Yet another guest post by Steve, on red hot Axelle:
Firstly, a small confession. I’ve never been a huge fan of Axelle Red. Sure, I’d retrospectively discovered “À Tâtons“, a superb fusion of Memphis Soul, Nashville Country and French “Je ne sais quoi” (or should that be Flemish “Ik weet niet wat”? – sorry Guuz) (Actually, that should read: ‘dat onbekende iets’- G’bourg), but for some unknown reason we’d kind of failed to connect; She had “The Voice”, but similar to my review of Alizée, I’d often found the material a little disappointing. I guess this is more my fault than hers, but there were always other artists and discoveries which prevented me giving her a second chance.
And then I came across this and just the other week I discovered that the album Rouge Ardent had actually gotten a Stateside release…
This may be Axelle’s ninth studio album, but to these ears it’s easily her best. Here was an album that again married the voice with the material it deserved. Rouge Ardent is a collection of 10 expertly crafted songs in which she’s drawn from all of her 20 year career to pull together an incredibly soulful album.
The album opens with “Amour profond”, a great upbeat number with a wall of horns and percussion that in part, dare I say, reminds me of Dusty Springsfield’s “Breakfast in Bed” from her classic “Memphis” album. All wrapped and delivered with Axelle’s distinctive vocals…
And while we’re on the subject, has Axelle’s voice ever sounded this good? There’s a certain humility to the album, especially on “Quelque part allieurs”, a beautiful plaintive long-song built around crystal vocals and a simple piano. Meanwhile the title track literally boils with intensity and is worth the admission price alone.
However, it’s a little unfair to pick out a mere handful of tracks (oh alright then, I love the haunting “Sur La Route Sablée”). Talents as diverse as Stephan Eicher, Albert Hammond and the cream of Memphis including Lester Snell and Steve Potts, all contribute to make this a tight, expertly crafted masterpiece of a record.
I mentioned at the start of this review that this was a soulful album. It’s actually a Soul album. Seventeen years after the seminal “À Tâtons”, Axelle returns with a beautiful hommage to Memphis and the home of Stax.
Axelle Red – Sur La Route Sablée
Axelle Red – Amour profond