Say Three Hail Marys

bluejeansIt’s not the first time that German Schlager star Mary Roos is singing in French. Actually, she was the darling of the whole of Paris when she performed at the Olympia in the 70s after smash hits like L’autoroute or L’animal en blue-jeans; obviously her Gallic admirers couldn’t tell Mary from Francoise Hardy, or weren’t aware of her native productions, among them the legendary Arizona Man, the very first German pop atrocity with a synthesizer, composed by Giorgio Moroder (!) and Michael Holm (who had written the soundtrack for Mark of the Devil the very same year). And she’s still at it: Her most recent album Denk was du willst features a somewhat sterile, but strangely touching version of Jacques Brel’s Ne me quitte pas. Plus a cover of Caetano Veloso’s O Leaozinho. That dame’s got taste.

Mary Roos – Ne me quitte pas
Mary Roos – O Leaozinho

Baptiste Trotignon, Melody Gardot

Mashing-up Brel’s Ne Me Quitte Pas and Gainsbourg’s La Javanaise, it can be done, and it sounds great. French jazz pianist Baptiste Trotignon expertly ties these well-known chansons together on his new album. Ne Me Quitte Pas starts gentle, then Baptiste gets mental. Or desperate – just like NMQP. Then, he finishes in a melancholy mood, that fits La Javanaise, after all a song that’s about a love affair that lasts just one song. It all sounds very left bank. Serge and Jacques knew each other well, and toured together. I’m reading the English translation of Gilles Verlant’s indispensible Gainsbourg-biography, in which he tells stories of Brel charming every girl in the little town he, Serge and a small troupe of variety-artists passed through, with Serge taking note(s).
Trotignon covered Gainsbourg before, together with Aldo Romano he mashed-up Valse de Melody and Je t’aime… Mon non plus. On his new album, Song Song Song, Trotignon has another FS-regular as a guestvocalist. Melody Gardot is breezes (or should I say, breathes) through Mon fantôme. Nice.

Baptiste Trotignon – Ne Me Quitte Pas/La Javanaise
Baptiste Trotignon & Melody Gardot – Mon fantôme

Under the Radar (11): Cristina Branco

When a literary heavyweight and Nobel Prize candidate like António Lobo Antunes writes lyrics for you, you’re playing Pop’s pantheon. On her 11th album Fado/ Tango (also released as Não Ha Só Tangos em Paris, for whatever reasons), Portuguese fadista Cristina Branco fuses the solemn Fado heritage of predecessors like Amália Rodrigues with Tango’s seductiveness, also frenchifying her spectrum with a fine cover version of Brel’s Les Désespérés, and a jaunty musical setting of L’Invitation au Voyage from Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. High in the charts in Portugal last spring, this one found far too few listeners in the rest of the world. Bandoneons rule!

Cristina Branco – Les Désespérés
Cristina Branco – L’Invitation au Voyage

Siobhan Wilson II

The reason why Siobhan Wilson’s soberly titled album Songs slipped under the FS radar last year might be due to the fact that it contains all English-language songs but one, a luminous adaptation of Jacques Brel’s Voir un ami pleurer – as simple as intimately gripping, as quietly lyrical as vibrant, the work of a Scottish-French fille fragile to boot. If you haven’t listened to her gorgeous version of La Javanaise, click here. Other videos here, here, and here.

Siobhan Wilson – Voir un ami pleurer
Jacques Brel – Voir un ami pleurer

Miss Wilson’s English-language side is decidedly folky, with some twists, especially when combining a hip-hop/ r&b rhythm with a minimalistic cello, as featured on Getting Me Down. Extra: DJ Anoraak’s remix of the song with a sweeping disco-pop beat. Jolie one.

Siobhan Wilson – Getting Me Down

Siobhan Wilson – Getting Me Down (Anoraak Remix)

FS Rerun: Sarah Nixey

Though Sarah Nixey is British, she’s a fille to boot, levitating effortlessly between the realms of innocence and lasciviousness, the subversive and the sublime. With Black Box Recorder – assisted by Luke Haines of Auteurs fame and John Moore, ex-Jesus & Marychain –, she recorded three of the smartest, though too much neglected pop CDs of the last decade. French Rock’n’Roll from Recorder’s brilliant second record Facts of Life echoes the spirit of Jane & Serge, London-style, and features even a few lines in French:

Black Box Recorder – French Rock’n’Roll

Solo, Sarah also did a trippy club cover of Francoise Hardy’s hit Le temps de l’amour, written by Hardy’s future husband Jacques Dutronc in 1962, and Ici avec toi, a gauloised-up translation of her original song When I’m Here With You.

Sarah Nixey – Le temps de l’amour

Sarah Nixey – Ici avec toi

Last not least, another of Sarah’s French connections from the compilation The Worst of Black Box Recorder: Her version of Terry Jacks’ weeper superhit Seasons of the Sun – cover of Jacques Brel’s classic chanson Le Moribond – reverberating an entirely different quality: the dizzy state when awakening from a already half-forgotten dream.

Black Box Recorder – Seasons in the Sun

Dia de Los Muertos (3)

There probably will be no music at my real funeral. I’d rather prefer a reading of the last three pages of Pierre Drieu la Rochelle’s Le feu follet. However, at my fictitious funeral this All Saints’ Monday, my future ghost will engulf in the kitsch grandeur of the English version of Le Moribond. Jacques Brel’s 1961 original is a bit too snappy for my tastes, and Terry Jacks’s 1974 smash hit adaptation – originally to be recorded by the Beach Boys (!) – well, let’s put a shroud over it. The ultimate version is undoubtedly by Rod McKuen, close Brel friend and translator of many of his lyrics. His rugged-voice US version, adapted first by the Kingston Trio in 1964, sentimentalizes Brel’s chanson for sure, and simultaneously transforms it into big-scope American death disc drama. Paradoxically, the starfish on the beach granted him a nice bit of immortality.
Rod McKuen – Seasons in the Sun