Benjamin Biolay / Nicolas Fiszman


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Benjamin Biolay reveals that he is no longer the enfant terrible of modern indie chanson as he pays affectionate, wry, classy tribute to Charles Trenet, the iconic singer- songwriter often credited as the creator of nouvelle chanson. Singing and playing piano, Biolay offers up 12 songs by Trenet, most well-known, but not overly familiar -- he obviously avoids "La Mer," since it has already been covered some 400 times. He is accompanied by ace Belgian guitarist/bassist Nicolas Fiszman (Philip Catherine, Jacques Higelin, Alain Bashung, Charles Aznavour) and drummer Denis Benarrosh (Véronique Sanson, Claude Nougaro, Francis Cabrel, as well as occasional strings, winds, and hand percussion when warranted-- check the lithe, "Le Piano de la Plage." One of the most ubiquitous songs here is "Que reste-t-il de nos amours?," where the guitar is answered by the piano's high register, setting forth the sparse, forlorn melody, before giving way to languid, lush pop, illustrated by the hovering full string section around Biolay's sultry voice. His reading of "Le Grande Cafe" juxtaposes a jaunty cut-time swing--complete with flügelhorn--and a serious lyric tone. "Revoir Paris" is unadulterated luxury in its sad, intimate homage to the City of Lights; his dusky, melancholy vocal is underscored by the piano slicing through the lush, romantic strings like butter. Vanessa Paradis appears on "Ja'ia Ta Main," orchestrated by warm strings, celeste, and a trumpet playing its best Chet Baker. Biolay does without granting himself too many liberties; he respects the organic beauty in these songs--the bluesy "Verlaine" is a fine example. His grainy yet airy baritone remains faithful to both the singer and songwriter. Biolay contributes one of own numbers to the end of the album as a further tribute. "Chanson du Faussaire" emulates Trenet's signature melodic and rhythmic style with an exclamation point, but the vocal styling remains the composer's. Fans of Biolay's earlier recordings --particularly Rose Kennedy --will find this just as enchanting, if not as bracing as Vengeance. Fans of Trenet can expect not only a worthy tribute, but an excellent extension of the chanson lineage.

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