Charles Aznavour ‘Encores’ (Universal France) 4/5

charles-aznavourThis is actually Charles Aznavour’s fifty-first album and, while the voice is not quite like it was at his peak from the late 1950s through to the mid-1970s, what it may lack in some respects, it has gained in emotional intensity. Indeed the quality of the song writing from this melancholic minstrel are as strong as ever and this is one of his best albums in years, if not a decade or two. A decidedly breezy accordion led, ‘Les petits pains au chocolat’, is firmly in the classic chanson tradition and a lovely uplifting song at that. His multiple influences are showcased here with gospel discernible on ‘Sonnez les cloches’ while the jazzier elements to his career take on a Brazilian bossa nova feel on ‘Ma vie sans toi’. Quite possibly, a future Brazilian music project might just suit Aznavour down to the ground. Musical reminisces abound on ‘De la môme à Edith’, the Edith in question being Piaf and Aznavour is on top from when philosophizing on the trials and tribulations of falling in and out of love as illustrated magnificently on ‘Avec un brin de nostalgie’ and the heartfelt ‘T’aimer’.
One online reviewer has remarked of Aznavour: ‘ ça swingue, ça jazze, ça émeut’ (‘He swings, with a jazzy and emotional beat’) and that pretty much sums up Charles Aznavour and his craft. What is beyond argument, however, is that nobody masters melancholy, or nostalgia in the French language better than him and that will remain his lasting legacy.

Tim Stenhouse