Michel Sardou ‘Les grands moments’ 2CD (Mercury France) 4/5

Singer Michel Sardou is something of a musical institution in his native France and is reputedly the singer whose songs are either played, or sung most at weddings. That gives you some indication of his wide popular appeal and since the late 1960s he has been plying his trade as a populist chanteur. Rather than being directly descended from the more classical chanson tradition (though there are clearly elements of the greats in forging his own unique style), he is more of a variété musician, in other words one who actively seeks the widest popular audience. This will attract and repel in equal measure. His initial success was earned way back in 1967 when he penned ‘Les Ricains’, a diminutive for the Americans and he constantly cast his gaze over other peoples. Sentimental lyrics and choralesque accompaniment are an integral feature of the Sardou sound as illustrated on 1973’s ‘Maladie d’amour’. Sugar-coated orchestrations greeted the anthemic Le France’ which was a major hit in 1975 while, from a memorable live performance at L’Olympia, Paris’ most prestigious and intimate popular music venue, comes ‘Aujour’dhui peut-être’ from 1978. A major critical as well as commercial success was scored in 1981 with a personal homage to the west of Ireland, ‘Les lacs du Connemara’, and its vivid depiction of the rugged terrain and traditional lifestyle have guided many a Frenchman and woman in their quest to visit the emerald isle. In the same year another anthemic song surfaced in ‘Je viens du sud’ and Sardou’s place in the pantheon of French popular music was assured. Subsequently, he has duetted with the likes of Céline Dion and his 1980s repertoire such as ‘Afrique adieu’ now forms part of the retro tradition much in vogue. If it is a moden day successor to Brel or Brassens that you are looking for, then Miuchel Sardou is not your man. However, if you wish to discover who the equivalent of say a French Elton John, or Chris de Burgh might be, then you will certainly be entertained. Accompanying the second CD are some new reworkings of his most famous song which are contained in their original forms on both CDs. The anthology contains just about every song you could possibly wish to hear of Sardou’s lengthy career. Tim Stenhouse

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