Although critics will argue over the merits of his work, there is no denying that Serge Gainsbourg is one of the most fascinating figures in French popular music. He is best-known on this side of the Atlantic for "Je T'aime Moi Non Plus," a breathy duet with Jane Birkin whose slick, sensual soft rock melody won over many a listener (Birkin's convincingly acted moans of pleasure made it fairly scandalous). However, Gainsbourg...Forever reveals this prolific writer/producer/performer could tackle everything from bohemian jazz to rock and even synth funk with style and eccentric wit. The first disc covers his progression from jazz hipster to pop music enfant terrible and features such gems as "Bonnie and Clyde," a tribute to romantic outlaws that Gainsbourg performs as a duet with Brigitte Bardot, and "Qui Est in Qui Est Out," a tune that finds Gainsbourg trading vocals with a chirpy girl chorus over a hard-driving rock melody fueled by fuzz guitar. It also includes "Ballade de Melody Nelson," a stately slice of acoustic pop fueled by some stylish string orchestrations. The second disc starts in the '70s and chronicles how Gainsbourg's bizarre humor and preoccupations began to overpower his musical gifts: "Rock Around the Bunker" marries shocking Nazi-themed lyrics to a lighthearted retro-rock melody and "Lemon Incest" is a bizarre sex fantasy whose squirm factor is enhanced by the fact that Gainsbourg performs it as a duet with his daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg. This kind of content might make sensitive listeners cringe with discomfort, but the music that backs them is stylishly performed and undeniably catchy. In the end, Gainsbourg...Forever succeeds because it presents a generous array of tracks that showcase the many sides of this eccentric but very gifted performer. As a result, Gainsbourg...Forever is the definitive introduction to Serge Gainsbourg's often-strange but always-interesting career.
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AllMusic Review by Donald A. Guarisco
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2