43. Jacques Brel - A L'Olympia 1964 (1964 duh!)
3. Dernier Repas
4. Jardins de Casino
7. Tango Funèbre
8. Plat Pays
And now I'm back, from outer Europe and here I go again on my own. (yes, Gloria Gaynor/Whitesnake tribute, not something you see everyday). A nice little holiday thank you and one in which I was given a chance by my friend Sara to listen to a cover of Les Toros by Marc Almond, who she's told me she wants to marry. Good luck on that project. I don't remember much of it as I was wondering what makeup I should get on my face before going to a goth night. I got some burgundy eyeliner which was a bit sticky because my girlfriend kept licking the eye-liner pencil thing... not very comfortable, but fab. And girlfriend was not an euphemism I am, against all odds, straight.
And now to Brel! This is a very very good album. Brel is not only a great writer and composer but also an amazing performer. I can only imagine that he is not that well known outside mainland Europe because of the language barrier. Still, he has been very influential on english-speaking performers, most noticeably on Leonard Cohen, but David Bowie also has a very good cover of Amsterdam on a B-side and also the BBC Sessions... the things I know...
The most impressive thing about Brel, and again this is more present in his live albums, is his energy and his performative capacities. He sounds angry, outraged, determined, retarded (listen to Bonbons) or just plaintive, all in the space of a few songs. It is very impressive to listen to, if you don't understand French just look for the translations of his songs online, very worth it.
Coming from a country like Portugal, where there is a big tradition of protest singing, mainly from singer/songwriters who were exiled in Paris during the fascist regime which ended in 1974, Brel sounds very familiar. I'm sure people like Sergio Godinho were taking notes during this concert. I don't think the English speaking world really has an equivalent, if Leonard Cohen was more political and funny he could be one, but the cabaret and parisian influence is absent.
So Brel is unique and uniquely original. Definitely worth a listen which is available by buying the album at Amazon UK or US
3. Plat Pays
He was actually Belgian
* In the comic strip Asterix Brel is referenced in the album Asterix in Belgium. When Asterix, Obelix and chieftain Vitalstatistix walk through the flat Belgian landscape Vitalstatistix makes a comment about the landscape. The Belgian chieftain answers in the original French version that "dans ce plat pays qui est le mien les seules montagnes sont des oppidums". ("in my flat country the only mountains we have are called 'oppidums'" (an 'oppidum' is Latin for village.) This is a reference to Brel's song "Le Plat Pays" (The Flat Country) in which he sings that in his flat country the only things as high as mountains are churches. In other languages this remark hasn't been translated in a way to reference Brel.
* In 2002, Brel Bar Restaurant opened in Ashton Lane in the West End of Glasgow (Scotland, UK). It offers Belgian food and drink, and some Jacques Brel memorabilia can be seen on the walls.
* In 2005 Brel was voted to the 7th place of De Grootste Belg (Dutch for "The Greatest Belgian"), a Flemish television program on the VRT. In the same year he was considered the greatest Belgian by the audience of the Le plus grand belge (French for the "The Greatest Belgian"), a Walloon television show of the RTBF. In both programs the audience could vote by using the website, sending an SMS or using the telephone. In total several hundred thousands votes were cast.
* Brel was a pilot. He first got his PPL in 1964, bought a Gardian Horizon, later changed it for a Wassmer 40; and then stepped forward in 1969 by taking - successfully - his IFR qualification at Les Ailes flight school in Geneva, Switzerland. He pursued his formation until he was qualified copilot on Lear 25. During his late years in the Marquises (French Polynesia), he flew a small bimotor and served the population as a taxi-plane. Brel was also a sailor.
How cool was he?