Bernard Lavilliers

Histoires

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Bernard Lavilliers' discography is littered with partial "greatest hits" collections and half-hearted CD reissues. This "best of" stands two full heads above anything else as the definitive introduction to the man's socially conscious songs. The only flaw of Histoires ("Stories") is the fact that it includes not a single track from the singer's first three albums -- but Barclay/Polygram doesn't own them. Most key cuts from 1976's Les Barbares up to 1997's Clair Obscur have been included. Lavilliers rarely sticks to a single style for the course of an album. Instead he builds contrasts between pop beat and world music, political themes and acrid love ballads. The decision to present the songs in chronological order could be seen as ill-advised but in fact pieces together a very accurate picture of both the persona and his music. Key tracks include the scorching "15e Round" (Lavilliers never expressed better the dichotomy between virility and feelings), the new wave song "Idées Noires," the worldbeat hits "Stand the Ghetto," "Kingston," and "Melody Tempo Harmony" (featuring Jimmy Cliff). The French market version is a three-disc affair, while the international version is limited to two discs in order to keep it at an introductory price. Careful remastering and the inclusion of all lyrics make Histoires the perfect point of entry into Lavilliers' irresistible songwriting.

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