The French Connection
Part Three of 'Pop à Paris'- A CD Review
Vol. 3: C’est la Mode:
Now, you’re talking! Right smack in the middle of "minet’s" world down the champs élysées from the drugstore Publicis, Dominique Walter affectionately slurs about little homely chicks in the Serge Gainsbourg penned well-loved classic, "Les Petits Boudins" (little girl dogs). This is the type you always bump into while dancing in a club or waiting in a bistrot. Not Valérie Lagrange, a part-time actress, she’s also a beaut and she sings it with fuzz under her "lalalas" in "Ce Que Je Suis" (What I am)!
Ronnie the king is back with this psychedelic pop ballad, "De l’ Autre Côté du Miroir" (the other side of the mirror), a mini-masterpiece again from his best Ep from ‘68.
The French sex goddess, Brigitte Bardot, can’t sing (she never could!), but she recites something about the devil being English in this French classic, "Le Diable est Anglais," something of relevance in those kinky swingin’ London daze!
Dan et Vanny, two unknowns, do a near perfect French sung rendition of the Lovin’ Spoonful classic, "Summer in the City," "Personne Dans Cette Ville" (nobody in this town). Even better is this original: "L’amour à Travers et à Tort" (funky love) by, yet another swingin’ mademoiselle, Anna St. Clair, in the jazzy baroque mode!
Next is the world-class French Pop classic masterpiece, "Le Saule Pleureur" (the weeping willow) by the mighty Michel Polnareff (whatta talent!). Swingin’ sista Vetty sings an ultra jerkin’ dance novelty tune, "Nicolas," a stoopid song about a pig-pen-poor-devil of a character in the classroom!
Eric Charden, the future husband of Stone, croons the ultra classique French pop romantic ballad, "Le Monde est Gris, Le Monde est Bleu." (What the hell is this doing here? Who are they fooling, thinking he’s Barry Ryan, once more!) Luckily, Elsa, our lady beatnick friend, comes to the rescue with this upbeat fuzz jerker, "C’est Sérieux" (this is serious). But, Peter Vann puts back another typical novelty tune, "Mettez une Cravate" (put on a tie), fortunately a relevant for the times that’s funny enough commentary about uniforms in Society.
Annie Philippe returns with the superb title-track of this volume, "C’est La Mode" (that’s the fashion) in the upbeat-girl-group, danceable style. It’s very catchy, full of charm, and a true French classic. I love it!
Here then is a typical ‘66 jerk instrumental for all you minets with ants in your pants, "Surprise for You" by Orfino (who?). The legendary Fleurs de Pavot also returns with this mighty Pop novelty with trumpetting Buckingham Palace brass fanfare, intelligent fun lyrics and all, "Dans Ma Garçonnière" (in my Bachelor Pad)!
Alas, Nicoletta, a poorer swingin’ mademoiselle, makes a barely passable cover of Dusty Springfield’s ‘Son of a Preacher Man," "Le Grand Amour" (Love with a big L), a typical French adaptation of international pop hits done for the local crowd weeks before the original was found in the stores (like watching a dubbed foreign film).
Then another obligatory famous comic, Pierre Doris, makes his novelty dance number, "J’ai Pas Eu Peur" (who are you trying to scare?), actually quite enjoyable from the instrumental point. Aaah, France Gall, the queen, delivers us a wonderful exotic French pop: "Chanson Indienne" done Indian style (I never realized she was that great--even better than more famous Françoise Hardy!) with gorgeous vocals. Magnifique! The master is not far behind, Serge Gainsbourg offers us a classic song from his swingin’ London phase, "Torrey Canyon" with hammond and all!
Pascale Audret also returns with her narcissistic, erotic, baroque pop symphony, "Je m’aime" (Don’t I just love myself!). It’s very sensual and typical of ‘69!
After, Gil Now, the French dandy belts out his mod tune, "Dis le Moi" (Tell me), an ultra groovy break-beat to dance the Skate to! Later Violaine, the rrioot girl equivalent to Antoine, sings about her existential problems to the tune of harmonicas and guitar riffs, "J’ai des Problèmes Décidément." It’s punchy and charming!
Poor Johnny Hallyday is back with a song adaptation of one of Ike & Tina Turner’s ("Such a Fool for You") during his post-rocker R&B phase, "Je Crois Qu’IL Me Rend Fou (I think he’s making me mad)." This is not half as bad as you might expect from him, and he’s a rich man too!
Vol. 4: Minet Jerk:
This is the weakest comp so far with far too many varieties for a rocker’s taste--a filler! Still, you might want to have them all as a whole body of work?
Polnareff makes his reappearance here with another of his Folk-Pop chansons, "L’oiseau de Nuit" (night bird) with a touch of Hispanic guitar; he really must be considered a French Donovan, but much more lyrical and musical than somebody as stiff as Dylan.
Mademoiselle Cris Kersen really sounds like a bluesy folk singer with her self penned, "Mon Ami," like a French Janis Ian despite her quiet girly blond looks on the cover. Next is the gawdawful David Alexandre Winter (father of ‘90s bleached blond sex bimbo Ophélie Winter, a French equivalent to Christina Aguilera!), famous for his ‘70 hit "Oh Lady Mary," who tries hard to be Tom Jones in his exaggerated, nearly comical cover of Archie Bell & the Dells’ "I Can’t Stop Dancing," "Qu’est-ce que j’ai Dansé." He sweats, grunts, and belts it out like some pathetic-rutting male (quite a danceable number in a cheesy way)!
Swingin’ mademoiselle Catherine Desmarets, yet another, sings about IBM and the powers of computer land dictating your life in, "Les Petites Croix" (cross marks), which has nothing to do with religion as the title suggests in French!" It’s a novelty pop number sung in an offbeat humorous way, more interesting in a story telling with it’s oblique social commentary, than from the musical side.
Nino Ferrer, the king of the Minets, at last makes his first appearance here with his R&B shouter style in the typical French novelty way, with witty lyrics, "Le Roi d’ Angleterre" (The King of England), spot-on in the times of all things British (though far from being his best work).
Patricia Carli, another charming ‘femme de Paris’ sings about the macho male, with that typical French "je ne sais quoi" always more humorous than musical, "Le Lion" (hey, Tiger!). Think Italian cha cha variety.
At last, we get to the killer of the record, "Hippies Nous Voilà" (hippies here we are) by the mighty Fleurs de Pavot. It’s a killer organ beat with feedbacks and witty lyrics (more club than hippy), but hip all the same (their sole LP is highly sought after)!
Stone returns with a track from her first Ep, "Trés Bus Palladium," swingin’ cover of the Beatles’ "You Won’t See Me," done in the upbeat pop brassy way, typical of French adaptations, "Le Jour, la Nuit (night and day).
Herbert Léonard, ex-frontman for Frenchbeat group, Les lionceaux, sings a number from his post-group days in the typical Tom Jones soulish style, "Cher Monsieur Fantaisie," which is directly inspired by Traffic’s "Mr. Fantasy."
Fairy princess, mademoiselle France Gall lovably sings a Serge Gainsbourg number before turning on to Jane Birkin (France was his fave lolita!), "Teenie Weenie Boppie" already on the classic EZ comp "Inflight 2," and upon hearing her tune you’ll know why Japanese collectors go ape over her . . . she’s sooo dolly French! The song is a direct refence to the dangers of LSD, like a storyboard out of a Pop-art comic book (think Guy Paellart’s comics like "Pravda" or "Jodelle").
Ex-French "Yéyé" teen idol, Lucky Blondo does the second version from this serie of Andy Williams’ EZ classic, "Music To watch Girls By," "Le Jeu du Téléphone"; his version is the male counterpart with a loud fuzz at the beginning! Then, Anouk, another girl beatnick sings about the going ons of Jimmy, "Jimmy est Parti Va Savoir Pourquoi" (Lord knows why Jimmy’s gone)" with a similar theme to "On the Road Again" or something like that.
Next is my favorite Boby Lapointe song from this collection, "Diba Diba," which was recorded in 1968 for the soundtrack of the movie,"Ballade Pour Un Chien" (Ballad for a dog!). But it was only issued in ‘76, which makes it a rare curio, with upbeat rhythm and fuzz guitar!
Mademoiselle Virginie sings the French adaptation of Peggy Lee and then Cher’s version of an original by Kinksman Ray Davies, "I Go To Sleep," "Tu Crois Toujours" (You always think), but it’s nothing to rave about.
On the other side of the French Pop spectrum, the master composer and arranger Serge Gainsbourg’s "Marilu" is a real Rave, with Beat and organ. And Elsa, lady beatnick, is back with an enjoyable comic-Dylan inspired, harmonica-driven and unplugged-guitar-strummin’ number, "Il se Fait Tard" (it’s getting late) She’s also very cute with her big wide eyes and straight long hair on the cover!
The next cut is a real joke: a novelty accordion instrumental in the French Musette style (a bit like Polka!) aimed to the dance floor called "Minet Jerk" (I suspect it was only included for the title!).
Sex Kitten, Brigitte Bardot returns with a stoopid, badly sung ‘Yéyé’ number, "La Fille de Paille (the straw girl)," which is only interesting because it’s from Bardot with her perculiar voice. But she’s no Ann Margret!
Frank Alamo, another ex-Yeye-idol-has-been of yesteryear, desperately tries to cope with the changing times with his flat adaptation of the Turtles, "Heureux Tous les Deux" (Happy Together)." And so does Johnny Hallyday, with an angry adaptation of Billie Joe Royal’s "Mal" (Hush). At least he has cheesy qualities (I think it comes from the soundtrack of classic ‘67 French swingin’ teen pop movie, "les Poynettes" . . . a must see as it’s a French equivalent to the Monkees’ show or something like "The Ghost Goes Gear")!
Annie Philippe, one of the French princesses of the swingin’ mademoiselle scene, is also back delivering a girlly brassy pop number, "Sensationnal Jeffry." This sort of thing has it’s charm and it’s public, I reckon.
Then, Eddie Vartan, brother of Sylvie, the bride of Johnny Hallyday, the King of rawk, and a top-teen-Yeye-idol-turned-swingin’-mademoiselle in her own right (plus, she’s a real cute blond who’s sadly missing from this collection!), conducts an instrumental version of Sonny & Cher’s "I Got You Babe (Je T’aime Trop, Toi)" the way Andrew Loog Oldham would, or Les Baxter!