French-Canadian progressive outfit Maneige hit the mark with their second studio effort, “Les Porches”.  An astounding amalgamation of classical influence and contemporary trends, this release eschews the avant-garde leanings of their debut and masterfully weaves a tapestry of equal parts classical (check out the twenty minute opener, “Les Porches de Notre-Dame”), jazz, and progressive rock.

Powered by the pastoral flute and searing saxophone of Alain Bergeron, and the multi-instrumental prowess of Jerome Langlois, “Les Porches” succeeds in finding balance between listener-accessible and musically challenging, relentlessly pushing the sonic boundaries of progressive rock while setting the benchmark for Canadian musical creativity.

While they had other strong releases, this was to be Maneige’s magnum opus.  Langlois retreated from the band following this release due to creative differences, leaving Bergeron to steer the ship into shorter, tighter jazz fusion territory.

While it’s taken much effort and many listens to truly appreciate, I’ve found this record very enjoyable.  Since my tastes aren’t Classically inclined, I have to admit the genius took a while to sink into my sonic palette.  I’ve known the third song on the album, “Les Aventuras de Saxinette et Clarophone” was a favorite of mine, but the entirety is a gem worth discovering for those with open ears and an adventurous spirit.

“Les Porches” is a high-water mark in the progressive rock canon and French-Canadian progressive rock.  Dismissed by some as over-indulgent and tiresome, I find this album to be a challenging and rewarding listen.   ++++- out of +++++

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