Listening to records by French Canadian artists from the late seventies-early eighties period like Georges Thurston (also known as Boule Noire), Dwight Druick or Diane Tell, you kind of wonder what was really happening during that time.
Good music was all around and it’s nearly all forgotten these days. You might have heard the name Gilles Rivard on that dope AOR Mix by Brazilian expert Ed Motta (for Wax Poetics) that was released at the start of last year. Well that track, « Je reviens », also opens a very unusual album, by the Quebec singer-songwriter, « En couleurs », that sits somewhere between the French answer to Steely Dan and a warm samba-boogie-funk hybrid.
Call it cheesy soft-rock all you want, a great groove is a great groove. Who would have thought some kind of modern soul aesthetic was shaping in the French speaking Quebec repertoire? Maybe not every song on « Tanger » by Dwight Druick or the very popular « En flèche » by Diane Tell (both released in 1980) was astonishing, but « En couleurs » by Gilles Rivard is the kind of obscure classic that deserves the same kind of praise West Coast favorite Ned Doheny is getting right now. Behind the mellow vibes, « Je reviens » keeps reminding you that musicianship was at its peak with players such has guitarist Jean-Marie Benoît or synth composer Daniel Barbe (who also put out the cosmic-disco influenced « Destination» in 1979). Released just before new wave FM pop would invade the charts during the mid-eighties, « En couleurs » feels like a major statement from an artist who would vanish from the Quebec music scene a few years later.
What really strikes me here is that underneath the sophisticated arrangements of most songs shines a brazilian-jazz smoothness. For instance, « Partir » talks about flying to Rio and there’s even a track called « Ça va, ça va Brazilia ». Was Gilles Rivard on some kind of path close to Jorge Ben or Marcos Valle Brazilian funk makeover on « En couleurs »? The record is still hard to find these days at your favorite garage sale or second hand record shop, but some cuts included here will need a well deserved reissue at some point.