Nino Ferrer

Nino and Radiah et Le Sud

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Taking into account Nino Ferrer's personal view of his discography, the album Nino and Radiah should be perceived as his third album (although chronologically this was in fact number seven). It followed the prog rock approach of 1971's Métronomie and the rock & roll leanings of the Mickey Finn collaboration Nino Ferrer & Leggs from 1973. The album is partly named after Afro-American singer Radiah Frye, and her pinup presence flanking Ferrer substantially upgraded the original album cover. Accompanied by the Lafayette Afro Rock Band (aka Ice), Ferrer set out on yet another shape-shifting exercise. Building on the groovy vibe of Métronomie, the album ultimately steers toward majestically orchestrated, laid-back funk. Entirely different from his earlier take on Southern soul, the result requires several listenings before it gently entangles your subconscious and reveals its addictive qualities. Reminiscent of the New Orleans-inspired funk of Little Feat and California singer/songwriters from the same era, it's perfect company for driving the French countryside or West Coast highways. It was recorded in November 1973 and sung in English with one exception. Ferrer's longtime accomplice Bernard Estardy rearranged the track "South," adding some widescreen organ touches. The resulting "Le Sud" had huge commercial appeal, much to the chagrin of Ferrer: he felt the artistic compromise of aiming at chart success had rendered everything else on the album pointless in a similar way to what had happened previously to Métronomie and its leadoff track, "La Maison Près de la Fontaine." However, the royalties did enable him to buy a 15th century fortress in the Quercy region, where he would retreat between albums and divide his time between his family and painting. "Le Sud"/"South" refers to a Louisiana-style mansion situated in Italy: a pleasant and idyllic place where the moody Ferrer seeks refuge from his dark side. Both versions serve as bookends to the album, which works best as a whole. Still, standout tracks are the funky "Mint Julep" (a relative of the Mojito cocktail) with its fuzzy guitar and the lengthy but mesmerizing "Hot Toddy." "The Garden" with its lazy organ and the bongo-laden "New York" sound fairly close to what the French band Air would build an entire career on. Remaining a relatively undiscovered gem, Nino and Radiah is in fact up there with classics like Melody Nelson and Polnareff's. [This CD release of the album adds the slightly disappointing, less coherent follow-up album Suite en Oeuf and unfortunately sports a different album cover.]

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