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Poètes & chansons : Léo Ferré

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Customer Reviews

hmmmmmm

french music is funny(but good)

The sum is lesser than the parts

These songs represent only a fraction of one of France’s leading poets-songwriters’ 50-year career. Therein lies their charm: they were picked without any pretension of painting a detailed portrait of this belligerent, complex artist; rather, you get the impression that they were choices of pure affection. Both the music and the interpretations are a mixed bag: In the early fifties and sixties, Ferre produced a wry, sardonic social commentary often heavily laden with populistic dance rhythms (“la java” and dance-hall tango) and instrumentation that did not hesitate to sink into bad taste; these songs benefit from this clear, dignified make-over, and are in many ways superior to the dated originals. However, later on, Ferre branched out both lyrically – writing aggressively political statements, profoundly moving poems about love and aging, and erotically-charged declarations full of obscene language delivered deadpan – and musically, venturing into lush, slow orchestral scores and classical music (which he conducted). Some songs from that period, sung by others, work; some are sort of pointless, because no one can inhabit them quite like the man who actually believed every word he wrote. Ferre’s versions of his “Avec le Temps” (In Time) and his anarchist credo, “Ni Dieu ni Maitre” (Neither God not Master) are definitive. Think of it this way: ever hear a really worthwhile cover of “Stairway to Heaven?” Thankfully, nothing is included of Ferre's last period, his dubious devotion to schmaltzy, hour-long quasi-classicism with swelling violins (either one long work or songs that all sounded exactly the same), over which he spoke his texts, or, worse yet, first spoke them then sung them, as if once were not enough. The interpreters, like the songs, cover the gamut from annoyingly imitative of Edith Piaf to blistering. The gravelly voice that sounds older than Ferre on his last recordings belongs to Philippe Leotard, whom you’ve seen plenty, although you may not realize you have: he’s a French actor with a craggy face who’s been in so many movies that it would be impossible to’ve missed him unless you’ve shunned French movies for about thirty years altogether. He has recorded a complete album of Ferre’s songs; these are excerpts. Successful versions of Ferre's songs have been recorded by a lot of French artists who were or are celebrities in their own right, but none of those are included. If you know little or nothing about Ferre, this may be a great album to listen to but not remotely a way to learn about the artist. If you know all you want about Ferre, then you can pick the songs that sound most interesting to you, but I’m not sure I would recommend the whole album.

Poetes et chansons: Leo Ferre

I didn't realize when I bought this (you can't read the small print on the cover thanks to iTunes) that in fact these are interpretations of Ferre's songs. Why buy the imitation when the man himself can interprete his own songs better than anyone else? (which incidentally isn't the case for everyone eg Leonard Cohen; try listening to the definitive interpretation of Hallelujia by Welshman John Cale). But as for this one you need to like Ferre without Ferre himself...

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Poètes & chansons : Léo Ferré, Novecento
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