Robert Charlebois

Doux Sauvage

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In 2001 Robert Charlebois, now with 35 years of career and dozens of albums behind him, announced he repudiated his pop songs of the 1980s and early '90s (David Bowie did the same thing a couple of years earlier), revamped his backing band (hiring, among others, the avant-prog drummer Rémi Leclerc, of Miriodor and Papa Boa), and released Doux Sauvage on La Tribu, an up-and-coming alternative rock record label. Needless to say, the listener's expectations are high -- and quickly brought down. Charlebois did drop the pop arrangements, keyboard flourishes, and drum programming that plagued his albums of the past 15 years. The new sound puts the guitars (old Les Paul electric guitars) up front and the all-acoustic set up and the writing get very close to such important '70s LPs as Solidaritude and Longue Distance. The big difference is back then he was still a young songwriter showing Quebecers they can rock as good as the Americans. Now they know that and the Charlebois of "Ent' Deux Chaises" has become a revered artist, a successful businessman, a happy lover, and an overall nice guy -- he has nothing left to say. A song like "Pleine Lune" hints at "Jos Fingers Ledoux" and "Le Piano Noir" but lacks a humorous touch or poetic dimension. And who will believe "Alcool," a plea for sobriety coming from the owner of the biggest microbrewery in Quebec? Come on! Doux Sauvage is well-produced, decently performed, features interesting arrangements and a nice laid-back mood, but it has no guts, no urgency, none of the excitement the man was known for 20 years before. And re-recording his classic "Wichitai-to" to close the CD doesn't help.

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