(Guerssen is fast becoming the Best European reissue label for all things Psych', rare Beat and Freakbeat, occasional Garage-rock, lost Acid-Folk, Turkish Delights and the best in Cosmic Prog'... so even though this French cult Progressive album already saw a couple previous reissues, they've been deleted for some time, quite hard to find and none were as accomplished as this new one from this Spanish label; since I had something to do with the liners of that deluxe gatefold reissue on fine 180grm vinyl, I thought I might give it a plug on Bedazzled by reproducing my writing here... and hope it'll incite you to purchase that revaluated milestone of 70's French Underground rock : )
Everybody knows where now lies the Sahara desert, once was the garden of Eden. So it should come as no surprise that from Eden Rose comes Sandrose, one of the best French post-Psych Progressive bands, and simply one of the Best progressive Pop bands ever ...Brewed in and born from the ashes of Le Système Crapoutchik (and a host of other incestuous bands and backing bands, a real hard to track mish-mash of old Rock Twist and later Beat groups, as is usually the case on the French scene! ), it was the brainchild of French guitar wiz', Jean-Pierre Alarcen, the local genius of his time : the late sixties in France. Eden Rose started with three members out of Les Gardians (sic.) : Henri Garella on keyboards, Christian Clairefond on bass and Henry Castello on drums, who went on tour opening and backing YeYe idol Claude François in 1965 (... Les Gardians would also open the show and back other popular singers like Hervé Vilard and Michèle Torr). After the recording of four singles, the trio joined ranks with the orchestra backing popular MC of the time, Albert Raisner, on his cult Yeye TV program "Âge Tendre et Tête de Bois". While in Massilia, the southern French city they originated from, they'd play with dance orchestra Les Golden... until the Art Director of Katema records (a tiny label run by an appliances industrial who was a great music lover! ) advised them to change their name with the times. Drummer Henry Castello came up with the name : Eden Rose. When Eden Rose split after a criss-crossing tour of France ending at a club in the city of Oran (Algeria ) - following the recording of their cult album : "On the Way to Eden" (1970 on Katema, distr. Sonopresse ) which went nowhere - and drummer Henry Castello decided to join Jacques Dutronc's backing band on tour... remaining bassist Christian Clairefond and organist Henri Garella came in contact with another drummer, Michel Jullien, also from Massilia. Thru the Dutronc connection, they had already met notorious guitarist Jean Pierre Alarcen who also contributed in the recording of their LP. Alarcen when not backing Dutronc had previously recorded with Le Système Crapoutchick - the name of Dutronc's backing band sans Dutronc - two Eps, a single and an LP (« Aussi loin que je me souvienne »; 1969 on Flamophone ). With Jean-Pierre Alarcen in toe, they decided to hire a young girl singer of Polish origins by the name of Rose Podwojny (... a likely first name! ) and rename themselves : Sandrose. Flashback to 1966, Alarcen had cofounded les Mods with Alain Legovic (future huge M.O.R. singer of the mid 1970's and 1980's going by the name "Alain Chamfort", who was also a Claude François protegee... and was once part of Nicolas Nils' backing band Les Murators which famously covered the Seeds!,). Backing around the same time Jacques Dutronc along with Legovic, was Michel Palay and Gérard Kawczinsky (whose unpronouncable Polish name gave way to "Krapoutchick" and "Crapou" which sobriquet Dutronc liked to fool around with, and which of course gave the name to "Le Système Crapoutchick"... ) with whom Alarcen and Legovic would create Le Système. After the Eden Rose project failed, the members of that group, led by guitar virtuoso Jean-Pierre Alarcen opted for a new approach by adding a girl singer, following the mode of then current Progressive rock like Curved Air in the UK, Michaelangelo, Ill Wind, Ultimate Spinach, Fantasy and countless others in the States where the lead came from, Reign Ghost in Canada, Earth and Fire in Holland, Savage Rose in Denmark, and Circus 2000 in Italy... In fact they even sound like Circus 2000 on several songs ("Vision", "Summer is Yonder", "Underground Session" ) with Rose Podwojny's witchy quality in her voice and the dark features of the music itself!
Struck by the vocal timbre of Rose on a demo by singer-songwriter William Sheller (writer and arranger songs for French American transplants' pop band, "Les Irrésistibles", as well as several film soundtracks of note like "Erotissimo"... ), Alarcen brought her to the band. They started rehearsing and quickly built a repertoire made mostly of Alarcen's writings. Influenced by both Classical symphonic music and Rock like a million others at the time (after all, it was the zeitgeist of that era, breaking new boundaries! ), he tried to combine both styles in a number of new compositions which came out quite successfully on several tracks from Sandrose's album. On their sole release (save for a single made of tracks lifted from the album, also on Polydor in 1972 ... ), they play proto-progressive rock of the mellow, melancholic kind with lengthy instrumental passages made of Alarcen's sharp guitar bursts into a continuous float of mellotron. While Rose Podwojny's powerful and clear vocal chords translate a maturity and sensitivity far exceeding her young age and new experience in the field, to the point ot giving you chills and thrills on tracks like the aforementionned "Vision" and "Never Good At Saying Goodbye" (you'd never guess English was a second language! ). For Progressive ears, the instrumental passage of the 11 minute "Underground Session" is the "pièce de résistance" of the set, displaying one of the all time great intrumental Rock tracks, a sort of "Canterbury scene" Jazz, the likes of Canterbury bands Egg or Caravan especially . It may be seen as Alarcen's masterpiece. As for singin' in English on an otherwise purely out of the French scene project, he explained then: "The spirit of our music is closer to the Anglo-Saxon spirit, it is perfectly normal that we have the words in that language”.
Sandrose's album (released on Polydor in April 1972) took only one week to record, and it now stands as one of the most important Pop album to come out of France, a classic in the post-Psych Progressive rock department. Also, is now regarded as one of the best ten Progressive rock albums of all time.
Alas, Sandrose would soon split after only one year and a few gigs performed in Paris, mostly at the legendary "Gibus" club (every major band of the 1970s and 1980's played there, from the MC5 to the Clash and everybody in between, like Dr. Feelgood, Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, the Troggs... you name it! ); reportedly because of personal and musical differences in the band... a sadly usual pattern in French bands who come off as inconsistent in the long run. After a stint in the musical "Hair", Jean-Pierre Alarcen went on to feature on another group venture : "Nova", before joining the ranks of French progressive Jazz band, Tartempion in 1973, at which date he became also the guitarist of 70's French anarchist singer François Béranger until 1978 ("Le Monde Bouge" (1974), "L’Alternative" (1975), "En Public" (1977) and "Participe Présent" (1978). In the meantime, he puts out his first solo album featuring members of Magma, Francis Lockwood and Jean-Paul Asseline. Two other solo albums follows, in 1979 and... 1998. He also does session work with people like Renaud, the most famous French libertarian singer-songwriter of modern times. Rose Podwojny was not yet 20 when she made her start in Sandrose... After the split, she takes on a first pseudonym : Rose Merryl and releases a few 45s without success in 1976 and 77. She then meets musician and composer Jean-Pierre Goussaud whom she falls in love and the couple decides to work together. Goussaud who had been collaborating with the biggest French and Francophonic Variety singers like Nicole Croisille, Dalida and later Fabienne Thibault and Céline Dion, becomes her official song composer as Rose once more changes her pseudo to "Rose Laurens" which she is now best known in France, after her first MOR success in 1979 that he wrote. He will go on authoring her two biggest hits: "Africa" an "Mamy Yoko" in 1982. (... Well, at least she has Sandrose to her Underground credit! ) The other members, Christian Clairefond, Henri Garella and Michel Jullien, all went on to do session work with French MOR stars Gilbert Bécaud, Sacha Distel, jazzman Michel Petrucciani, ex-Swingin' Mademoiselle queen France Gall, and Music Hall legend Joséphine Baker (! ). ... Sandrose is only but a footnote in all its members careers, but it stands now as an important, historic album in French Pop and one of Progressive rock's milestones, gaining on a Cult status all it's own.
And now that Guerssen records have made it available again, it's Time to dig up that Rose in the Sand!