Take two 1964 EPs, Brel and L'Age Idiot, and what do you get? Ces Gens-La, a full-length album that brings the two together. This straightforward reissue retains the original set list, yet adds no bonus material, which is a shame. On the upside, though, it's a nifty little package that collects Jacques Brel's mid-decade nuggets. Although the layman will be most familiar with "Jef," "Chanson de Jacky," and "Mathilde," there are other songs that are equally, if not more so, as strong as the "hits." "Ces Gens-Lá" is a perfect example. Accompanied at first by the merest beat of keys on a piano, the song brings Brel's voice completely to the front as it starts a slow stroke before building to pure passion, backed by both strings and brass. It's a beautiful composition in which, in true style, the singer skewers both the family and the Church. And it's moments like these that only enforce the realization that there would only ever be one chansonnier of Brel's caliber. "Grand'mère" and "Fernand," meanwhile, bring a lighthearted touch to the proceedings. So much emphasis in the English-speaking world has been placed on Brel's core "classic songs" that everything else pretty much falls away. And until the reissue push of the late '90s and early 2000s, much that had only been released on vinyl was all but lost. This compilation then, is a vital, vibrant reminder that Brel was far more than just a handful of hits.
AllMusic Review by Amy Hanson