Juliette Gréco ‘Collector’ (Milan) 4/5

Left-bank chanteuse Juliette Gréco typified the cool, elegant style of the French chanson tradition in the 1950s and 1960s and this single CD neatly brings together some of the highlights of the earlier period. Gréco has always bene known for her exquisite choice of song and it is true to say that she grew up as a musician at a time when some of the finest wordsmiths of the French language in song were still alive and productive. Thus the dynamite duo of Joseph Kosma and Jacques Prévert penned the delightful ‘Les enfants qui s’aiment’, Les feuilles mortes’ and ‘Je suis comme je suis’. While Gréco’s interpretations of the first two are up there with those of Yves Montand, she is truly on her own on the latter which has come to be something of a signature tune. Her deep, emotionally-charged delivery works wonderfully well on the then up and coming singer-songwriter Charles Aznavour on ‘Je hais les dimanches’ while there is an evocative version of ‘Sous le ciel de Paris’. Even Georges Brassens’ old chestnut ‘Chanson pour l’Auvergnat’ is given her inimitable treatment. The only glaring absence is that of any songs by Serge Gainsbourg who fell under her charms as did the trumpeter Miles Davis with whom she enjoyed a long-term friendship. Otherwise this is a first rate guide to Gréco’s 1950s output. While collectors may want to investigate further the two CD ‘Je suis comme je suis’ on French Universal, this new edition covers a good deal of territory and serves as a fine introduction to the work of a singer who continues to be respected among subsequent generations of French singers, including world music aficionado Bernard Lavilliers. Notes are in French and focus on excerpts of interviews with other musical figures paying tribute to the singer’s craft. Tim Stenhouse

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