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Ame Son

The end of the '60s saw many groups transitioning from psychedelic to progressive rock. One of these, Ame Son, was one of the earliest French rock bands to go beyond the conventional rock & roll of the time. Combining elements of psychedelic rock with avant jazz, they created a unique, improvised rock sound that laid the path for numerous other French progressive groups who stretched the boarders between rock and free jazz. Ame Son's history goes back to the mid-'60s, when guitarist Bernard Lavialle, guitarist/vocalist Bernard Stizi, bassist Patrick Fontaine, and drummer Marc Blanc formed the group Les Primitivs. From 1965 to 1967, this rock band, influenced by British blues rock like the Yardbirds, played in and around Paris and also for three months on the island of Corsica. When Stizi left at the end of 1967, the other three formed Expression, a more psychedelic band that gigged not only at clubs but also progressive art exhibits as well. When Lavialle temporarily joined the Army, Blanc and Fontaine joined Bananamoon, Daevid Allen's group after leaving Soft Machine and before founding Gong, to play some gigs in Spain in the summer of 1968 and southern France early the next year. Allen's influence in particular, as well as that of the underground psychedelic scene that came out of London that was mostly around the UFO club, was crucial to the development of the musicians by the time Lavialle rejoined the others in June 1969, along with flutist Francois Garrel. At that time, Ame Son, which roughly means soul song or expressive song in French, was born. Within three months, they signed with BYG Records and in two days in London recorded the instrumental tracks of their only proper album. With vocals and final mixing done in October, Catalyse came out in early 1970. Their live performances at large festivals around France over the next year and a half met with both public and critical success, but the band broke up in June 1971. A couple years later, the band re-formed with the addition of guest musicians Jacques Dudon, Alain Renaud, and Jean-Louis Auber and lasted for another few years. Blanc went on to do some solo work under the name Ame Songs in the 1980s and the band re-formed in 1995 for some concerts with avant-garde guitarist Jean Francois Pauvros. ~ Rolf Semprebon
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