Various Artists

Sunnyside Cafe Series: Pop à Paris - Rock n' Roll and Mini Skirts, Vol. 1

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Rock n' Roll and Mini Skirts is a single-disc condensation of the supercool Pop a Paris five-disc series released in France that focused on French singers from the mid-'60s to early '70s. Those discs are a lighthearted blast of Now Sound pop theatrics, aggressive almost garagey rock, and wacky misappropriations of the American pop scene of the '60s. This disc serves as a fine (and readily available) alternative to picking up all five of the discs. The lineup mixes a bunch of familiar names like Serge Gainsbourg, Claude Francoise, France Gall, Brigitte Bardot, and Michel Polnareff with total unknowns like Eileen, Delphine, and Elsa. The track list is sprinkled with a liberal serving of wild covers of rock hits of the day like Johnny Hallyday's funky take on Joe South's "Hush" (here titled "Mal"), David Alexandre Winter's unhinged lounge singer gone mad stylings on Archie Bell & the Drells' "I Can't Stop Dancing," and Marie Laforet's spooky version of the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" (titled "Marie Douceru - Marie Colere"). Where the disc really shines is on the original tracks that are a perfect fusion of pop and French style: the amazing Michel Polnareff's dramatic "Le Roi des Fourmis," Jacqueline Taieb's pounding "Heures du Matin," which quotes "My Generation" and Little Richard to great comic effect, Henri Salvador's silly but still very catchy "Carnaby Street," and Eric Charden's emotional, very Walker Brothers-esque "Le Monde Est Gris, le Monde Est Bleu." The most interesting song on the record might be Delphine's cover of the obscure Florida garage band We the People's classic ballad "In the Past (La Fermeture Éclair)," which actually features the band providing the backing to Delphine's tough but tender vocal. The song is one of the better meetings of the girl group and garage sounds and will have you frantically searching for more Delphine recordings. Pop a Paris - Rock n' Roll and Mini Skirts is fun from beginning to end and is a perfect place for the uninitiated to get a taste of French pop in the '60s. Odds are once you hear this you'll start hunting down all five volumes of the excellent series.

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