Listeners outside of France are often surprised to discover that Brigitte Bardot had a long and successful musical career. Besides being arguably the most famous European actress of the '60s and certainly the living definition of the term "sex kitten," Bardot had a more than respectable streak of singles, many of which (especially those written and produced by Serge Gainsbourg) are some of the finest French pop of the decade. Gainsbourg gave Bardot some of his most bizarre material, possibly because he knew that Bardot's fame (and sleeve photos) alone guaranteed a certain level of sales. This second volume of Bardot songs in Universal's European Master Series set of single-artist compilations mostly consists of Bardot's smaller hits from the years 1966 to 1968, which means that her more experimental Gainsbourg material is heavily featured. Gems like the psychedelically strange "Contact" and the Americana-obsessed "Bubble Gum" and "Harley Davidson" are filled with odd sound effects, silly lyrics, and gimmicky arrangements. Another highlight is the original version of "Je T'Aime, Moi Non Plus," recorded in 1967 but not released because Bardot's orgasmic moans were considered too explicit. (Gainsbourg recorded a near-identical version with his girlfriend, Jane Birkin, in 1969 and had a worldwide hit.) Plus, of course, there's the immortal "Bonnie and Clyde," Gainsbourg's finest song and possibly the ultimate French pop song of the decade. However, Master Series, Vol. 2 also contains rather a lot of filler, most notably five instrumentals by Francis Lai that had appeared as links on Bardot EPs in the '60s. They're perfectly nice, particularly the brief instrumental version of Bardot's Eurovision Song Contest entry "St. Tropez," but they're mostly just there for curiosity's sake. Despite the filler and the disc's brevity (barely 40 minutes), the key tracks are of such high quality and the remastered sound is so much superior to previous repackages that this is an excellent purchase for newcomers to Bardot's particular brand of pop magic.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason
feat: Serge Gainsbourg