French pop singer Yves Montand may not have had the artistic angst of Leo Ferré or the chops of Charles Trenier or Charles Aznavour, but he possesses one of the most beautiful high baritones in the history of recorded popular music. He's like France's Tom Jones without the cornball crap. He's like a smooth and slick Maurice Chevalier, full of theatrical poise and shimmering gloss in his tasteful delivery. This anthology ranges from 1961-1981, with all but one track coming from the '60s. And many of Montand's classics are here: "Le Jazz et la Java," "La Chansonette," "Je Me Souviens," "Je T'Aime," "Dans Ma Maison," and even his wonderfully perverse version of Kurt Weill's "Le Chanson de Bilbao." The strangest thing, however, is "La Bicyclette," written by Francis Lai. Here, Montand carries the lyric to the end of the staggered line until it almost jaggedly falls off, rescued only by his masterful delivery. And that's it, really -- the lounge jazz and pop tunes here would be nothing more than sentimental crap without Montand's skills as a singer. As a rule, he made classic French pop out of dreck; he was drawn to this material -- and that's obvious here -- as a way of either redeeming it or showing off his vast ability. Either way, the songs come off as winners. His bands, which were mostly comprised of France's hottest studio cats, knew how to underline his trembling baritone and shift into a higher rhythmic gear to accommodate his irregular phrasing. This is a good collection, although this same label has issued a couple of others that are better. The price can't be beat, however, so it's recommended for the uninitiated only. Aficionados will find plenty to quarrel with here.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek