Johnny Hallyday

Riviere Ouvre Ton Lit

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Johnny Hallyday's self-titled 1969 album was not one of his more typical releases, going into heavier British-influenced rock (though all the songs are sung in French) than the poppier rock & roll for which he's more widely known. It could be, however, the Hallyday album most likely to interest non-French listeners, if only for a strong if unlikely connection to a famous British rock band. The Small Faces -- then on the verge of breaking up -- backed him up for three of the tracks, all recorded at a January 3, 1969 session. These included a French-language cover of the group's "That Man," plus two songs by Small Faces members Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, "What You Will" (later cut by Humble Pie for their first album) and "News Report," never done by the Small Faces on their own records. What's more, all but one of the other songs were penned by Mick Jones (the same Mick Jones who'd go on to Spooky Tooth and Foreigner) and Tommy Brown, who also did arrangements and played on the album. So after all that, how's the music? Well, it does sound a little like cookie-cutter early British guitar-organ hard rock with a somewhat overwrought French singer. Not that it bothered Hallyday's following, with the album going to number one in France and yielding a hit single there, "Riviere...Ouvre Ton Lit," that became a staple of his live sets ever since. Nonetheless, Hallyday himself said in his autobiography that he hated the record and considered it his worst to date. There probably won't ever be a consensus among Hallyday fans (or other rock fans) as to the album's worth. But it does get very respectful treatment for the English-speaking audience on its 2009 reissue on Cherry Red, with extensive historical liner notes and photos/sleeve illustrations.

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