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Mr Lucky
Music Reviews

Jean Sablon
Jean Sablon
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 of Mistinguett.

Leo Marjane
Anthologie
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.

Miharu Koshi
Chanson Solaire
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.

Baguette Quartette
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!

 

 

 


 



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