Robert Charlebois

Robert Charlebois (aka Je Rêve à Rio)

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Strange how history remembers the wrong records sometimes. Robert Charlebois' 1974 LP Robert Charlebois [aka Je Rêve à Rio] ("Je Rêve à Rio" being the first track and the biggest hit from this album) stands as his most accomplished effort from the mid-'70s, a work of maturity as a composer, a performer, and a studio artist (it was his tenth release). Yet, because it only yielded one hit and a couple of minor classics ("Manche de Pelle," "Tendresse et Amitié") it was quickly sidelined and remains mostly forgotten. The anger and the folk roots found in Solidaritude have been evacuated to make room for some of the singer's best songs. Arrangements have been carefully laid down and include lots of 12-string guitar, electric piano, and light synthesizer work. With the exception of the political "Qué-Can Blues" ("We are Gypsies forgotten by Jacques Cartier's friends"), the songs aim for a universal ideal. "Je Rêve à Rio" and "Antilles" see Charlebois indulge in his love for Caribbean music. "Trop Belle Pour Mourir" is a touching song with lyrics by sound poet Claude Gauvreau -- the only song he ever wrote, given to Charlebois days before his untimely death in the early '70s. The singer gives an incredible emotive power to the poet's meaningless lines "Zoutépaudévafe/Sig aligne a tu you zu." But the real treat on this record is the string of songs Charlebois wrote with his muse, Mouffe ("Urgence," "Le Droit de S'En Aller," "Avant de Me Taire," and "Le Dernier Corsaire"), all grandiose, intelligent songs with a '70s twist propelled by his bombastic piano playing. It may not have yielded many hit singles, but this album remains one of the artist's best-aging records with the most universal appeal for non-Quebecers.

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