Le Freakiest Show: David B (French Return)

David Bowie and France, that’s a long and strange story – his 1977 album Low was recorded at the legendary Château d’Herouville where he refused to sleep in the master bedroom since he thought it was haunted by the ghosts of former residents Chopin and George Sand; producer Tony Visconti took the chambre des fântomes instead. Seven years earlier, Bowie already had recorded an English language version of Jacques Brel’s Amsterdam, and for his Gallic version of Heroes see also Guuz’s post below. The sailors of Amsterdam have a slight return in Life on Mars, which Hitler-obsessed Alain Z. Kan adapted en Francais in 1973; Kan was last seen at a Parisian Metro station on April 14, 1990 and never reappeared again.

David Bowie – Amsterdam
David Bowie – Héros

Alain Kan – La vie en Mars
Keren Ann – Life on Mars

Lucien Midnight – Space Oddity

Cranky – David Bowie Cries for No One

FS Vintage: Anton Walbrook

If you’re a movie aficionado surfing the net, you might already have stumbled across the fine blog Fuck Yeah Anton Walbrook. Fellow actor and movie historian Stephen Fry called Walbrook „one of the great forgotten actors of film“. Actually named Adolf Wohlbrück, the half Jewish scion of an Austrian dynasty of circus clowns changed his name for obvious reasons when exiled in England in the 30s; he hated the Nazis so much that he never even played one. Probably the most elegant actor of his generation, his best works were helmed by the most stylish directors of his time, among them Michael Powell, and of course Max Ophüls, for whom he played the raconteur in 1950’s La Ronde, also doing the movie’s unforgettable intro song. The voice of the girl is Simone Signoret’s.

Anton Walbrook – La Ronde

Under the Radar 6: Jasmin Tabatabai

Germany’s adult pop fashion of the hour is the coffee table recycling of songs from the 20s to 40s – think Tukur, think Alsmann, and German actress Jasmin Tabatabai makes no exception. On her recent album Eine Frau, released last September, she covers songs by Hollaender, Tucholsky and others, all cushily bossa- or jazzified – by and large what Diana Krall or Norah Jones do, with less production value. Probably for reasons de chic, her lieder album also contains a French composition, La chanson d’Hélène, originally written by Philippe Sarde and Jean-Loup Dabadie for the 1970 movie Les choses de la vie. While the rest of Tabatabai’s album sounds, well, somewhat menopausal, her version of Hélène isn’t even that bad – just as clean and empty as a tumbler from a desolate dishwasher.

Jasmin Tabatabai – La chanson d’Hélène

Extra: Romy Schneider’s classic film chanson (w/ Michel Piccoli), plus a bunch of other worthwhile versions, including an English language one.

Romy Schneider – La chanson d’Hélène
Marina Celeste – La chanson d’Hélène
Francoiz Breut – La chanson d’Hélène
Berry – La chanson d’Hélène
Youn Sun Nah – La chanson d’Hélène
Dream Makers – Helen’s Song

Under the Radar 5: La Féline

Le roi a fait battre tambour is a French song from the 17th Century (writer unknown), from the Saintonge region. The song is either about Louis XIV, the Sun King, and the death of one of his mistresses, or the poisoning of a mistress of king Henry IV. It was recorded by many, many artists: Edith Piaf, Yves Montand, Anne Sylvestre and Nana Mouskouri. And by trio La Féline, Agnes, Xavier and Stephane, who are named after the 1942 movie La Féline. The trio released two EP’s this year. La Féline was featured on this blog (see here), but somehow we’ve missed those releases. The Echo EP, featuring Le roi a fait battre tambour, contains more covers: Julee Cruise’s Into the Night and John Leyton’s Johnny Remember Me. Plus a reworked La Féline original. Songs about death, references to Twin Peaks, Joe Meek-productions; you’ll get the atmospherics, don’t you? Dim the lights, goth up your dress, sway with La Féline.

La Féline – Le roi a fait battre tambour

Under the Radar 4: Lucy Dixon & Le Professeur Inlassable

Released in March last year, this smokey collab between English dancer and actress Lucy Dixon and dj/’sound sorcerer’ Le Professeur Inlassable’. One of the tracks on the album One Too is called ‘Nobody Smokes Anymore’, which is a hint to the existential jazzy atmosphere from the good od days that le professeur creates, and Lucy’s husky vocals, a clear reference to classy singers like Julie London. But a newer cut-n-paste band like Belle Ruche also springs to mind. There are two French tracks on the album, I heard 15 Centimes first on the matchless radio station FIP. I know she’s singing about money in her pocket, but a dirty mind like mine hears ‘centimeters’ instead of ‘centimes’. A joy forever, you said it.

Lucy Dixon & Le Professeur Inlassable – 15 centimes

Under the Radar 3: Aldona

Polish singer and actress Aldona Nowowiejska lives à Paris and amalgamates folklore sounds from Eastern Europe with French flourish. The result is a peculiar, at times brill mix you won’t hear too often on pop radio. Her fourth album, Sonnet, features one French language song only – A Murmur, a breathless, tenderly boisterous vignette that seems to reflect the mood of the red-skirted girl on the cover and sounds like a less affected Camille exchanging butterfly kisses with Django’s grand grandson. Don’t miss the last whisper.

Aldona – A Murmur

Under the Radar 2: Cécile Corbel

Folk singer and celtic harpist Cécile Corbel comes from the department Finistère in the extreme West of Brittany, and she’s a bit like a fille fragile from another, more mystic and elegant time. On her Songbook Vol. 3: Renaissance she transforms Alan Stivell’s solemn, originally a bit leaden ballad about Irish High King Brian Boru into a floating incantation of her home country, and on La belle s’est endormie, she fuses a French traditional with chamber music strings. Her fairy style vocals fit the courtly character of the tunes quite perfectly; everything here feels like a breeze from the End of the World – and that’s exactly what Finistère means.

Cécile Corbel – Brian Boru

Cécile Corbel – La belle s’est endormie


Under the Radar 1: Céline Rudolph

„Summer rain in Paris, and the cool sound of Miles Davis“ – German chanteuse Céline Rudolph certainly is no literary virtuoso, but who cares for lyrics anyway? Her most recent album gathers 11 songs by the late Henri Salvador, kind of a Gallic Nat King Cole jack-of-all-trades who did all too many ditties for a fistful of Francs. Frau Rudolph catapults Salvador directly into the feelgood realm of her favorite women’s magazines, with the help of some Brazilian players who obviously think that Saudade is a new brand of fabric softener – registered trademark of the Snuggly Products Corporation, with guaranteed 14 days of fresh scent. Only my ill-mannered three-year-old nephew says it stinks.

Céline Rudolph – Wintergarten

The other side of soft, slightly funkified, from Henri Salvador’s Chante Vian album:

Henri Salvador – Ave Maria des pêcheurs