Souad Massi

Souad Massi, ‘Algeria’s answer to Tracy Chapman’, duets on her new album with Paul Weller and Francis Cabrel. This RFI-interview makes a big thing out of the fact that she sings in French. It’s hardly the first time the blackhaired beauty sings the language of love, she duetted with Marc Lavoine and sang two French songs on her second album Deb. The duet with Weller is quite boring, but the one with Cabrel is great. The song has a great drive, the rockrhythm and the Arabic instrumentation go well together and Cabrel nails the Arabic verse. Souad: ‘It was outrageous! I wrote out the words for him phonetically and he got it right in a single recording. Impressive stuff.’ So is the jazzy, upright bass-driven song ‘Stop pissing me off’ on her new album. She really means it.
The atmosphere of the duet with Cabrel reminds me of the work of Dutch (-based) collective NO Blues. They started five years ago as a project to mix Arabic music and American folk, hence their ‘Arabicana’ moniker. Now, four albums under their belt, they end their journey with help from some African artists as well. Hela Hela, the new album, is (again) a great culture clash. Nothing to do with French singing girls (though they did record one French track), but so what?

Souad Massi & Francis Cabrel – Toute reste a faire
NO Blues – Le

Pop Bâtard XV: C’est le vent, Serge

“Mash ups/ Bastard pop is a musical genre which, in its purest form, consists of the combination (usually by digital means) of the music from one song with the acapella from another. Typically, the music and vocals belong to completely different genres. At their best, bastard pop songs strive for musical epiphanies that add up to considerably more than the sum of their parts”, writes Markyboy on his highly recommended website, and if you’re not familiar with the genre, that’s quite a spot-on definition. On Je t’aime quand le vent souffle, he fuses Serge’s everlasting “Every time I put my shirt back on, she takes it off again” hymn to BB with I’ll Leave When the Wind Blows by Oklahoma neo-soft rockers All American Rejects. A smooth one which works just fine.

Markyboy – Je t’aime quand le vent souffle

FS Rerun: La Valente

This one appeared for the first time on the old blog in our Cahiers du Cinéma series, without the new extras.

Italian brunette Caterina Valente isn’t very famous for her movies, though she appeared in a good dozen, her first one being the prostitution melodrama Party Girls for Sale a.k.a. They Were So Young – released in 1954, the same year she hit it grand with her German version of Cole Porter’s I Love Paris, re-titled Ganz Paris träumt von der Liebe (The Whole of Paris Dreams of Love) and selling more than half a million copies.

Most of Valente’s hits came from the German Schlager alley, a back street of pop most people rightly fear to tread. However, Bonjour Kathrin from the same-titled 1956 Valente movie is a charming example of how to fuse a German language song with French flair. No wonder: Actually La Signora had started out à Paris, and in the late 50s came back with some recordings in French, among them the irresistible Un p’tit Béguine – supremely seductive stuff, easily on a par with the divine Connie Francis who also took her turn at Gallic sentiments in 1965.

Caterina Valente – Bonjour Kathrin

Caterina Valente – Un p’tit Béguine

Connie Francis – La vie en rose

Bonus speziale: Caterina’s French language version of the all-time classic Fever, written in 1955 by Otis Blackwell, first recorded by bluesman Little Willie John a year later and immortalized by Peggy Lee in 1958. When Caterina is talking trente-neuf, it sounds like a position Peggy never knew.

Caterina Valente – 39 de fièvre

Bonus extra speziale: La Valente’s French version of Paul Anka’s Put Your Head on my Shoulder. Sighing sighs, holding hands.

Caterina Valente – Prouve-moi que tu m’aimes


Guestpost! Mordi on Emmanuelle Seigners sister.

It’s always mentioned that Marie-Amélie is the sister of actress and singer Emmanuelle Seigner, but with this this new album, Marie-Amélie has the right to be known on her own as an independent artist. A follow up to her mostly lacklustre first album Merci pour les fleurs, Dans un vertige leaps out of the speakers with the first track On se regardait. Her vocals are filled with feeling as the song builds and the drums kick in and result in a nostalgic heartfelt track that just begs to be put on repeat listening. From here on in the album just grows with instantly catchy melodies. She even manages to use children singing without making me want to throw up in my mouth on the excellent La vie ca pique ! As well us the upbeat songs she slows things down a few times such as with the title track where you get the chance to get swept up in the depth and beauty of the emotion in her voice. Her playfulness at times reminds me of Marie Espinosa and occasionally there were shades of Olivia Ruiz. The upbeat songs are more successful than the softer tracks – but most of it all it feels like she has broken out as an artist with her own identity and sound. There’s lots to enjoy here!
And if I had to compare this to Emmauelle Seigners last album – I would say this wins (just!)

Marie-Amélie – La vie ca pique


Never thought I’d ever post an INXS track on this blog, let alone one with John Mayer on guitar. But when certified fragile fille Loane is singing… bring it on! Mystify, the track with Loane on vocals and Mayer on guitar, is on Original Sin. A new album by the Australian rockband that were left devastated when singer Michael Hutchence hung himself in 1997. Original Sin is an odd album, it features re-recorded old tracks with guestvocalists like Tricky, Nikka Costa, Ben Harper & Mylene Farmer (a partly French version of Never Tear Us Apart), Rob Thomas and a batch of unknown singers (unless you know who Dan Sultan or Deborah de Corral are).
These projects almost always turn out to be disastrous. I was an INXS-fan in the 90s (Listen Like Thieves is a classic rock album) and legacies like that are best left alone. But with Loane singing like she does… ooh lala.

INXS – Mystify (featuring Loane and John Mayer)

FS Rerun: The Other Serge

Casque d’or, La ronde, Le doulos, L’armée des ombres: Serge Reggiani  was already a highly acclaimed star of the French silver screen when he – encouraged by Simone Signoret and Yves Montand – turned to singing in 1965 with SR chante Boris Vian. His chef d’œuvre may well be Rupture (1971; see right) – a brilliant album oscillating between grand melancholy, mild cynicism and mature knowledge unsurpassed in the history of French song. La putain combines Reggiani’s unique phrasing with a perfectly arranged composition by Michel Legrand and the classy poetic imagery of lyricist Jean-Loup Dabadie – a 3:42 min short story about the lost bird of youth and those secrets behind the jalousies.

Serge Reggiani – La putain

Bonus: Serge G. with his seldom-played take on whores from the soundtrack of Just Jaeckin’s 1977 soft-porn flick Madame Claude (PG recommended), with a wink and a sneer towards Bach’s Jésus, que ma joie demeure.

Serge Gainsbourg – Putain que ma joie demeure

Nouvelle Vague

Couleurs sur Paris, the new Nouvelle Vague album is out now in France and Belgium (should be out in Europe and overseas next week, god willin’), and it’s a beauty! I haven’t been that enthusiastic in the past about NV, because the concept stopped working after the second album. For me. But this time, Marc and the girls (and a few guys) really really outdid themselves. French new wave hits from the 80s worked over by the creme de la creme of les filles fragiles of today, why didn’t I think of that?! I’m sooo happy that Coeur de Pirate, Jeanne Cherhal, Olivia Ruiz and of course our guardian angel Coralie Clément are on board. CC’s version of Taxi Girl‘s Je suis déjà partie (video) is amazing.
I’ve posted about the 4th NV-album before. See tracklist here. Here you can find a zip with all the original versions.
Nouvelle Vague feat. Coralie Clément – Je suis déjà partie