Derrière le Rideau

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Imago's popularity in the mid- to late '70s was solely confined to France. Derrière le Rideau, their third LP, is as good an illustration why as any -- and Musea's CD reissue probably won't change much about the perception that this was a French group for the French. Despite being reissued on a progressive rock label, Derrière le Rideau is a pop album, rather typical of the French "intelligent pop/rock" scene of the '70s -- think along the lines of Alain Souchon, a lighter Jacques Higelin, or Bernard Lavilliers without the Latin flavor. Some songs feature clever arrangements (which doesn't mean they are "complex"), and Bernard Benguigui's flute is slightly reminiscent of Ian Anderson's melodies, but that's as "progressive" as things get here. On the other hand, the songwriting had a certain freshness back then, which has aged rather well into a satirical form of vintage French rock, thanks mostly to iconoclastic lyrics. "J'Aimerais Bien Gagner le Hit-Parade" makes an ironic statement about hit singers, while "Le Baba Débile et le Vampire Dément" tells the story of a parasite hippie crashing on the sofa of a soft-tempered vampire. Some songs have a nice (but dated) summer feel, "Dernier Voyage" immediately evoking Michel Fugain. But for each memorable song, there is a bland number. And the French-deaf listener will not draw much from the average vocals or the competent but lackluster instrumental performance. Derrière le Rideau was pleasant enough back in 1978, but it is somewhat resistant to further listening today.

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