Louis Philippe


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There may be Louis Philippe albums that hit greater heights of invention, but Sunshine is arguably the purest distillation of his multi-faceted talent to date and an album to which those coming afresh to Philippe's work can be most safely referred. On first acquaintance it suggests a desire to revisit the sunshine pop of his youth -- there are sensual bossa novas aplenty, evocations of languid, hazy days, wistful recollections of lost loves, sparkling rivers, warm rain, plucked guitars, and some of the sweetest pop melodies this side of the '60s. Songs like "Martine," "Only a Fool," and "Carioca," for instance, will almost certainly dispel rain clouds on contact. Yet this is no mere nostalgic indulgence in the days of Chris Montez (name-checked on the album's weakest track, "Our Boat Can Wait") and Friends-era Beach Boys. Sunshine has its darker side in the form of some of Philippe's most sumptuous ballads, notably the languorous "Ainsi Va Sa Vie," which also benefits from a haunting arrangement for strings and theremin. Even further removed from the album's prevailing mood is Philippe's solemn interpretation of the Francis Poulenc song "Montparnasse," foreshadowing a collection of the composer's songs that formed the 1997 album Nusch. Sunshine also came closest to providing Philippe with a hit in his native France, after the Japanese-flavored "L'Hiver Te Va Bien" began garnering heavy airplay, only to fail when it turned out that shops had not been supplied with copies of the single -- the kind of rotten luck that has dogged Philippe's career. In fact, the whole album -- which was produced by Bertrand Burgalat just a few years before he became a prime mover in the whole Gallic retro-modern dance movement -- seemed jinxed after it was hit by the collapse of Humbug Records before it could be properly distributed. Only with its subsequent reissue by Cherry Red as a two-fer with Delta Kiss -- containing three extra tracks -- did Sunshine reach any kind of audience. By then, though, the moment had been lost, and an album that should have established Philippe as one of pop's finest composers instead left him further entrenched in obscurity.

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