Juliette Gréco

Juliette Gréco [1993]

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Has there ever been a singer like Juliette Gréco? Her voice embodies the entirety of French romanticism, its cabaret sensibilities and the dramas of its pride, heartbreak, and openness. While many singers from the same era have rated extremely lavish box sets -- and some from the age after even more (Serge Gainsbourg has had no less than four) -- she languishes as a forlorn superstar, loved by millions yet critically dismissed outside of her native land. This 1993 recording showcases what it is that makes Gréco so very special. From her voice of debauchery and wisdom in "Vivre dans l'Avenir" to her romantic, seductive voice of longing and reverie in "Comme un Journal" in the very next track, we are startled by the fact that this is the same woman. She knows, she hurts, she remembers, with a different voice for each emotion. And Gréco doesn't stop there, she digs deep into the French heart to bring out its most knowing glances and most wrenching loves in songs like "Les Femmes Sont Belles," "Pyramide," and "Radio Boum Boum." But it isn't until track 11, and continuing until the end in "Le Temps des Cerises," that she becomes absolutely devastating. Her recitation of the poem Qo'on me Donne une Chanson d'Amour sets the entire album -- in the perspective of its lush arrangements, done by Francois Rauber and Jean Claude Petit -- as virtually a love story, one with many ends and more beginnings than she can remember. In the grain of her voice all hearts are reflected in the quavering timbre that carries the confluence of emotions out into the world to reaffirm that the experiences of joy, tears, lust, heartache, and a quiet yet reserved happiness are common to the human condition, but they are the signatures of the French culture. This is as moving as any record she has ever made, and finer than most. Gréco offers her soul for the hearing on this album, but she also claims that soul as France's.

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