Jacques Brel's third album was his first to be conceived and recorded from the position of indisputable fame paved by the success of "Quand on N'a Que l'Amour" two years earlier. It also remains, so many years later, his most understated and, in turn, underrated. Only one of the songs herein, "Litanies Pour un Retour," has seen anything approaching a high-profile English-language version (by Marc Almond), while a mere handful of its contents have appeared on subsequent compilations. Yet in many ways, it is the finest of Brel's Philips-era albums, bearing songs which may not have been raised to classic status by future translators, but are nonetheless remarkable for all that. "Dites, Si C'etait Vrai," a poem first released on the Quand on N'a Que l'Amour EP two years earlier, is especially astonishing, oozing mystery in both the churchy accompaniment and Brel's dark tones. Two arrangers contributed to the album -- Andre Popp and Francois Raubert; indeed, the latter would also step up to share co-composition credits with Brel on five of the album's nine tracks (Gaby Wagenheim would be co-credited on a sixth, the jaunty "Le Colonel"). For anybody familiar with Raubert's earlier work with Brel, it was doubtless no surprise to discover these to be the most flamboyant efforts in sight, with "Dors Ma Mie, Bonsoir" a virtual epic of concert piano and soaring strings, and broken into veritable mini-movements as well. From the same pens, "Litanies Pour un Retour" offers a delicate shopping list of an unnamed lover's virtues, while "La Lumiere Jaillira" drifts to stately organ, a cathedral of sound around a cavernously echoing voice. The most potent statement of the Brel/Raubert partnership, however, is "L'Homme Dans la Cite," which nudges the same fascination with revolutionaries and messiahs that flavored "Le Diable" on his debut. It is the accompaniment which captivates, however, rattling along to an understated military drumbeat while the orchestra builds almost imperceptibly (but, ultimately, unmistakably) behind the vocal, a sublime bolero.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson