Charles Aznavour

La Bohème

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LA BOHEME takes, however loosely, inspiration from the opera of Parisian bohemian life, but this is neither a recasting of Puccini's work nor a cohesive work in its own right. Aznavour's songs--as always, he wrote or co-wrote the lot--are neither as proudly, defiantly outcast as those of his mentor, Edith Piaf, nor a creepily salacious as his most obvious pupil, Serge Gainsbourg.

There's a dignity to even Aznavour's most maudlin tales, helped immensely by his less-than-perfect but infinitely expressive voice, which meshes beautifully with Paul Mauriat's lush but never overpowering orchestrations. Americans and others who only know Aznavour from Reprise Records' misguided attempt to turn him into the French Perry Como--at home, he's a national treasure--would do well to start here for the beginning of their reappraisal.

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