Jane Birkin

Versions Jane

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Jane Birkin's continuing obsession with Serge Gainsbourg's enigma -- 11 years after his death, and 16 after their divorce -- resulted in this 1996 collection of songs that Gainsbourg had either recorded himself or written for others. Without the net of Gainsbourg's stylish, savvy arrangements and production skills behind her, Birkin recruited help from some of the most unlikely sources: Les Negresses Verté, blues-guitar deity Sonny Landreth, French film composer Eddy Louiss, and conductor Philippe Delettrez. Easily the most eclectic recording of her career -- with all due respect to Gainsbourg -- Versions Jane is a study not only in tribute to her late husband; but also a showcase for her own coming to terms with his memory, and championing his cause throughout Europe. This is easily her finest recording. But more than this, it established Birkin as a twee-voiced chanteuse who could interpret Gainsbourg's material the same way Lotte Lenya could, singularly, Kurt Weill's. The nuances of Gainsbourg's language, and his delicately and subtly nuanced melodic lines, are all made plain for the listener in Birkin's readings of classics such as "La Gadoue" -- with backing by Les Negresses Verté -- "L'Anamour," "Ford Mustang," "Couleur Café," "Comment Te Dire Adieu," and the Landreth spotlight, "Sorry Angel"; all of which are outstanding versions that improve on the originals. Indeed, virtually every track here improves on something Gainsbourg laid down on one of his own records or wrote specifically for Juliette Greco, Brigitte Bardot, Françoise Hardy, Dalida, and others. Birkin may not be everyone's idea of a great recording artist, but she proves the fools and naysayers wrong in spades here.

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