Morse Code is by and large the main progressive rock act to have grown on French-Canadian soil. While more locally popular groups like Harmonium and Octobre were inspired by specific prog elements while maintaining strong ties with folk and rock, Morse Code embraced the whole sound of the style. Where other bands like Pollen and Etcetera were only able to record one album, this group released three LPs in the mid-'70s that can be considered classic international prog rock items, essential to any serious fan's collection.
Main composer, vocalist, and keyboardist Christian Simard, guitarist/flutist Daniel Lemay, bassist Michel Vallée, and drummer Raymond Roy met in their teens. They began their career playing covers at parties, but soon were recruited by pop singers like Pierre Lalonde and Donald Lautrec to back them on stage and in the studio. Through this "day job," they acquired a commanding level of experience and chops. They formed Morse Code, started to write their own material, and released Morse Code Transmission in 1971. This and its follow-up, Morse Code Transmission II (1972), are English-only affairs and emulate the sound of late-'60s psychedelic rock groups like Iron Butterfly. Both LPs were met with indifference by the public and critics, and the group retreated to its accompaniment duties, working with mainstream pop singer Jacques Salvail among others.
Meanwhile, British progressive rock groups like King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes, and most of all Genesis, were provoking quite a stir in the province of Quebec. Christian Simard began to write new material strongly influenced by these artists. Preliminary shows in 1974 attracted the attention of Capitol Records and a contract was signed. In 1975 the group released La Marche des Hommes, which quickly became <ItheI> Quebec prog album. The opening title track summed up the ambition and musicianship of the international groups and the lyrics talked of universal subjects instead of the more self-centered output of local folk and rock artists. Both the local and international press greeted this album more warmly. Procréation, released in 1976, consolidated the group's reputation, thanks mostly to Simard's epic title suite, simply the best prog rock piece of music written by a Quebecer.
For the 1977 Je Suis le Temps, Capitol sent the group to London to record with Eddie Offord, the engineer responsible for Yes and ELP's classic albums. For a moment, Morse Code believed they had a chance to break out on the international market, what they weren't counting on was prog rock's brutal crash in the late '70s. Dropped by its record company, the group disbanded. It re-formed in 1983 with the same lineup for a tentative comeback as an intelligent pop group with the LP Code Breaker, but this attempt failed rather miserably. In the early '90s, Capitol issued a CD compilation of the three French albums, allowing a new generation of Quebecers to discover a national prog treasure. Capitalizing on the good sales of the CD, the group recorded a new album, 1995's D'Un Autre Monde, and scored a minor campus radio hit with "Le Fils du Grand Dragon," but plans to put a tour together failed and Morse Code disappeared once again. ~ François Couture