Maajun – French prog 70’s style with a tiny bit of everything else.

Oh Prog – how I love thee.  Let me count the ways!

I’m not completely sure why I love prog rock so much – it may be the drama and the glam – it may be the undisguised theatrics – who knows? It’s probably my generation – I love this post “rock n’ roll” ethic and its decidedly Euro-trash passion. (very anti Baby-Boomer)

But then, what’s not to love?  Take a listen to this:

This is a crazy little band known as Mahjun. For my money, this early album is the best they released, but they did go on to other incarnations and variations. I’ve tried to do a bit of research on this cool band (French and Prog with heavy Krautrock leanings) but info about them is rare – even on the net amongst aficionados like Prog Archives which for me is the “go-to-gal” for all things Prog.

This French group started out under the spelling of Maajun and their debut album from 1971 is supposed to be a bit of a classic in a mixture of early underground styles. It’s not on CD however. They changed the spelling of the name and a released a couple of albums for Saravah in ‘73/’74 and their final album in 1977 (on Gratte Ciel). There’s a post-Zappa influence involved and they supposedly “melded Arab, Free, and folk influences, doling out derision through satirical lyrics and music which parodied popular tunes.”

Dont ask me why the track listing starts at #8 and ends at #12.  I can’t figure that one out.  I can’t find some sort of earlier album or anything like that. If anyone out there can help with this detail it would be much appreciated.  Track #8 is a rather gentle opener, teasing us with an almost mainstream Prog sound. One of the things that will get you on an album like this is the variety of influence. We’re travelling so far abroad here that there are snippets of a middle eastern sound, and some have argued even a touch of the Japanese brush.  If that is the case, the brushstrokes are broad until you get to track #10 which is a kind of folk-on-acid-pre-punk mash-up of a Welsh folk sound mixed in with the lyrical dramatics of glam rocks operatics – just to change track mid stream and keep you on your toes.

#11 (La Ville) starts with a lovely little ode to my electronic adorations and uses a casual strum to work into those dominating vocals again. I like this track the most, its cruizy ode to free jazz and its experimental sounds. The vocals, though well executed, may be getting a little tiresome at this point.  As if they know they mix it up with experimental and the avant-garde. The guitar becomes a sublime affair slipping in and out of trad and free jazz riffs with the decidedly un-jazzy chorus willing us conscious throughout. This is the track that most evokes that “middle-eastern” reputation the album has.  Every foray into the unknown is linked by that familiar guitar rock riff – such a staple in Prog pleasures.

This gem of an album closes with a very rich, very proggy guitar solo that nurses us back to reality and safety encapsulating a promise the band will behave itself in the future. Unfortunately for all of us, this band kept their promise. At the time of writing this, you can’t even purchase this disc any longer.

But we have it here don’t we?  And they did exist, and we can still listen, and no marching through time can take that away.

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