Robert Charlebois

Solidaritude

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Robert Charlebois' previous album, the 1972 Robert Charlebois [aka Fu Man Chu], announced that the once folksinger turned psychedelic rock beast was coming back to a more classic form of songwriting. Solidaritude confirmed this change and consecrated the man as Quebec's answer to both Jacques Brel and Bob Dylan: literate, sensible, and at times rocking. The title is a contraction of two French words: "solidarité" and "solitude." The inner sleeve of the LP included the caption: "Solitary first. Then showing solidarity." It refers to Charlebois' universal, citizen-of-the-world philosophy and his defense of oppressed or marginalized cultures. In the course of these 11 songs, he extends support to Native Americans ("Witchi Tai To," which became one of his classic live songs), the Cajun ("Cajun Stripper," a traditional song), and Quebecers, first by alerting them ("Entre 2 Joints," with its chorus "Between two splifs you could do something/Between two splifs you could kick your own arse") and then by being ironic on the rest of Canada's lack of recognition for the Quebec people ("Adieu Alouette"). But the strongest tracks in this set are the folklore-tinged and very funny "Cauchemar" (Nightmare), in which an unemployed lowlife wakes up one morning to find his mother-in-law taking control of his household, and the heart-drenching love ballad "Avril sur Mars" (April on Mars). The team of musicians is the same as on the previous LP. Songs are much shorter, tighter, and oriented on melody, and Charlebois concentrates on his piano playing. Solidaritude is the first album of his maturity as an artist and still one of his best. It replaces the demented energy of his late-'60s albums with stunning songwriting.

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