Sunday 30 May 2010

L'Inconnue de Londres

"La chambre était au paradis. D'un vieil hôtel à luminaire. Où l'on cultive la chimère. En y mettant un peu le prix ..." sings Léo Ferré during his early composition L'Inconnue de Londres, which if you'll excuse my schoolboy French translates as the lost of London. I have a growing fascination for French chanson, particularly the chansons réalistes about which Kenneth Rexroth wrote so vividly in 1969. And if my poor grasp of the French language inhibits an ability to understand, then at least the sound and feel and flow of the words overwhelms the senses and maybe more is left to the imagination. Ever since discovering the work of Léo Ferré as part of the whole May 1968 thing I have become a huge fan. The works I came across first, Amour Anarchie, La Solitude and Chante L'Ete '68, have become massive favourites. And if these reflect a man in his 50s being influenced in turn by the new sounds and spirit of the age then there is a lesson there for us all. Some of the arrangements are exquisite, like say Sinatra's Watertown. He sums up that whole wonderful mix of elements and contradictions that the French are so great at: communist, romantic, anarchist, poet, rogue ...

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