Jacques Dutronc

Jacques Dutronc [1968]

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On his second album, Jacques Dutronc took a giant leap toward immortality, delivering one of the greatest albums of French '60s rock at its most creative. Whereas his contemporary Ray Davies needed five to six albums to reach his artistic summit, the often compared Dutronc already succeeded at the second attempt. Hence, the first album's garage rock overtones were exchanged in a fortnight for a record on par with the Kinks' Something Else. On top of the sheer variety in musical styles, Dutronc delivers his finest hour: the classic chanson "Il Est Cinq Heures, Paris S'Éveille," which could be viewed as a mirror image to Davies' "Waterloo Sunset." This clearly brings up the subject of Dutronc's silent partner, the songwriter Jacques Lanzmann. The genius of his lyrics proved just as crucial to the singer's image during the first stage of his career. The clever wordplay of songs like "Mini Mini Mini" -- commenting on the day's fashion, Dutronc insists he prefers "maxiskirt" to miniskirt, "maxister" to minister, and so on -- helped to turn the debut album into a million-seller within a year of its release. However, the enchanting "Il Est Cinq Heures, Paris S'Éveille" was an altogether different kind of story. Written by Lanzmann and his other half, Anne Ségalen, it's a poetic and fairly accurate account of a nightclubber's morning after: upon describing how the city slowly awakens, the song's protagonist decides he just isn't tired enough to go home yet. Highly recognizable for its flute solo (an improvisation by Roger Bourdin), it evokes images of Paris, for which the casual listener doesn't have to know a lot of French. Released as an EP in its own right, it proved a hit all over Europe and gets a lot of airplay to this day.

Considering Dutronc's music and arrangements, there's a dazzling variety this time around. In addition, his singing has improved noticeably, as he switches on more than one occasion from mere reciting to actually carrying a melody. This becomes evident on a song like the Moody Blues-referencing "Le Métaphore" as well as the frivolous "Le Courrier du Coeur," a song set up as a newspaper advice column (kind of like "Dear Abby, I'm in love with a woman with a mustache"). Also, there are still plenty of wacky garage tunes left: the mixture of vaudeville and near hard rock of "La Publicité," the sitar-supported hippie bashing of "Hippie, Hippie, Hourrah," and Dutronc's "Hurdy Gurdy Man" avant la lettre "Les Méthamorphoses." [It should be noted that all of Jacques Dutronc's seven albums made between 1966 and 1975 lack a proper title. To keep them apart, the second album is equally referred to by its original year of release (1968), the first song on the album ("Comment Elles Dorment"), or either one of the title tunes to the preceding or later released EPs "La Publicité," "Il Est Cinq Heures, Paris S'Éveille," or "Le Courrier du Coeur." Furthermore, the content of these three EPs matches exactly with the 12 songs present on the second album.]

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