Benjamin Biolay ‘Volver’ (Barclay/Universal France) 4/5

A rapid return to recording duties after the well received, ‘Hollywood Palermo’ album of last year, this is very much a part two of the Paris-Buenos Aires divided music and it stands up remarkably well with a timeless feel just like the black and white photo cover of the 1970s gatefold sleeve. A potential summer hit beckons in the dance floor oriented, ‘Roma (amor)’ that is an infectious slice of retro disco complete with instrumental breakdown, rap in Spanish and percussion plus strings dramatic accompaniment. Two attempts at reggae come off reasonably unscathed with, ‘C a vole bas’, the stronger of the two and featuring Sofia Wilhelmi on vocals. Biolay as he is now known as performs on various instruments and displays a subtle use of fender on the ballad, ‘Arrivederci’.

This is French music with a strong dose of Latin Americana aimed at a mature listening audience and there is a good deal of substance to the music beyond the strong melodic hooks. A cover of Léo Ferré’s, ‘Avec le temps’, indicates Biolay’s espousal of the chanson tradition, but even here he gives the music a refreshing modern update. There is even a nod towards chilldown electronica on, ‘Hyper tranquille’, though nothing that would repel devotees of acoustic instrumentation.

Of interest, is that the title track of the previous album, ‘Hollywood Palermo’, is actually found on this new album. In keeping with its predecessor, this number has a strong film soundtrack quality to it with just the right touch of strings and yet another female guest vocalist in the unlikely sounding Ambrosia Parsley.

A real grower of an album that could just become one of the summer’s most compelling albums.

Tim Stenhouse