Jacques Brel

Jacques Brel Accompagne Pas François Rauber et Son Orchestra

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By 1963, four years had elapsed since Jacques Brel last released a new studio album. The interim, of course, had seen a succession of EPs, together with the phenomenally successful 1961 En Public live album. Still, the appearance of Jacques Brel Accompagne... -- his first for the Barclay label -- was a major event, and the album let nobody down. The opening "Les Bigots" sets the stage, a swirling lyrical rampage set to the semi-military rhythm which flavors so many of Brel's most impassioned compositions. "Les Vieux," the most affecting of his ruminations on the passing of time (it was later translated as "Old Folks" turns the tempo down musically if not emotionally). Elsewhere, "Les Filles et les Chiens," subsequently subject to a delightful cover by Scott Walker, and two tracks best known from the Alive and Well stageshow, "La Fanette" and "J'Aimais," rank among the album's other highlights. But it is the brutal "Les Toros" which truly flavors the album. Comparing the cruel death of Spanish bulls with the similar spite of war, "Les Toros" is one of the rocks upon which Brel's very reputation was founded, a tightly coiled condemnation which raises him alongside Dylan, Guthrie, and company in the annals of popular music's most cogent philosophers. If the original French is beyond you, check out the spellbinding English translation on Marc & the Mambas' Torment & Torrros album.

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