Minimum Vital

Au Cercle de Pierre

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    8
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Recorded on October 4, 1997, this concert offers a nice balance between the group's medieval beginnings and the livelier material introduced on Esprit d'Amor, its then-current album. The lineup features male and female vocalists (Jean-Baptiste Ferracci and Sonia Nedelec), the rhythm section of Eric Rebeyrol and Charly Berna, and, of course, brothers Jean-Luc and Thierry Payssan manning all guitars and keyboards. The singers are in great shape (great enough to suggest they might have overdubbed a few passages). Of the newer material, "Zapata 1" and "Esprit d'Amor" stand out as particularly cheery. The latter sounds even more like Magma on a sunny day than on the studio recording. Highlights among the older selections are "Song à Cinq" and the ten-minute suite "Ronde," the latter remaining one of Minimum Vital's strongest (and most Malicorne-esque) compositions. Rounding up the 60-minute live set is a previously unreleased studio track, "Le Dernier Appel de la Guerre," a fine but hardly impressive track. The CD also includes a CD-ROM portion with written material and four videos. These are actually excerpts of other songs performed at the same concert, namely "Coste," "L'Invitation," "Nouvelle Alliance," and "Saltarello" -- the latter would get its first studio release on Atlas, five years later. Small and frustratingly short (between 60 and 90 seconds each), they are worth watching once, but that's all. Newcomers and other interested parties in Minimum Vital's brand of medieval progressive rock with jazz-rock leanings in an imaginary tongue would be well advised to start their exploration here. As for fans of the group, Au Cercle de Pierre is a key live document.

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