Jacques Brel

Jacques Brel [Reprise]

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Six years after his American debut album, the sensibly titled American Debut, Jacques Brel paid his first visit to U.S. shores, to headline Carnegie Hall. To mark the occasion, and hopefully alert the rest of the country to the remarkable talent which now walked among us, Reprise raided Brel's recent EP catalog for a collection of songs which rates among the most alluring compilations in his entire canon. Though most of the material has subsequently appeared across a host of compilations, Jacques Brel represents the first LP appearance for much of it, including the delightfully dotty "Les Bon Bons," the hometown homage of "Bruxelles," and "Les Paumes Du Petit Matin," the 1962 song from whose piano melody Serge Gainsbourg later conjured his "Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde." Brel's vocal contortions during the song's hook, meanwhile, are almost worth the price of admission on their own. Equally valuable is the inclusion of "Les Biches," a song which has been described among Brel's own favorite compositions but which is oddly lacking from the Barclay label's box set of his (otherwise) complete works. A smattering of material from what was then Brel's latest album, Jacques Brel 6 completes the album with what can now be regarded as apocalyptic style -- "Jef," an apparent role model for David Bowie's "Rock and Roll Suicide," and "Au Suivant," a demented tango reborn five years later as the Sensational Alex Harvey Band's show-stopping "Next," both rank among Brel's most vital compositions. Their presence alone ensures that this album lives up to the headline reprinted on the back cover -- they really are "like nothing heard before."

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