Brigitte Bardot / Serge Gainsbourg

From St. Tropez to Paree

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This CD's artist billing of Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot might lead you to expect an album of duets between the celebrated once-lovers, or at least a compilation of tracks featuring either Gainsbourg or Bardot as performers. It's not quite that, and in fact, it's hard to say quite what this is, other than being a collection of 1956-1960 tracks that all have some relationship to Gainsbourg and/or Bardot. Sometimes that relationship is quite tenuous, so much so that not one of the tracks features Bardot as a singer or performer. What gives, then? Well, it does start with four songs that Gainsbourg wrote and sang on the 1960 EP Romantique 60 that are easily the most notable recordings on this compilation, displaying his fully formed, sparkling musical, lyrical, and vocal wit on songs that draw more heavily from jazz, pre-rock/pop, and Latin music than his later, more internationally famous work. The next five cuts are Gainsbourg-composed instrumentals from the 1960 film Les Loups Dans La Bergerie that show his facility with jazz noir (and again, on "Cha Cha Cha du Loup," his interest in Latin jazz). The Gainsbourg portion of the CD concludes with a couple of covers of his compositions, Juliette Greco's mischievously martial "La Recette de L'amour Fou" and Jean-Claude Pascal's live "Le Pointconneur Des Lilas."

The rest of the disc is ostensibly devoted to Bardot, but most of it's actually music from soundtracks of films in which she appeared in 1956-1960: Babette S'en Va-t-en Guerre, La Vèrité, L'Affaire D'une Nuit, En Effeuillant La Marguerite, and Les Bijoutiers du Clair de Lune. These might have their appeal to French movie/soundtrack buffs of certain tastes, but certainly the connection to Bardot (let alone Gainsbourg) isn't reflected heavily in the music, which veers from light comedy (Babette) and respectable cool jazz (much of La Vèrité) to ersatz rock & roll, saloon piano music, and tango. The seductively purred, semi-sleazy title track of En Effeuillant La Marguerite is a welcome interlude, though it's sung by Rolande Desomeaux, not Bardot. Tony Bennett, of all people, then comes to the fore as singer of the early Burt Bacharach-Hal David song "The Night That Heaven Fell" (from Les Bijoutiers du Clair de Lune). Then there's one "track" on which Bardot is heard, in a French-language, apparently spoken interview or dialogue excerpt (the English-language annotation does not make the source clear), before the CD closes with Nico Gomez's amusing, Cuban-styled vocal jazz tribute "Brigitte Bardot." There's some interesting stuff here, but it's not served as well as it should be by the liner notes, which provide some impressions of Gainsbourg and Bardot's early careers without specifically detailing the music heard on this compilation. It might appeal to Francophile fans of late-'50s and early-'60s music and cinema from France to varying degrees, and does have 79 minutes of material. But it's hard to imagine many listeners remaining interested throughout the entire program.

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