtue In Futility contains some of the better instrumental prog of 1994, and is well worth checking out.

French TV: Virtue In Futilty 1994-(55:17)-Pretentious Dinosaur
French TV is the musical diatribes of one, Mike Sary (bass) and his musician friends. He resides in Louisville, KY, hence the title, French TV. Listening to French TV is somewhat akin to being locked up in the irreverent counter-culture closet (for grown-ups). My guess is that Mike (he lists Mad Magazine and the 3 Stooges as influences) and his musician friends are considered "somewhat different" by their local conservative community.

Mike recorded all this musical absurdity from June 1987 to October 1990. With titles like "Hey! Real Executives Jump From the 50th Floor! " & "The Family That Oonts Together, Groonts Together", these songs are guaranteed to change your outlook on the great cosmic void.

Even taking into account the tongue-in-cheek booklet, this is some seriously great music. Except for the political piece, "Friends In High Places (Or Boy Do I Hate These Bastards)", a series of tape collages from the Iran/Contra hearings, the songs are quite good.

The playing is clever, with Mike wringing the most out of the players. His writing is filled with influences and the songs go from firm to spongy without a second thought. As a final insult to Top Forty stations everywhere, there are no vocals. Good, very.
- - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ---HvD --MUSIC UNCOVERED

FRENCH TV 3: Virtue In Futility
French TV is a Louisville-based experimental KY band based around bass player and founding member Mike Sary. They released the debut album "FRENCH TV" in 1983, which was followed three years later by AFTER A LENGTHY SILENCE. This was reissued by the Italian label MELLOW RECORDS back in 1996, and is still in print. French TV also recorded a version of NEKTAR's "A TAB IN THE OCEAN" for this release as a bonus track. There was a lengthy silence before the band re-appeared on the scene with their 1994 cd "VIRTUE IN FUTILITY". This contained tracks recorded "sporatically" between July 1987 and October 1990, and effectively re-launched the band's career.

The opening track is "HEY! REAL EXECUTIVES JUMP FROM THE 5Oth FLOOR!". This track has a very strong melody, but there are many times when the music goes off at a tangent to create different moods along the way. There are some really nice atmospheric parts to this track; at other times, the music is hiqhly complex. There is also some stunning guitar work.

The next track is called "CLANGHONKTWEET". Starting off with violin & piano, this has quite a classical feel to it, then bass, guitar, and then drums are added. Mike states that this is an attempt at an Irish jig and I have to say that this track does have a dance/ jig feel about it, but for me it doesnt have much of an Irish feel to it. More of a classical-inpired jig.

The 3rd track "THE FAMILY THAT OONTS TOGETHER, GROONTS TOGETHER", is more Jazz-influenced, with some great guitar. There are also some wonderful moments when the music becomes more aggressive, with moments from sax, clarinet, and trumpet played with so much feeling and emotion.

The next track "I'M WHINING FOR THAT FUNKY BABY OF MINE" has lots of atmosphere. Once again there's a lot of Jazz influence here, and quite a lot of the track sounds improvisational.

"EMPATE": This is what I would call mood music; something you could play for your partner, wife, etc. The opening section is quite beautiful and seductive. That is, until the menacing change in direction; and this stays for the rest of the track.

The 6th track "FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES",, is quite a political track with sampled voices of U.S. presidents with atmospheric drums and keyboards forming the backdrop.

The final track is "SLOWLY I TURN...STEP BY STEP...INCH BY INCH...". This track is the longest on the album at just over 12 minutes, starting off with intricate guitars, nice drums, percussion, and bass. The guitar work then takes on a slightly heavier stance, with some mellow keyboards and piano too. As the track progresses, the keyboards go more atmospheric; I would even say that they are quite haunting in a way. Theres some sax then added, beautifully seductive and at the same time there is still this haunting theme going on in the background. Then Mike and Artie come in and play their lines in unison and for me this works extremely welL After awhile the music then fades away, and for the last 3 minutes there is the Drunken Viking Chorus, which sounds like the band just having a bit of fun at the end of their recording session.

VIRTUE IN FUTILITY is an album with influences such as Jazz, Rock, & Progressive Rock. There are moments throughout when there are political aspects to the album and Mike takes a jab at American culture and social-political naivety. One thing I do wonder is whether there a band at all, as there seems to be a lot of guest musicians used for 1 or 2 tracks on the album. Not that it matters, as lonq as the end results turn out to be fine, and for me it is. Personally, I like this kind of music, as I am always looking for something a little bit different from the norm. Recommended


French TV is the recording moniker for Louisville, Kentucky bassist Mike Sary and friends, including Fenner Castner on drums, Artie Bratton and Dean Zigoris on guitars, Paul Nevitt and Bob Ramsey on keyboards, and Reid Jahn, Richard Brooner and Bruce Krohmer on brass and woodwinds. The music on Virtue in Futility draws from a variety of influences including fusion, more traditional jazz, the Canterbury scene, Yes, classical music and Frank Zappa, all mixed with no small sense of humor. Diverse yet cohesive, most of the seven songs are supported on foundations of strong, engaging compositions built by talented musicians. Often, one song will tread across many different styles. For example, "Clanghonktweet" opens with violin, piano and bass in classical rigidity, overlaid with a fusion-esque rhythm, later followed by a somewhat melancholy wind- synth solo, bound together in a matrix of proggy synth. After the wind-synth solo, the band jumps into a groove ala Jean-Luc Ponty. "The Family That Oonts Together, Groonts Together" works through tight twisting riffs characteristic of Zappa's excellent fusion work. "I'm Whining For That
Baby of Mine" sounds like an improvisational blow across Henry Cow and Soft Machine fields. "Empate", after a "contemporary" trumpet solo, plows headlong into an oncoming train of progressive fusion. Sary, no slouch on the bass, has coupled himself with a superb and tasteful drummer- the two make a powerhouse rhythm section to propel the music through the many surprising hairpin turns. There are a few blemishes in the finished product. however. The most obvious flaw is "Friends in High Places," Sary's political statement. A mash of tapes extracted from the Iran-Contra hearings, infused with synth and drum machines, the song portrays Sary's anger with the covert deal gone awry, but will severely date the album and will be ignored beyond the initial listen by most listeners. The above-mentioned improv gets a mite tedious, lasting for over six minutes but never developing a groove. "Slowly I Turn... Step By Step.. Inch By Inch" is a mixed bag of aimlessness and purpose. Overall, though, Virtue in Futility has a lot to offer with few flaws. French TV seems destined to languish in obscurity but undeservedly so.


French TV: French TV Ill: The Virtual in Futility (sic) (Pretentious Dinosaur) By Jeff Poole
French TV. The name brings up images of naked people and odd humor doesn't it? A Louisville band - Blues?
Country? Unimaginative rock?

To my complete surprise, Virtue in Futility, French TV's third album, is a treat. With songs like "Hey! Real ExeeutivesJump from the 50th Floor!," a Zappa-like study in ArtRock, and "I'm Whining forThat Funky Baby of Mine", which is spooky Mingus-like jazz, you might get the impression that these guys aren't really serious, but let me tell you, this is some serious stuff!

"Friends in High Places" is reminiscent of that great San Francisco Bay Area band Negativeland. Okay, so there's humor and social criticism, what else do you want from a CD? How about more from the same people? Virtue in Futility is the third in a collection of soon-to-be-four Cds by Mr. French TV, Mike Sary and an revolving assortment of other talented players.

The album was recorded at Mom's studio with Howie Gano engineering. The first French TV album is on vinyl (really) and is soon to be released on CD by Mellow Records of Italy. All of French TV's recordings are available at Ear X-Tacy Records. The fourth (ed. note:actually the fifth) CD was recorded live at the Louisville School for the Blind and this album will soon be available. This album breaks with the French TV chronology and is titled Yoo-Hoo, just like the soft drink.

People of Louisville take note, you should CHECK THIS OUT. This town is full of talented people. I know you're all dying to see French TV in person, but Mike Sary reports there are no scheduled events in the near future. Maybe when the weather warms. Until then, buy their CDs!

It has been a long silence for FTV (since the age of vinyl!). The guiding force behind the band is Mike Sary, and with a little help from some friends he's come up with a new album that is one of the most eclectic and powerful examples of US instrumental music I`ve heard in some time. His love of Euro progressive rock and Magmaesque fusion shows, as the sound is made up of those influences along with a strong dose of Americanism. His ability to compose music and play a mean bass also is evident. In fact, the various diverse tracks show off some good playing by all involved. Yes, there is VIRTUE IN FUTILITY!

We now jump forward 10 years (since FTV#2) to French TV's third album, released on CD in 1994 but actually recorded between June 1987 and October 1990. Obviously, this is more up to date, especially in the mixing and production. The opener is tremendous and is a grand piece of work by all the musicians. This is a varied track which, dare I say, borders on film score material but at other times erupts full tilt into frenzied jazz rock sections. On "Clanghonktweet" we find a delightful change of direction with its mix of jazz rock and Irish jig influences, with wind synth and violin playing a major part. In a way, it's melodic and grows quite quickly with nice touches of piano plus there's the occasional hint of Jethro Tull at their most complex moments. On track 3 we find the first of two tracks that have a Mark Isham ring to them mainly coming from the trumpet and to a lesser degree from the sax, this is a classic. This can also be said for track 5 "Empate" where the "Isham" trumpet again comes into play as the mellowness takes over from the complex opening with the keys and sax entering the fray in the final stages, this is a monster!

Once again there is a change of tack on "Friends In High Places", this time it's in the form of taped radio broadcasts of assorted elected leaders spewing forth and being uneconomical with the truth or to us commoners, they are talking a load of crap, bless their rotten hearts. This is a chilling, poignant track that has well placed drums, percussion and keys emphasising critical points of the dialogue.

We finally wind up with "Slowly I Turn....Step By Step....Inch By Inch...." which has a gentle opening of keys and guitar with eventual heavy time changes and the occasional sax. This is a dark and sombre piece that is ideal for smoky jazz/blues bars although it does develop into some frenzied complex jazz.

Well, this was a nice surprise and a big leap forward in overall sound and composition i.e. not so loose or so seemingly improvised, yes, I enjoyed this one. 80% Highly Recommended.

French TV: Virtue In Futility

French TV is a Louisville-based experimental rock band based around bass player and founder member Mike Sary. They released their debut album, French TV in 1983 which was followed three years later by After A Lengthy Silence (1986). Both of these albums are now deleted. There was a lengthy silence before the band re-appeared on the scene with their 1994 album Virtue In Futility. This contained tracks "recorded sporadically" between July 1987 and October 1990, and effectively re-launched the band's career.

French TV has always been a lose amalgam of musicians, and the Virtue In Futility line-up contains various line-ups depending on the songs. The full credits are Mike on bass, Fenner Casterner on drums, Paul Newett, Reid Jahn and Jon Encifer on keyboards, Dean Zigoria and Artie Bratton on guitars, Gretchen Wilcox on violin, Bruce Krohmer on sax and clarinet, Richard Boomer on trumpet and Howie Gano on keyboards and effects. Since releasing Virtue In Futility, Mike has totally changed the French TV line-up, releasing two albums Intestinal Fortitude (1995) and the live album Yoo-Hoo (1997). The opening track, with its title, "Hey! Real Executives Jump From The 50th Floor!", shows that French TV follow the Canterbury line, at least as far as giving your instrumentals as outlandish a title as you can. The opening is pretty fast and furious too. Dean's guitar takes the lead with the rhythm section hammering along is close persuit. Paul's keyboards are used partly to complete the tapestry, and at others to take over the lead when Dean runs out of fingers.

"Clanghonktweet" showcases most of the band at different time. This is a frenetic composition with solos from most of the seven personnel involved at different times. Gretchen's violin has a strong influence on the song's sound, especially noticeable with her absence from the rest of the album. "The Family That Oonts Together, Groonts Together" just about takes the prize for stupidist title - on this album at least. This is probably the most jazzy track on the album, a tight fusion composition with some mean sax from Bruce.

"I'm Whining For That Funky Baby Of Mine" sees Reid on sax playing a wild and weird Jazz melody a la Jan Garbarek or Jason DuMars. Fenner does something similar on drums with Artie echoing the sax with some whiny guitar. Mike's input, described n the CD cover as "random bass" is pretty much what it says! "Empate" sees that band in full flow again. The jazz influence is still very strong with Richard's mellow laid-back trumpet setting the scene for the rest of the band to paint. That mellowness is struck head-on with an extended outburst of what I can only describe
as progressive jazz-rock. The whole band showing exactly what they are in the studio to go!

"Friends In High Places (or Boy, Do I Hate These Bastards)" is a "duet" between Mike and Howie. Actually this is more a collection of samples - Mike on "tapes" - with Howie adding keyboards and drum machine. This is a cutting stab at the American political structure with samples from various news clips amidst Howie's terse industrial instrumentation.
After the aggressive of "Friends...", the album closes on a high with "Slowly I Turn…Step By Step…Inch By Inch…." Reid has more Garbarek-esque sax with Bob's keyboards and (I think) Mike's bass pedals used to punctuate the intricate jazzy sax line. The track finishes with the tongue-in-cheek Drunken Viking Chorus - a very Bonzo Dog Band way to close an album.

This is an intricate amalgam of jazz with rock and progressive elements. I would label this very much RIO- Mike's politics are not indelibly infused in the music, but the whole album takes what opportunities it can to jab at American culture and social-political naivety. The album seems to revolve around the "guests" on each track - Gretchen on"Clanghonktweet", Reid on "Whining..." and "Slowly...", etc., which leaves me wondering exactly whether there is a band there at all, or whether the whole thing is some fig-leaf for Mike's eclectic and twisted imagination. Someone
once described a French TV album as "like rolling down a mountain road at midnight with your headlights off - its anyone's guess what the next bend holds in store" I would second that motion!

Virtue In Futility is released on the band's own Pretentious Dinosaur label (which pretty much underlines Mike's approach to the music industry!).
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- Frank Blades/ALTERNATE VIEWS

FRENCH TV: " After A Lengthy Silence "
Recent alternative offerings by some of Louisville's really over - the - edge musicians include one of uncommon balance and ingenuity : " After A Lengthy Silence" by French TV, AKA bassist/composer Mike Sary and miscellaneous others.

An instrumental outing that is both structurally steady and melodically courageous, it features the hand of local studio whiz Howie Gano behind the sound board and some sober, clean production. Sary produced the album and credits himself with most of the writing.

The album contains a late - night strain of almost - jazz that is amiable and inspires active listening. The standout is saxophonist Clancy Dixon, whose melodic runs are almost conversational.

FRENCH TV: After a Lengthy Silence (LP)
French TV is that unusual phenomenon, an American progressive band. Their music is inspired by middle and late period King Crimson, though they are far less artsy (read: pretentious) as well as the Canterbury school of progressive rock and fusion, which included Soft Machine, National Health, Hatfield and the North, etc,. but French TV's sound is somehow much more American. They might also be likened to some of the New York artists groups such as Jules Baptiste's Red Decade or Virgil Moorefield from his EP Transformation, who write and perform quirky, hard-hitting post-modern, progressive, avant jazz rock fusion. French TV's compositions are excellent, the arrangements inventive, and the playing tight, but not slick; thus a sense of spontaneity and vitality remains. Melodies tend to be angular and slightly pungent, and the rhythms are punchy and driving. When the various members take solos, they are well thought out and smartly executed. No flashy, empty displays or histrionics here, just solid music making. French TV is one hot band. (Y Records)
--------Dean Suzuki/OPTION

FRENCH TV: After a Lengthy Silence

An instrumental collection of art-jazz-rock that alternates between periods of fusion and reflection. There are four short and two long workouts which are not vibrantly original but very enjoyable nonetheless. The main reference points are Van der Graaf Generator, Brand X, David Sancious and Tone, Gentle Giant, and mid-period Return to Forever ( "Where Have I Known You Before" and "Romantic Warrior"). The production of the bass, guitar, drums, sax, and keyboards is very punchy and full-bodied, much like the Return to Forever albums. The playing is top- notch, and the music is really good. I'm a fool for this type of stuff and French TV. offers a wonderful program, despite being somewhat of a rerun. (Y-Records, Box 58040, Louisville, KY 40258) -------- -------Tom Grove/OPTION

French TV - After A Lengthy Silence
The second album from this Louisville, KY band After A lengthy Silence" was originally recorded in l987, and has finally been re-released on CD. French TV play a somewhat eclectic music which draws from a variety of proressive genres. On "After A Lengthy Silence", their sound is something of an instrumental fusion, incorporating some complex ensemble parts which at times betray a calculated Zappa influence. The music alternates between more improvisational sections, featuring some nice jazzy guitar and woodwind soloing over jerky odd-meter ostinatos, and some tighter, more intricate passages. A lot of ideas are packed into each of these six tunes, which often change abruptly from one theme to the next. This doesn't always make for the strongest thematic continuity and development, but it does give listeners a wealth of meaty prog sounds to feast their ears upon. The CD reissue contains a cover of Nektar's "A Tab in the Ocean" as a nice fifteen minute bonus track, and the package is rounded out as usual with French TV's typical humorous song titles and liner notes. Not an exceptional album, but still a solid chunk of contemporary American prog that definitely deserves this reissue.
------- RW/ EXPOSE

ProgressiveWorld Reviews: FRENCH TV [1ST] Reviewed by: Stephanie Sollow, March 2001

Unlike their most recent album The Violence Of Amateurs, French TV's self-titled debut is a far less quirky affair and more like jazz-fusion. While spacey, brassy keys open the album on "The Visit Revisited" - defying convention, this track actually comes first rather than last -- it is chunky bass rhythms, scattershot keys, and eddying guitars that are featured on "Happy Armies Fight In Their Sleep" -- proving that French TV's own brand of humour is evident from the get go. Despite the dark humour of the title, the whole piece is upbeat and bright, where those bass rhythms are very martial.

A playful trumpet features heavily in "Under Heaven There Is Great Disorder (And The Situation Is Excellent)," while guitarist Artie Bratton picks out a frenetic solo. This song hints at the big band like jump of "The Secret Life of Walter Riddle" (Violence). "The Artist's House" seems almost conventional in comparison, edging closer to smooth jazz versus the fusion of the rest of the material.

Rippling keys open "Spill," while sparse bass thrums in the background. Slowly rising to the top, bass takes the lead, before percussion and keys swell back to the surface ... those rippling keys become pulsating, like the sound effects for a UFO in a 50's sci-fi flick. Each instrument fades in and out of the mix, leaving one or the other in the lead ... before the tempo picks up to a rockier rhythm, punctuated by extremely shrill keyboards -- so high pitched, don't be surprised if your furry best friend and his doggy pals at stand attention. The track gets warmer when keyboardist Stephen Roberts switches to the Fender Rhodes.

"Dreams Of Peace" is another uncharacteristic, or seemingly uncharacteristic, track from the band, where the sound is more instrumental Supersister, being mainly Roberts' Rhodes and drums. Lively at the outset, there is section that truly becomes dreamy, where spacey synths create a peaceful eddy, before bass (which isolated sounded very much like an early Genesis riff) and percussion pick the pace up. "No Charge (A Free Improv)" sounds very much the contrary as the band are so in sync that you can't help but think this composed. Cohesive and tight for the most part, there are only a few sections where things seem a little unraveled - and characteristic French TV.

King Crimson/ELP-like are parts of "Earth, I Wait," which features some harsh, angular piano along with lyrical phrases. There are parts where Roberts verily attacks his keyboards, somewhat a la Emerson. Arty and avant-garde at the same time, this might be described as the classical composer losing his mind. And yet, it also speaks very much with the voice of a violent earth -- volcanoes erupting, earthquakes shaking the crust, wildfires raging through dense forests, pummeling winds ripping structures apart. It is chaotic to be sure ... and yet, a tour de force for Roberts, the soundpainting done up in angry reds, oranges and sinister blacks.

"The Visit" itself is energetic, the use of vibes making me think of Ed Macan - where else are you going to find vibes in prog rock anyway other than Macan (and French TV)? Sary's bass here is quite funky ... deep boomy ... as the two play off each other in a fevered duel. The calming piano which closes the album is in quite a contrast, not only to the rest of the track that precedes it, but also to anything else on the album, being the closest to classical than anything Roberts does on here.

First released in a limited edition of 500 vinyl copies in 1984, this album features Artie Bratton on acoustic and electric guitar, Stephen Roberts (who later left and formed ZNR Records) on an assortment of keyboards, Fenner Castner on drums and percussion, and mainstay Mike Sary on bass. Sary wrote or co-wrote five of the album's 9 tracks, as did Roberts (mathematicians will note this means that they co-wrote one track together, but it doesn't tell you that Bratton and Castner were co-writers on it, too.). Recently re-released on CD, new fans now have an opportunity to hear where it all began nearly 17 years ago.

More about French TV:

Track Listing: The Visit Revisited (0:59) / Happy Armies Fight In Their Sleep (3:48) / Under Heaven There Is Great
Disorder (And The Situation Is Excellent) (3:31) / The Artist's House (3:21) / Spill (10:44) / Dreams Of Peace (4:13) / No
Charge (5:12) / Earth, I Wait (7:47) / The Visit (5:52)

French TV 1984 / 2000- French TV 1*****1/2 (48 min, ‘Pretentious Dinosaur”)
Recorded: August 1983 - March 1984 at Sound-On-Sound Studios, Louisville, KY. Engineered and mixed by Howell
Hunt Gano. Remixed and remastered by Mark Miceli at Mark Miceli Productions, Louisville, KY.

Prologue: French TV, in my view, is the best US band in the 1990s (please draw your attention to variegated “Top” sections on ProgressoR). I have received the four last French TV’s CDs, released on the band’s own Pretentious Dinosaur” label, from the band’s founder and main mastermind Mike Say. It was a very unexpected gift, one of the most wonderful ‘musical’ gifts I’ve ever received, though. Why? To know please check out Top-l0 albums of 1999 and read my past reviews of FTV’s albums, beginning with: 1999.html or http://w 1999.html (I think, 1984 was one of the ‘darkest progressive’ years in the history of the genre. Well, this was also a year of the
raising of Neo-Progressive with Marillion at the head of it, but even Rush’s ‘Grace Under Pressure” of the same year is nothing other that, a typical Neo album, isn’t it? Otherwise it would had the same (truly) underground status, as well as all (the truly) profound Progressive works of the “dark decade”, including the French TV debut album.

The album: It’s a real pleasure to listen to such an ‘adventurous music as presented on “French TV 1” and know that actually (the trite) Progressive Rock was alive and well always since Its Birth in 1967 (and none other than Pink Floyd’s “The Piper At the Gates of Dawn” album was progressive’s very first ‘child’) and until now. The album contains nine excellent instrumentals, full of original, truly innovative musical ideas. I hear that compositionally all these pieces are real masterpieces, but not all of them are of the same performing quality, and that’s what I can’t understand fully. As mentioned in the booklet, all tracks were recorded (performed!) during a half of the year. But if two thirds of them show simply a wonderful performing maturity of these actually young at that time musicians, a few others - both the opening tracks, for example, - have some episodes played typically for the beginners. Fortunately, there are too few such moments on the album on the whole to make worse a favourable overall impression of it (maybe, just the connoisseurs-purists have a different opinion), Under Heaven There is Great Disorder, being undoubtedly one of the best tracks here with its brilliant arrangements in general and killing sax solos in particular, is also a prototype of the principal stylistic ‘base’ of the music of French TV in the 1990s.

Summary: Once again I am now going to adduce my counter-argument to those reviewers who ‘build’ their materials on comparisons even when there is no place for them. I find the using of comparisons in descriptions of the music of such innovative bands like French TV just unprofessional. The audience of the Big Names (and French TV is one of them), playing an extremely complex and intricate music (as RIO and the likes, for example) is too experienced to need some comparisons, especially doubtful. The reviews of serious works of the genre, based mostly on
comparisons without at least more or less decent depicting of the main musical ttharaeteristics, ‘originally assigned for the profound Prog-heads, being written as if for the beginners (dilettantes), look amateurish themselves. Any not obvious influences are not opposed to originality at all. God only knows where are the roots of some specific music, of music in general, and of all things. And French TV’s music is not influenced by Zappa or any other artist, though, as well as any other band, FTV are probably inspired by some musical works. But anyway, as a true Big Name, FTV
has its own distinct originality, and we know that originality is the main trump of the true artist of any kind of Art.

--------VM. March 8,2001/ PROGRESSOR

FRENCH TV - FRENCH TV (1984/2000, 45:30, Pretentious Dinosaur Records French TV1)
Memory is a strange neurological device. Since I have received this CD reissue, I’m trying to remember where I first heard of the name French TV. It must have been around 1986 or 1987 and it was a review about French TV” the first musical baby of this American band. I know it was in an American progressive rock magazine. I can remember the page and even the typeface used, but I cannot remember the name of the magazine, regardless how hard I try. Fact is that this magazine introduced me to a lot of American progressive rock bands.Being familiar with at least 4 cds of this band, I should have been able to write down a review of their first album easily and quickly, but it took me more time than I imagined. On their self-titled debut the band showcase their love for music with an avant-gardistic and unusual approach. Particularly, on their debut I do hear resemblance to Happy The Man, a band I personally like very much for their surprising instrumentation and use of funny but strange names for their musical creations. French TV do the same thing - what to think of names like; “Happy Armies Fight in their Sleep or “Under Heaven there is Great Disorder (And the Situation is Excellent)”. Don’t expect the more traditional progressive patterns you might find in contemporary progrock; don’t expect anything of that. French TV invade your ears and mind with long-spun instrumentation with guitars and keyboards mainly contributing to the alienating and eerie atmospheres, something they continue on the other French TV albums. This doesn’t mean that their music is very complex, but it has unpredicted patterns and riffs. Their music definitely needs more than one quick listen before you start appreciating the atonal and asymmetric music, with even somewhat dissonant interludes. It definitely demands more from the listener.

As a personal lover of unconventional progressive rock, I wonder whether French TV is a part of the American Rock In Opposition movement, or RIO for short. Bands like U-Totem, 5 UU’s or Rascal Reporters were/are part of that movement that didn’t receive recognition from all progsters. There was some debate about this movement being progrock or not. Personally I think that Happy The Man, obviously a great influence in the music by French TV, was part of that movement, or even a forerunner for that style. Anyway, if you are a more adventurous progrock lover or a great admirer of Happy The Man then try French TV. Their debut is a good start, and don’t forget to try the other albums by French TV.
***1/2 (Stephen)-- iO PAGES [NETHERLANDS]

While the name implies an affínity for things French, the music of FTV itself is far more in tune with the work of some of the 70's Anglo progressives like H. Cow, Soft Machine and National Health. As these might indicate, a mutated hybrid of jazz rock is their general inclination and some excellent playing does justice to their roots. The production is sophisticated and compositions impressive making it overall a fine record sure to please fusion fans.
------------------ EUROCK

French TV — “French TV” (Pretentious Dinosaur, 2001 CD)
It's great to see the back catalogue of French TV becoming available in the last few years. With the CD release of After a Length Silence in 1999, Mike Sary's seminally overlooked band ot rock, jazz, syncopation and absurdity is now expanding its cult audience due in a large part to the band’s recent studio efforts since Live Yoo-Hoo. Listening to the group's first release, it’s much easier to view the course traveled from the present. But the quartet’s musical personality is more developed than I had previously thought with outstanding tracks such as ‘Under Heaven There is Great Disorder”. Unlike other web reviewers, I see this album as a strong first release with divergent influences apparent from the outset. This primarily has to do with the strengths of the contrasting composers as well as the performers themselves. For example, keyboardist Steve Robert’s songs such as “Happy Armies Fight in their Sleep” and “The Artist’s House” are characterized by almost march-oriented themes. Sary's own early compositions such as “The Visit” (the album’s closing piece) indicate his grasp as arranger who is not only examining the instrumentation but also imagining how variations on original themes can become stronger than the original idea. Although the album may be a bit dated, the work isn’t crippled by the low budget production value. Overall the album is an excellent beginning for a group that is only now coming into its own.
----------------------— Jeff Melton/EXPOSE

FRENCH TV’ French TV (Lost Records)
This is a group which. to my knowledge has never appeared live. This is unsurprising, the four members work in the progressive rock-Jazz fusion tradition which (Genesis and Pat Metheny aside) has fallen on dark days in terms of popularity.

Keyboardist Steve Roberts worked with Stutter for some years, and drummer Fenner Castner, from a musically active family, is also with the New Twist. Bassist Mike Sary and guitarist Artie Bratton complete the group.Bratton and Cashier are pretty young, and this record has a lot of straight-ahead energy and risk-taking not often found in progressive music. Among the all- instrumental selections, the most notable are ‘Dream of Peace” and Earth, I Wait” — the latter with a fine cello solo by Jon Weiner. Jeff Jones, also a former member of Stutter, appears on the
first side with a distinctive sax solo.

C.W. Vrtacek in OP, the now-defunct maga­tine of independent-label music (yes, Louisville records are mentioned i nnational publications now and then), remarked that French TV might be better off with one or two more members. This observation bears weight; a percussionist might prove to be the thing to fill out the rather spare arrangements, supplementing the rhythmic diversity of the record. Still, as a contribution to the tradition typified by the Soft Machine, Brand X, and Miles Davis in his electric heyday, it’s better than anything produced in Louisville before now.
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FRENCH TV (Lost Records)
Basically the music of French TV is what was (and still is) referred to as progressive rock” for lack of a better term. Odd time signatures. abrupt tempo and mood shifts, lots of chops—conjures up comparisons with Brand X, early Weather Report, some of Gentle Giant, and lots of Happy the Man. My main complaint with this album is the soloing. To be sure, there’s some good compositions here, most notably ones by keyboardist Steve Roberts. "Dreams of Peace” and ‘Artist’s House” in particular are fine little tunes, but on a tune like "Earth, I Wait", which jolts along with a stuttering Spanish feel, the synth solo uses a voicing that I think we’ve all heard more than once, especial­ly in thi smusic. Given the percussive feel of the tune, I’d have preferred an acoustic piano, even an out-of-tune one, but then you know I'm a bit off.

15-year old guitarist Artie Bratton is certainly a techno-whiz kid, but. unfortunately, his soloing is still very much influenced by rock-jazzers like Alan Holdsworth and Mr Metheny. In fact, the best solos come from outside the group in the form of Jeff Jones on sax and Jon Weiner on cello. French TV are a tight, convincing band with good material, but for my money, I'd like to see ‘em expand and bring in another person or two.
---------— C.W. Vrtacek/OPTION MAGAZINE

FRENCH TV (self-titled)
French TV are an American band who originate from Louisville, Kentucky and this, their first album, was originally released as a limited, numbered edition of 500 vinyl LPs in May 1984. This was a collaboration between Stephen Roberts and Mike Sary. This eventually was remixed and remastered in March - April 1999.

This music is a fusion of jazz rock and anything else you care to name. They have been mentioned as being influenced by the likes of Zappa, Gentle Giant and for instance the Canterbury scene which I can certainly hear, especially on track 3, "Under Heaven There Is Great Discord". This has a bass intro then the sax jumps in and God does this bring back memories of the 70's as I get visions of bands such as Solution, Alquin, Gentle Giant and Caravan. I have to admit though, it does go over the top a bit but does not spoil the overall enjoyment. The Caravan sound is also prevalent on "Spill" which has a sparse bass intro and this time spacey keys with the odd touch of percussion. This eventually develops into full blooded melodic jazz rock. I haven't heard anything as good as this in this category for years and yeah, I suppose it does remind me of when Caravan were experimenting in their early days of "In The Land Of The Grey And Pink" and "Waterloo Lily", although Caravan never strayed far from the melody or structure. The sparseness and less frenzied approach is again carried forward on "Dreams Of Peace" till the tempo picks up for the outro.

There are diverse styles here as well, for example the opener, "The Visit Revisited", which is a short keyboard recital and even more so on track 4, "The Artist's House" which has a dreamlike quality about it and could go down well as a film score track.

Track 7, as the sub title "A Free Improv" implies, is an improvised number but surprisingly a tune does just about carry through. The album closes with "The Visit" which has an eerie, atmospheric opening then a frenzied guitar jumps in and almost has an Eastern hint to it. This at times is a bit loose and repetitive in construction but is saved by a tasteful piano on the outro.

So, there you have it, the debut album by French TV. Not surprisingly, considering the age of this album, it sounds dated although it does have a warm feel about it with many good moments. When it sticks to a structure it is extremely enjoyable and brought back many happy memories of when my hair was longer and the radio played important music. You may find this a bit hard to get into although for a debut album it's not at all bad, 65%