Album no. 43/1001
It’s another live album, but one that’s ALL in French. C’est bonne.
And by c’est bonne I actually mean WHAT THE HELL IS THIS. This was a live concert by Jacques Brel – who was actually Belgian, not French – held at the Olympia theatre. Some of his songs have been translated and covered by some pretty big-wigs – for example ‘Amsterdam’ has been covered by David Bowie. A couple of other songs that don’t appear on this album have been recorded by folks like Joan Baez and Scott Walker.
There’s actually a specific genre for this music called ‘Chanson’. Wikipedia cites Edith Piaf as a performer of chanson – so that might be someone else familiar to you. This is music that follows the rhythms of the French language – he’s sort of like an evocative, story-telling singer-songwriter. But it’s a bit difficult to ascertain this, given it’s all in French.
Have you listened to this album before?
CL: No, I don’t have a lot of French music. For obvious reasons.
NK: I bet you like Phoenix though.
CL: Yeah but they don’t sing in French. You wouldn’t even know they were French, really.
NK: I’ve never heard of this. I have odd bits and pieces of French music, Joe Dassin had a track on a Wes Anderson movie, and Julio Iglesias did a live album at Olympia in 65, a song from which made it onto the end of the adaptation of one of my favourite books. Also my mum loves Edith Piaf.
CL: Look. There aren’t any because they all sound the same. I don’t have a problem with it being in French – I’m fine with that, I like the sound of French – but I just can’t get around the music. It sounds like the soundtrack to a children’s cartoon or something. From what I can gather, this style of music like French folk music, which is great, but I don’t want to listen to it, thanks.
NK: I quite liked this! He’s more dramatic than Frank Sinatra, that’s for sure. I think ‘Les Jardins du Casino’ was my favourite, but I also like ‘Amsterdam’ and ‘Mathilde’. It’s hard not knowing what any of the words mean, but I quite enjoyed trying to figure it out from his tone and the audience’s reaction. He must have been a hell of a performer, it sounds great.
When would be the best time to listen to this?
CL: Don’t. Just don’t. Unless you can speak French? Maybe then it might have a bit more meaning. I think the biggest problem is that the accompanying music is pretty uninspiring as well, so there’s really not much to grab onto.
NK: I listened to this in my headphones while I was on a plane, and it was great! I didn’t have anything else distracting me, and I cranked it right up so I wouldn’t hear the drunk guy behind me, and I loved it. I admit I would like to know what the lyrics are about though.
CL: What? You’re joking!
Why has this album been included on the list?
CL: I have absolutely no idea, aside from maybe trying to include France somewhere on this list? This is AWFUL.
NK: I think it’s interesting that while the Beatles are tearing up the UK and US, France is still like ‘nah, we like this dude singing old-school ballads with traditional accompaniment’. Classic France, being different for the sake of it.
Will you be listening again?
CL: NO. I enjoy the odd bit of French here and there, but an entire album that goes for 49 minutes is too much. Far too much. Sorry monsieur, but I am just not interested. Keep your wailing for your own time. Or on Eurovision.
NK: I already put it on again when I got home! It’s really good.
CL: Did flying ruin your hearing?
CL: Can I give it 0 stars? Is that allowed? I deleted this from my computer as soon as it finished.
NK: WOW. Minimum is 1 star mate. But I’m giving it 3, it’s fun!