Charles, Nina & Rhiannon

You might know this tune by good ol’ Charles:

Did you know Nina Simone covered it in English?

And did you know that former Carolina Chocolate Drops-singer Rhiannon Giddens just did her version of that track on her new album?

Under the Radar (3): Jeff Lynne

lynnewaveJeff Lynne’s latest album Long Wave is nearly about 28 min. It features eleven tunes that sound … well, a bit like he tried to pull a portable radio out of the dungheap in his well-groomed Beverly Hills garden. Conceived as an hommage to the songs that shaped his youth, the album hardly achieves more than beaming Golden Age classics, Chuck Berry and Roy Orbison into the realm of Lackluster Alley. The most memorable song might be its opener, a last call adaptation of The Aznavour’s lofty ’74 longing melodrama She a.k.a. Tous les visages de l’amour. And in comparison to Elvis Costello’s slime-from-Notting-Hill version, we’re certainly talking world class wavelength here.

Jeff Lynne – She
Charles Aznavour – She

Aznavour Toujours

One of Frank Sinatra’s most famous live recordings starts with the words: „We will now do the national anthem, but you needn’t rise.“ That could as well be the introduction to the new Charles Aznavour album, Toujours. Aznavour’s songs had and still have anthem quality in a national sense, reflecting state, sense and sensibility of his country. Toujours mirrors even more: Un homme de 87 ans whose reflection still shows Charlie, his alter ego in Truffaut’s 1962 Paris noir Tirez sur le pianiste, all the desolation, longing, and heartache, blended with the picture of the French big league entertainer who even balanced most embarrassing moments with … well, style. You won’t get more Gallic sweep, pathos and sentiment for your money this year. As for Tu ne m’aime plus: 10 handkerchiefs.

Charles Aznavour – Tu ne m’aime plus

Bonus: The German version of Aznavour’s early 70s Les plaisirs démodés, beginning as a stroboscope disco funkfest, evolving into sublime adult pop and finally into a spoken word oratorio, rugged individual style.

Charles Aznavour – Tanz Wange an Wange mit mir

FS Rerun: How Sad Venice Can Be

Charles Aznavour? Wasn’t that the somewhat square old entertainer in the grey suit you saw on dozens of awful tv shows all those years ago? Maybe. Aznavour also was Charlie, the forlorn dude in Truffaut’s Tirez sur le pianiste (see pic) who smoked all those cigarettes like nobody had it done before, shared the bed with Michèle Mercier and Nicole Berger, and murmered some of the coolest lines ever to be uttered between love and loneliness („Silence is amorous complicity“). Sadness was also one of the keywords in his chansons, as well in Que c’est triste Venise, a sentimental kitsch masterpiece remade by the equally great Bobby Darin in 1965, U.S. grand scope showroom heartbreak style.
Charles Aznavour – Que c’est triste Venise
Bobby Darin – Venice Blue

Bonus: The Other Serge revealing where to find the gondolas of your mind.

Serge Reggiani – Venise n’est pas en Italie

Axelle et Aznavour

There aren’t that much certified filles fragiles who recorded Christmas-songs, alas. There’s of course Maryse Letarte (who recorded a whole seasonal album), there’s the EP by Tricot Machine, there’s the songs from FS X-Mas Project (Marianne Dissard, Maud Lübeck, Odile & Manou, etc), but other than that it’s mostly very kitschy, Céline Dion-like. This duet between Axelle Red & Charles Aznavour is from a reasonable album called Noël Ensemble that also sports duets between Katerine & Anna Karina and Calogero & Zazie. And a few turkeys.

Axelle Red & Charles Aznavour – Noël à Paris

Something to die for (Dia de Los Muertos 4)

It’s my own guilty pleasure to re-write my will every now and then. Nothing much to say in it actually, but nevertheless, music is an important part of it. One track that is in it for years now: ‘The Carnival Is Over’ performed by Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds back in 1986 on their ‘Kicking Against The Pricks’ album with only covers on it. A rather dull and annoying song in itself, but what Cave and companion Blixa Bargeld made out of it sounds as the most beautiful and thrilling Goodbye to me.
The original of the song (and we’re going to do a little Blokhuisje now – Dutch readers know what I mean) goes way back in time. Most people know this track as performed by The Seekers in 1965. Tom Springfield (yes, Dusty’s brother) wrote the lyrics for them. At the label also credits for Frank Farian, a German producer who wasn’t the most original man in musicbizz, so a bit of suspicion is allowed here. This Seekers’ song was covered very often, but was ‘The Carnival Is Over’ an original in itself? The answer: no. In fact the track goes back to 1826 when Hector Berlioz used a piece of an old Russian traditional in the ouverture of his opera ‘Les Francs-juges‘. Later on this evolved in a Russian folksong titled ‘Stenka Rasin’, that was recorded by several orchestras and artists under all kind of different titles.

One of those performers is – and now we’re getting close, finally this is a blog about French music – Charles Aznavour & les Compagnons de la Chanson, who recorded it as ‘(La Légende de) Stenka Razine’ in 1951. Not half as stunning and touching as Cave did, but French it is.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Carnival Is Over
Charles Aznavour & les Compagnons de la Chanson – (La Légende de) Stenka Razine