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  Barclay -
  981 897-2
  Jacques Brel: Les Marquises
  "Les Marquises"

Jacques Brel
Track listing:
  1. Jaures
2. La ville s'endormait
3. Vieillir
4. Le bon dieu
5. Les F...
6. Orly
7. Les remparts de Varsovie
8. Voir un ami pleurer
9. Knoffe-le-zoute tango
10. Jojo
11. Le lion
12. Les marquises
  Chanson française
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Reviews: 1

Review by vonwegen July 8, 2005 (4 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
For those who don't know the music of Jaques Brel or the French traditional music called "Chanson", this album sounds more like songs from a Broadway musical than any kind of UK or American-derived pop music. The vocals are exquisitly melodic, sung in French with a deep, rich baritone. Instrumentation is spare, sometimes only an accordion, other times a full orchestra, with occasional forays into the then-current disco of 1977. Horns and strings are used sparingly for the most part.

The only big artist whose music has at times mirrored Brel's is David Bowie--indeed, Bowie has released versions of Brel's songs, most noteably "Amsterdam" and "My Death", both in the early 1970s during his Ziggy Stardust phase.
For an idea of what sounds similar, I suggest a listen to either Bowie's versions of Brel songs or tunes like "Wild Is The Wind" from Station To Station or "Life On Mars" from Hunky Dory.

Oh, and I should mention the lyrics are often quite ribald if you take the trouble to translate them from the orginal French that is printed in the CD booklet.

Performance? Five stars, easily. MC sound quality is a bit more difficult to rate. Brel was dying of lung cancer when he recorded his final album, which meant that most of his vocals were first takes, simply because that was when he had the most energy to sing. As a result, there are peaks that distort in places on the master tape, both in the vocal tracks and with percussion in places (especially the recordings of church bells). Does that really detract from the performance? No. If anything, it adds to the intensity--and Jacques Brel was always all about intensity.

The orchestration is sparse and yet lush in places, and always tastefully applied--the arrangers obiously knew when to place emphasis and when to stay out of the mix. Most of Brel's albums were recorded pre-1969, which makes this one something of a sonic treat, as there is a lot more sonic depth here than on his vintage records from the early 1960s.

Even if you don't undertand French sung in a stong Belgian accent, this release is well worth having, because the emotional intensity matches the wonderful sense of melody throughout. Sonics do the SACD format proud, although the quieter songs do have a noticeable amout of tape hiss.

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