Yves Montand ‘à Paris + Chanson De Paris’ CD (Jackpot) 5/5

Singer-actor Yves Montand is less well known for his musical talents in the United Kingdom, but across the Channel his name is legendary for his magical interpretations of the classic French chanson tradition and these two albums from 1958 and 1962 respectively find him with the independent Odéon label just before he hit the big time with Columbia. They are stunning recordings that are part musical hall with long-time pianist and arranger Bob Castella already in place.

Montand would become renowned for his live ‘One man show’, and several of the songs that made up his regular repertoire are included here. They include the enchanting, ‘Faubourg Saint-Martin’, and, in general, the songs selected reflect everyday life and concerns in Paris, with several parts of the city name checked, with ‘Rue Lepic’ being another example. It is the detailing of the seemingly banal that makes this selection such a treat with ‘Cornet de frites’ (‘A cone of chips) considered fertile terrain.

This evocation of daily life of course could not exclude the romantic inclinations of Parisians and Montand was famed for his balladry work, not to mention his own romantic liaisons which ranged from Piaf to Simone Signoret. From an impassioned ‘Car je t’aime’ (Because I love you), to a fabulous rendition of ‘Barbara’, a song from the joint pens of Joseph Kosma and Jacques Prévert, and in the 1960s Montand would record an entire album of the duo’s work, ‘Montand chante Prévert’, which is arguably his finest ever studio recording. Montand occasionally tried his hand at songwriting and the co-written, ‘Mais qu’est-ce que j’ai?’ (What’s the matter with me?), is one illustration.

Yves Montand would later turn his attention to serious acting with a political bent such as Costa-Gavros’ ‘Z’, but is best remembered in the United Kingdom for the adaptations of two Marcel Pagnol novels, ‘Jean de Florette’ and ‘Manon des Sources’.

Tim Stenhouse