Jacques Brel

Talents of the Century, Vol. 2

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The second volume in the late Jacques Brel's complete retrospective begins, like all of these volumes, with a surprse, as rather than follow the recorded history faithfully, there are inserted, at various points, unreleased masters. Here it's another version of "Orly," with a beautiful subdued acoustic guitar as the sole accompaniment for the first two verses until a string orchestra insinuates itself into the proceedings; the pure, glorious drama of Brel's voice is present in every note, bringing the tale's dramatic narrative to the fore before a few blasts of a brass section underline his story. "Jojo" is another of these moments, as is the version of "Viellir," and "Voir un Ami Pleurer," but none have the sheer theatrical tension of "Orly." Besides this quartet, the are the familiar renditions of such Brel classics as "Les Biches," "Bruxelles," "Roasa," "Es Bonbons," "Le Gaz," "Fernand," and "Les Marquieses," from the years 1962 through 1966. In all, the Barclay masters here number 16, representing, far better than volume one, the mature and confident style of Brel as a musical dramatist. This is the man Scott Walker sought most to emulate because in each utterance of his voice is an entire history of both song and literature. The production for the time is first-rate, and the digital mastering process is flawless. For those looking for a few select volumes of this retrospective, choose this one first for its remarkable, and even revelatory, consistency of vision.

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