Various Artists

St. Germain des Pres [Planet Rhythm]

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St. Germain des Pres attempts to capture the sophisticated feeling of Paris' artistic district in song, gathering 17 tracks from artists such as Yves Montand, Juliette Greco, Jacques Brel, and Jane Birkin. Montand's "Les Feuilles Mortes" is richly romantic and bittersweet, as is Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas," both of which define the throaty, brooding, slightly theatrical style of French chanteurs. Meanwhile, Barbara's "L' Aigle Noir" and Juliette Greco's rendition of the Serge Gainsbourg-penned "La Javanaise" prove that the collection gives equal time to chanteuses as well. Jane Birkin sings another Gainsbourg tune, "La Gadoue," and the man himself performs "Chanson de Maglia." Other highlights include Boris Vian's proudly elitist "Je Suis Snob," Claude Nougaro's "Le Jazz et la Java," and Arthur H.'s "Sur la Place." A witty and cultured album, St. Germain des Pres may not be a definitive collection of French popular music, but it is an enjoyable one.

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