Florent Pagny ‘Le Présent d’abord’ LP/CD/DIG (Capitol/Universal France) 3/5

Who is Florent Pagny? Barely recognised in the United Kingdom, across the Channel Pagny, now in his mid-fifties, has been a stalwart of the singer-songwriter scene since the 1980’s and has scored major commercial hits. The sound is certainly more commercially oriented pop than classic French chanson, but he is in fact part of that older tradition and the instrumentation has simply been given a modern update, with instrumental programming coming from producer Dany Synthé. At just thirty-seven minutes and twelve songs (ten if you discount the all too brief pair of intros to songs that could easily have been dispensed with), this is a relatively concise album, but it covers a variety of moods that range from love and happiness to imagination, and styles that cover Latin, North African and pure pop. It works best on the more intimate settings, as on ‘C’est peut-être’, where guitar and vocals blend well together – this could be likened to a French equivalent of the power ballad. Two singles have already been released from the album, ‘La beauté du doute’, and the title track, neither of which have made major waves on either the French, or Belgian pop charts. The latter features a vocoder-like voice with guitar intro and typifies the simple approach to music making that seems to be Pagny’s hallmark. Nothing that is wildly innovative here and, for these ears at least, a tad on the slick side of production.

Tim Stenhouse