Olympia ’64 – Jacques Brel (1964)

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.

Standout track

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?

Rating

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!
This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.

CL: This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.

Listen to Olympia ‘64 on Spotify or buy it in iTunes.

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