Cascia Création/WMD CD202003
When discussing vintage French music, the French always nod in
agreement when we mention Charles Trénet and then pooh-pooh Jean
Sablon. We find confusing because this crooner had a great set of
pipes and looked like a dreamboat. His place would be somewhere
between Bing Crosby and Sinatra. His biggest hit, Vous Qui Passez
Sans me Voir, sends us to the moon, as does his swing version
of the children's song Sur le Pont d'Avignon, the romantic
Mon Village au Clair de Lune and his French version of These
Foolish Things (Remind Me of You), Les Petites Choses, complete
with Crosby-inspired Ba-ba-ba-bo crooning.
Finding the best Sablon compilation isn't that easy. Jean Sablon
has all the essential tracks but the remastering is horrific. The
American label DRG has a two-disc set, Jean Sablon (CDXP
606), which is fair but it doesn't include Vous Qui Passez Sans
me Voir. The excellent French label, Fremeaux and Associates,
has a two- CD collection, Jean Sablon 1933-1946 (FA 062),
but it concentrates too heavily on the ballads and pretty much ignores
the more uptempo numbers. This collection includes a nice bilingual
booklet, chronicling Sablon's rise from obscurity with the help
Encyclopedia EN 514
On our many French compilations, the songs of Leo Marjane kept
grabbing our attention. She strikes us as the quintessential French
chanteuse with her cool delivery and detached passion. The irony
is that her biggest success was during the war when she sang French
versions of American standards like Music, Maestro Please, Deep
Purple and September in the Rain. Apparently her love
of foreign chansons got the better of her as she allegedly entertained
the occupying Nazis in Paris with a little too much enthusiasm.
After the war, her star waned so she retired early. This set
is a good mix of standards, French songs and some obscure American
tunes, all sung in French. We love Sentimentale and Soir
sur la Forêt in particular.
Marjane can also be heard on the Charles Trénet compilation Boum!:
Intégrale Charles Trénet Vol. 3 (Frémeaux & Assoc FA 083)
singing Trénet's Jardins du Mois de Mai and Serandae Portugaise.
She also does a good version of Trénet's classic Vous Qui Passez
Sans me Voir on Original Best of Retro (EMI France 8573242),
a four-CD budget collection we found in Paris.
Foa Records (Japan) FRCA 1002
File this one under "Oddities". Chanson Solaire
is a collection of French standards sung straight (and charmingly
so) in Japanese. Koshi has a high little choirgirl voice that works
perfectly with the classic French songs and the mostly traditional
arrangements. It's beyond cute and surprisingly, the music is still
good after the joke wears off. Particularly fine are her takes on
the two Trénet songs, L'âme des Poètes and Boum. We
like it but there's no denying it's a bit weird.
L'air de Paris
Baguette Quartette 6587
Any fool who doesn't like Paris is seeing it in the wrong light.
Italy can be considered an elegant third world traffic jam or it
can be the place where Anita Ekburg and Marcello Mastroianni traipse
through the Fontana di Trevi in Fellini's La Dolce Vita.
Mexico can be experienced as a dirty cesspool of humanity with no
functioning toilets or one can pass a steamy afternoon in a cantina
munching gorgeous chunks of pork with hot tortillas, all the while
being lulled into a dream state by the falsettos of the mariachi
singers and good tequila. The charms of Paris are perhaps more subtle
and civil, but they're genuine and as potent as a good bottle of
parfum. As far as we're concerned, one listening to L'air de
Paris by the Baguette Quartette and Paris goes from being just
a stop on the Euro-tour to the City of Light. We'll never be able
to return back without hearing this disc in our head.
The first thing you'll need to do is get over your fear of accordions.
The "squeeze box" can be difficult for novices but remember
your first taste of scotch (or pastis, in this case). Often life's
finest things go undetected by the masses. Even still, it's a no-brainer
to enjoy this disc. Along with accordion are violin, guitar, mandolin
and double bass. The songs are mostly from before World War 2 and
the styles range from bal musette to tango to waltz.
If you allow your imagination to get the better of you, as we often
do, it's easy to picture that perfect bistro dinner with that perfect
French friend, serenaded by the perfect French band. Every so often,
the Madame comes out of the kitchen, wipes her hands on her apron,
pours a forty-year-old armengac for the table and sings the songs
from her days as a spry mademoiselle. In this case, the singer is
accordionist Odile Lavault, and while she is in real life young
and vibrant, we don't think she'll mind aging substantially for
our bistro fantasy.
The amazing juggling act of the Baguette Quartette is that they
manage to be chic, fun, casual, disciplined, corny and completely
musical all at the same time. There are no compromises and yet this
disc sounds like anything but a museum piece.
We have to chuckle to ourselves a bit. When we spoke with Ms Lavault,
she said it sounded like ours would be one of the few reviews that
didn't include one bad French cliché after another and yet we've
done just that. Oops!