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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ways, France

Ways - Planètes. 1986 private.

This one arrived courtesy of SF. IMO, 1986 could be considered the nadir of the entire progressive rock movement. Seemed every band of the day was using cheap digital keyboard equipment, and even cheaper drum sounds. All my favorite genres of progressive rock were going down the tubes: Symphonic, electronic, and fusion. Only the avant progressive scene was alive and well during this time (Univers Zero, Art Zoyd, Present, etc...). The New Wave of British Progressive Rock movement, which seemed so promising in 1983, had already given up the 20 minute epics for common arena rock fare. There were pockets of hope, like the UK festival psych scene, though it would be a few years before most of us outside of England knew what that was. And in the field of heavy metal, many bands were experimenting with more progressive ideas and adding a dose of complexity to their angst. Fortunately, all was to change in that landmark year of 1987, when progressive rock found its roots again, and we still enjoy the fruits from that planted tree.

It is with this backdrop that Ways released their sole album. And it's no surprise the album has been completely ignored until recently. Ways, which was lead by Jean-Luc Hamonet and who we've already featured, falls prey to many of the mid 1980s pitfalls. It's digital, slick, and lacks any kind of rough edge to grab one's attention. However, given the landscape of the age, had I discovered this album at the time of release, I'm sure I would have loved it and now would treasure it for nostalgia reasons alone. It's good enough. The bar was low in 1986, and Ways jumped it with ease.

My friend Sean McFee wrote this excellent review for RYM: "Instrumental fusion group led by Jean-Luc Hamonet who wrote everything. Five-piece band with Hamonet on guitar and woodwinds, and others on guitar, bass, keys, and drums. Keyboard tones are unapologetically 80s but tasteful. Flute parts remind more of Genesis than Tull and the sax parts are porn-free. The danger with fusion, especially this late, is that it gets too slick and unadventurous; my usual pejorative in this case (hardly original) is "fuzak". I think Ways mostly stay away from that, with the worst offenders being the more ballad-like tracks that soak in an atmosphere of "laid back and nothing on the line." And even with the more uptempo stuff, it's a bit too far from my usual tastes for me to wholly bridge the gap... I appreciate the proficiency in my head, but I don't feel the music in my heart." I think that review captures the music well, though I'm more enthusiastic about the contents within. He gave it 2 stars. I'd give it 3 stars (Gnosis: 9).

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