Release Date: 10.15.02
Record label: bmg / rca
Genre(s): Classical, Jazz
by: matt cibula
This is the way to make a proper album, children. Pay attention.
First, start with great songs. If you need to borrow some, make sure they're the best. That's what French actor/singer Patrick Bruel did here: all these tunes (except for the final one, which we'll discuss later) were popular in Paris in the 1930s and 1940s, and capture that city in all its silky slutty funky splendor. None of them is less than beautiful, all of them have aged well, and one of them is even written by Cole Porter. So: great songs, check.
Next, respect those songs by setting them to beautiful music. The arrangements on Entre Deux could not possibly be more perfect. They are largely based on the orchestrations of the time, so we're hearing lots of saxophones and clarinets and Django-style guitars, tons of accordions, and merde-loads of pretty strings; but every track has something that just rubs slightly the wrong way: an atonal bop piano line here ("Ah! si vous connaissiez ma poule"), an incongruous drumbeat there ("Vous qui passez sans me voir"), ambient horn drones ("J'ai le main") and fake trumpet solos sung through the nose (lots of songs) and all kinds of neat stuff, just to remind us we're actually living now instead of in between-the-wars France.
It won't hurt to have a great singer, so let's discuss Bruel's archetypally French voice. He's not technically a perfect vocalist, but who cares? He's got attitude and he hits the notes, and that's all you need. He rarely overemotes unless he's joking -- most of the time, he just lays back and insinuates (the opening of "Ramona" is classic) or croons ("Mon amant de Saint-Jean," "A Paris, dans chaque faubourg"). Heck, I'm a little in love with him myself, and I'm not even attracted to guys. Smooth like mousse, baby.
And if you're doing an album of songs that came between the Two World Wars, and if they're also all about the feelings that pass between Two Lovers, you might as well find as many other great singers as you can and do Two-Person Songs, which are otherwise called "duets," to go with the "deux" ("us") of the title. Bruel duets with hipsters like Johnny Hallyday (the "French Elvis") and Jean-Jacques Goldman, with old-line stars like Charles Aznavour and Danielle Darrieux, and modern youngsters like Kahimi Karie, who sounds just as innocent/sexy/modern/old-fashioned as ever on "Tout le jour, tout la nuit" (a.k.a. "Night and Day"). This approach never fails, even when he enlists non-singers like actresses (ahem world's most beautiful) Emanuelle Beart and (also pretty hot but she's no Beart, who is, really) Sandrine Kiberlain on the trio/duet "Ou sont tous mes amants." They sound charming and wonderful together, which is about the exact opposite way that Julia Roberts and Julianne Moore would sound on a similar record with who? What American would do this album? No one. Bruel is an original.
It is very telling that Bruel's original composition, "A contretemps," sounds like it could have been written 50 or 60 years ago; he completely nails all the details. From the CDs that look like old 78s to his portrait in the booklet where he's got his hair all slicked back and that artificial pose like he's an old classic movie star singer, Bruel completely absolutely hits every target at which he aims on Entre Deux. Ooh-la-la, indeed. 05-Dec-2002 4:30 PM