French heartthrob Raphael (that's Raphael Haroche, not to be confused with the veteran Spanish singer Rafael Martos, who goes by the same name) continues to soften his sound on his third album, Caravane. A longtime admirer of David Bowie, he's brought in two of Bowie's former sidemen, pianist Mike Garson, who plays piano on "La Route de Nuit," and guitarist Carlos Alomar, who plays throughout. Those musicians played with Bowie in the mid- and late '70s, but Raphael's musical approach here is somewhat closer to the early-'70s Bowie of Hunky Dory (though the album's concluding instrumental, "Funambule," is a child of Bowie's 1977 anthem "'Heroes'"). He is somewhat less theatrical than his mentor, but also likes to mix his voice way upfront. Since his lyrics are simple and sentimental (though effectively put across by his expressive tenor), he is easily understood whether he's singing about good times ("C'est Bon Aujourd'Hui") or eulogizing an actor who died young ("Chanson pour Patrick Dewaere"). Even English speakers with a little French (or high school students studying the language) are likely to have little trouble getting the gist of his messages, and even those who don't will appreciate the melodic pop/rock sound .
by William Ruhlmann