Jane Birkin

Master Serie, Vol. 1

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Jane Birkin, the fashion model turned pop star and wife of Serge Gainsbourg, held her own as a recording artists from her initial outing with Serge in 1969 until the late '80s, with a few brief comebacks in the 1990s. With her vulnerable, threadbare voice and non-imposing demeanor, Birkin was able to allow a song to possess her completely and respond by letting her delivery come across as if she were entranced by its power. This collection of tracks, a kind of greatest hits and rarities amalgam, features Birkin in her best light. Of the 16 cuts, all of them were either written, produced, arranged, or all three in part by Gainsbourg. And as such, this set says as much about Gainsbourg as it does Birkin. The production is stellar, perfectly suited to her twee voice that juxtaposes a girlish innocence with a kinky, often brazen sexuality, wrapped up in the big beat popist trappings of snare drums, bass guitars, string sections and electric guitars or synthesizers. So, from the opener, "Quoi," the theme song from a mid-'80s French television program, to "Yesterday's a Day," with its mildly funky backdrop, to the folksy sensuality of "Ex-Fan des Sixties," to her namesake track, Birkin, breathes and whispers through the lyrics, gliding just above the airy and lushly, exquisitely contoured Gainsbourg mix. While these songs say less than nothing about anything but fun for the most part, they do so with a kind of fragile, erotic grace that is difficult to resist on any level. This is a great place to start for those interested in Birkin's solo work -- which, of course, was never really solo.

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