Sylvie Vartan

Les Années RCA, Vol. 2: 1964-1967

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The second volume in this series of Sylvie Vartan's recordings for RCA is, like the first, a biggie, the two CDs including 56 songs she recorded between 1964-1967. While the appeal of almost any series such as this is by its nature largely confined to serious fans and completists, it should be said that this era did mark an improvement from her earlier recordings, which had mostly been limited to "ye-ye"-style covers of American rock & roll songs. There are still quite a few covers of rock & roll, girl group, soul, and British Invasion songs from overseas -- Vartan occasionally singing in English rather than French, though she sounds uncomfortable with the language -- but there are also a good number of tunes that don't interpret such familiar turf. She was never going to be in the league of Françoise Hardy or France Gall either in the vocal department or the quality of her material, but there's some decent period mid-'60s French pop here in both the orchestrated ballad and go-go rock style, albeit notable more for the songs than the singer. Fans of British rock arcana will also be interested to note the presence of a few songwriting contributions by Mick Jones (later of Spooky Tooth and Foreigner) and what must be one of the very first Marc Bolan covers, "Il Faut Trouver Son Coin de Ciel," which Bolan had done (as "Beyond the Rising Sun") on a 1966 flop U.K. single. Tommy Brown, a fellow Brit who worked alongside Jones with several French artists during the period, is a co-writer of two of the strongest tracks, the Dusty Springfield-like "Gonna Cry" and the more bittersweet girl group-influenced "Cette Lettre-La." There are also sessions on which notable British arrangers David Whitaker and Arthur Greenslade were involved in the production. And there are a good number of tracks that rock surprisingly hard, one guesses with the benefit of at least some non-French sessionmen. Of course, to get to these relative highlights, you have to slog through too many of those covers of overseas hits, which generally don't come within leagues of the originals, Vartan sounding at her worst on some inappropriate attempts at soul standards like "Rescue Me" and "I Can't Help Myself."