About a year ago I discovered Zaz, née Isabelle Geffroy. I played her versatile debut album so much, it became irritable and I had to disband her for a while. For otherwise I’d grow an aversion to French variété and gypsy-songs that would never be cured. Anyhoo, with Zaz’s new album Recto Verso in the shops and summer coming up, it sure is time for some uncut French pop.
The dog’s bollocks of Zaz’s style are her ballads. Sure, she can sing sunny songs like single On Ira or the upbeat Oublie Loulou (Charles Aznavour), but everyone has to be really quiet when the singer seems to start a slow song. ‘Cause Zaz and ballads go together like a horse and carriage. They don’t cause any dental damage because of sweetness – in my humble opinion that is. She chooses not to sing about fluffy lovey dovey stuff, but about the heartache, the despair. Her voice gets rough, the edge is showing. If you listen to a line of those ballads, you suddenly realise how comforting those songs are to you. Check out La Lessive for instance. Or Port Coton, from her debut.
The song Si Je Perds isn’t as tranquil als Port Coton, or as stripped down as Trop Sensible or Si. It’s as compelling as La Lessive, but I call it a ballad because of the melancholy way she’s singing and the sketchy arrangement. When Si Je Perds starts, you just have to listen. With full attention, so turn up the volume, close all windows and doors. Start off fresh. The guitar part makes you want to do this. Zaz’s most compelling talents, her raspy voice and narrative songs, are beautifully combined in this great ballad.
So, phew, tradition is upheld, I can carry on now. With finding out what the hell this song’s about, for instance.
Gérard Lenorman is one of the big guns from the seventies, on par with Julien Clerc, Yves Duteil and J-J Goldman. He released his last original album in 2000, after that it was just live-albums and compilations. It was just a matter of time until a duets-album saw the light of day, and now there is one. Featuring youngsters like Joyce Jonathan, Gregoire and Anggun and older artists like Roch Voisine and Maurane. Shame that no one thought of Pépé et sa guitare, who rockified two Lenorman-classics a few years back (here). Instead, we get risk-free, close-to-the-original versions. Not bad (like his duets with Jonathan an Gregoire), sometimes amusing (Si j’étais président is gipsy-fied, interesting choice if you think of the political situation of the Roma in France, shame they needed a cheapo housebeat too), sometimes too cheesy (duets with Shy’m and Anggun). My fave is the one with Zaz. Nothing new here, still as upbeat as the original.
See Gérard and his guests in this teaser-video.
Gérard Lenorman & Zaz – La ballade des gens heureux
We already noticed the fact that the French talent shows bring us more talent than for example here in the Netherlands. Melissa Nkonda was in “Nouvelle Star” and released her first album earlier this year, called “Nouveaux Horizons”. It is a soulful album, with R&B influences. Most songs are in French (bien sur) but some in English. Sometimes Melissa remind me of Zaz, or Camelia Jordana like the French/English duet with VV Brown “J’ai Fait Tout Ca Pour Vous”. We bring you the bluesy, soulful “Pas Cette Nuit”.
Melissa NKonda – Pas Cette Nuit
A limited special edition of ZAZ’s debut album was released, with four extra live-tracks. Two acoustic versions of her own songs, and two covers. One by Gainsbourg (a better version then this one) and one by Carlos Almaran. This Panamian songwriter is the father of Historia de un Amor,a song that was covered many, many times. I love what ZAZ did with both tunes. See a video of Z singing Ces Petits Riens here, and her singing Historia…. here.
About two weeks ago, we already posted a live version of Zaz’s splendid Piaf cover Dans la rue here. Since she with the husky voice is a dedicated Gainsbourg aficionado as well, she also played a sparse, and highly intense manouche-style version of Serge’s Ces petits riens during the same gig, backed by bassist Mathieu Verlot and guitarist Guillaume Juhel. You will find this cover neither on her recent no. 1 album nor anywhere on the net. The song was recorded during an intimate live performance at MDR radio station, Halle, Germany, with an audience of ten (!) handpicked and damn lucky guests.
Ces petits riens, written in 1964, may not be among the most popular Gainsbourg chansons, but has been covered by several high-class artists. Serge’s own version, using a typewriter as rhythm instrument, is surely the coolest; he’s on the Deneuve version as well. Here’s both, along with a bunch of other adaptations, including Carla’s English language version … and Guuz might have a few other ones up his sleeve.
If promo legend is true, Tours-born Isabelle Geffroy sang in the postcard streets of Montmartre before she became a big three-letter-word named ZAZ and won the France Bleu/ Réservoir Generation contest. Released in May, her first, self-titled album rocketed to #1 of the French album charts, with a gracious mixture of blues, bossa, and jazz manouche, featuring also Guillaume Juhel (don’t miss his lovely version of Serge’s La Javanaise on his MySpace site), a young French guitarist extraordinaire with Carla already hot on his heels, you bet. Vocal-wise, ZAZ’s husky voice surely doesn’t really qualify for a fille fragile … but perfectly for an Edith Piaf cover like Dans la rue. The studio version can be found on her album, this live version can only be found at FS. Recorded September 7, 2010 at Halle, Germany for German MDR radio station, it displays as well modesty as class. If you can’t wait: More ZAZ very soon.
Summer started last week, so now it’s time to divide the gold from the lead, the real shiners from the plastic. Of course, summer is not over yet and there maybe songs that start shining over the next weeks. But here’s a cool trio you can’t go wrong with:
Babet – Je pense a nous. Dionysos-member Babet Maistre (or Babou Calou, as she’s calling her self on Facebook) will release a second album after summer, but this great track warms my face and other bodyparts in a very pleasant way already.
Babet – Je pense a nous
ZAZ – Je veux. From Bordeaux, but with exotic roots, ZAZ has the smile in her voice that fits her exotic, diverse music really well.
ZAZ – Je veux
And finally, the second EP of our beloved La Fiancee is out. To be honest, I’m less impressed than with her debut but this song makes me want to lie down under a shady tree and play it over and over and over and over again.
La Fiancee – On avait jure