Friday, November 10, 2006

Morse Code - "Procréation" {Canada} [1976] (Prog Rock)

This Quebecois band has three phases. First came the psych period under which they were known as MORSE CODE TRANSMISSION and made two psych albums in 71 & 72 sung in English. Highly collectible but somewhat out of the scope of this site. The second phase saw their names shortened and with the Quebec prog explosion under way decided to switch to French singing. The three albums that followed are real gems of progressive music oscillating between GENESIS and BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST but the French texts (sometimes highly impressive) gave them a sound of their own. Of those three albums, 'Procreation" is the better one but badly represented in the compilation - the only CD release so far. They disbanded, as the disco wave became a Tsunami in La Belle Province only to reform in 83 to make a best-forgotten English-sung album and again in 95 for a much better one again in French.

MORSE CODE is really recommended to fans of symphonic rock but the albums are somewhat hard to find (but not too difficult either) in vinyl. Plans are to release the three classic albums in the not-too-distant future.

Morse Code is by and large the main progressive rock act to have grown on French-Canadian soil. While more locally popular groups like Harmonium and Octobre were inspired by specific prog elements while maintaining strong ties with folk and rock, Morse Code embraced the whole sound of the style. Where other bands like Pollen and Etcetera were only able to record one album, this group released three LPs in the mid-'70s that can be considered classic international prog rock items, essential to any serious fan's collection.

Main composer, vocalist, and keyboardist Christian Simard, guitarist/flutist Daniel Lemay, bassist Michel Vallée, and drummer Raymond Roy met in their teens. They began their career playing covers at parties, but soon were recruited by pop singers like Pierre Lalonde and Donald Lautrec to back them on stage and in the studio. Through this "day job," they acquired a commanding level of experience and chops. They formed Morse Code, started to write their own material, and released Morse Code Transmission in 1971. This and its follow-up, Morse Code Transmission II (1972), are English-only affairs and emulate the sound of late-'60s psychedelic rock groups like Iron Butterfly. Both LPs were met with indifference by the public and critics, and the group retreated to its accompaniment duties, working with mainstream pop singer Jacques Salvail among others.

Meanwhile, British progressive rock groups like King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes, and most of all Genesis, were provoking quite a stir in the province of Quebec. Christian Simard began to write new material strongly influenced by these artists. Preliminary shows in 1974 attracted the attention of Capitol Records and a contract was signed. In 1975 the group released La Marche des Hommes, which quickly became Quebec prog album. The opening title track summed up the ambition and musicianship of the international groups and the lyrics talked of universal subjects instead of the more self-centered output of local folk and rock artists. Both the local and international press greeted this album more warmly. Procréation, released in 1976, consolidated the group's reputation, thanks mostly to Simard's epic title suite, simply the best prog rock piece of music written by a Quebecer.

For the 1977 Je Suis le Temps, Capitol sent the group to London to record with Eddie Offord, the engineer responsible for Yes and ELP's classic albums. For a moment, Morse Code believed they had a chance to break out on the international market, what they weren't counting on was prog rock's brutal crash in the late '70s. Dropped by its record company, the group disbanded. It
re-formed in 1983 with the same lineup for a tentative comeback as an intelligent pop group with the LP Code Breaker, but this attempt failed rather miserably. In the early '90s, Capitol issued a CD compilation of the three French albums, allowing a new generation of Quebecers to discover a national prog treasure. Capitalizing on the good sales of the CD, the group recorded a new album, 1995's D'Un Autre Monde, and scored a minor campus radio hit with "Le Fils du Grand Dragon," but plans to put a tour together failed and Morse Code disappeared once again. Review by François Couture (AMG)

Procréation: After the critical success harvested by La Marche des Hommes, Morse Code kept the same team of collaborators to record the follow-up, Procréation, truly a masterpiece of Quebec progressive rock. One exception: lyricist Chantal Dussault was replaced by Jean Robitaille. The previous album was already an impressive opus; Procréation added ambition, grandiose, and managed to be exempt of any weak tracks. Side one begins with "Précréation," an instrumental piece hinting at the themes developed onside two. "Qu'est-Ce T'es V'nu Faire Ici" (What Are You Doing Here?) is the closest the group gets to the sound of La Marche des Hommes: complex, dark, and witty. "Des Hauts et des Ha!" illustrates Robitaille's propensity for plays on words. For a lighter song, it is very well done, reconciling humor and prog rock without resorting to Frank Zappa-like comedy rock. "De Tous les Pays du Monde" (Of All the Countries in the World) is the only occurrence where Morse Code turned their interest to the rise of Quebec nationalism, but true to the group's universal ideals, Donald Lautrec and Robitaille wrote lyrics that could apply to any country, with lines like "You showed me my first sun/Drew my first rainbow" having the power to resonate in anyone's heart. Side two contains the 26-minute suite "Procréation," keyboardist Christian Simard's answer to Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Karn Evil 9." In three movements, the piece constitutes the most impressive, monumental chunk of prog rock music recorded by a Quebec group. Its interlocking themes, alternating moods, and grandiose arrangements (slightly spilling over pomposity) are all memorable. Lyrics revolve around the procreation cycle and how children become parents. It is a shame that this album has not been reissued on CD, but that also makes it a prized collector's item. Review by François Couture (AMG)

1. Precréation (5:05)
2. Qu'est-Ce T'Es V'nu Faire (4:45)
3. Nuage (4:01)
4. L' Eau Tonne (3:54)
5. Des Hauts et des Ha! (10:52)
6. Sommeil (5:07)
7. Procréation (47:54)

- Christian Simard: Keyboards, Vocals
- Daniel Lemay: Guitars, flute and vocals
- Raymond Roy: Drums, Percussion
- Michel Vallee: Bass, Vocals (Background)

2. Qu'est-Ce T'Es V'nu Faire ...

Link for download "Morse Code - 1976 - Procréation" in comments ...


isabelbc said...

Link for download:

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone!

Well, let's be honest : this isn't the greatest of all times : vocals are mediocre, the compositions are rather common and the musicians all lack on invention/ideas. No hard feelings, we can't allways be demanding, right?


Mister Niles said...

I though this was pretty much great. Despite wht the last poster said, if you get right down to it even the big prog acts such as Yes had few original ideas. I alway wondered why it's called pregressive when it takes much of it's substance from baroque forms. don't get me wrong, I love prog.
Check this out. Good stuff, well played and with bursts of intensity and moments of beauty. I always encourage people to listen again later if they don't love something at first that they though they might. Sometimes you have to be in the right mood.

Anonymous said...

Come on Mister Nile,

Sorry to insist on this but sometimes, some albums, some bands are only common ones : neither bad nor good, JUST common compositions with a very usual sound, we all can acknowledge of this fact. Moods have nothing to do about it. Morse Code is just above average, that's it.


Anonymous said...

Anyone know why the version of Qu'est-ce que t'es v'nu faire in the download is 32:58 while it is listed at, and the sample is, under five minutes?

Anonymous said...

I believe their albums from 1971 and 1972 are better.
Do you think you could post them ?

Anonymous said...

I have Morse Code Transmission's first album; Procreation, Je Suis Les Temps and Code Breaker. My favourite would definately be the first album. Worth the price of admission just for the song "O Lord"
Thanks for the post. Saves me the vinyl transfer.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so maybe if you absolutely _need_ your prog to have reached mainstream mass acceptance, then Morse Code is not for you. "Procreation" was a grower, but you can't beat "La Marche des Hommes". And the French trilogy of albums is now available on CD (see ). Morse Code were easily accessible (and grand) on "La Marche des Hommes". "Procreation" sees them as a little less accessible... but face it, they're far, FARRRR from the mediocrity of, say, perhaps Eloy's "Dawn" album? (Though "Ocean" is really nice... you know what I mean). Definitely better than "Love Beach" or "Tormato", I'd say.

Anonymous said...

there's an eeeor: track 6 shoud be "De Tout Les Pays du Monde".

"Sommeil" is from another album...

Anonymous said...

the time error is due to the variable baud rate (kbps), the winamp program calculates the time of each song from that number, which is variable.

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