1954, Music

Jacques Brel et ses chansons aka Grand Jacques (1954)

I don’t normally listen to foreign language music for my podcast. But for some reason I made an exception this time. Perhaps it’s because Brel is so famous. But I didn’t know what I was in for.

The version I listened to collects this “album” (9 songs, 19.5 minutes) with a whole bunch of other stuff, which I don’t know where it’s from. My favourite track here is not present on the original, which leads me to wonder what I would really think of the original record, without the bonus tracks. Anyway, I don’t know anything about Brel’s later music except that it apparently sounds different than this.

I don’t know what he’s saying, because my French is awful, but I can hear his tone clear enough. I’m not sure if there was a comparable English language singer at the time but, if there was, I haven’t heard him.

The music does seem like it is from a different time, at this point. The arrangements, especially the denser ones, sound like they are historical at times. But I don’t think that takes away from Brel’s performances (or my guesses at to what the lyrics mean). But occasionally there are songs where the arrangement does feel modern or modern enough.

It’s really hard to judge the original album on its own when it’s surrounded by other music, basically doubling the running time.

As my introduction to Brel it both confirms some preconceived notions but also encourages me to think more about listening to other records he made, particularly “La valse a mille temps,” which is just unlike anything else here.

  1. “La haine” 1:53
  2. “Grand Jacques (C’est trop facile)” 1:47
  3. “Il pleut (Les carreaux)” 2:33
  4. “Le diable (Ça va)” 2:24
  5. “Il peut pleuvoir” (Jacques Brel, Glen Powell) 1:42
  6. “Il nous faut regarder” 2:21
  7. “Le fou du roi” 1:55
  8. “C’est comme ça” 2:06
  9. “Sur la place” 2:48
  10. “S’il te faut” 2:04
  11. “La Bastille” 2:56
  12. “Prière païenne” 2:33
  13. “Il y a” 2:19
  14. “La foire” 3:21
  15. “Sur la place” 3:36
  • Jacques Brel – vocals, acoustic guitar
  • André Grassi – arrangements (tracks 1–9)
  • Glen Powell – arrangements (tracks 13–14)
  • Michel Legrand – orchestra conductor (track 10)
  • André Popp – orchestra conductor (tracks 11–12)
  • François Rauber – orchestra conductor (track 15)

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