Michel Sardou ‘Le Choix Du Fou’ (Universal France/Blue Wrasse) 4/5

Something of a musical institution in his native France, Michel Sardou is quite simply one of the major singer-songwriters to emerge in the late 1960’s and especially the 1970’s when his impressionistic and often poetic interpretations, with concept albums including a fine evocation of Connemara in Ireland, ‘Les lacs du Connemara’, which remains one of his endearing works and was a major hit single in 1981. The content ranges widely from love songs such as the early hit, ‘La maladie d’amour’, to far more socio-political concerns, including the plight of Muslim women in the Islamic world, ‘Les musulmanes’, to controversial subject matter such as colonialism and especially US foreign policy of which he has been critical in the past.

While some may find the orchestrations a tad grandiose and overpowering, especially the powerful love ballads, there is no doubting the sincerity of the singer being one of the finest interpreters of other composers songs. His singer-songwriting collaboration which stretch over several decades, but this is actually the very last studio recording he will make before officially retiring, now seventy years of age.

For this final recording, Sardou faithfully oscillates between major orchestrations and more intimate folk-tinged numbers. One song that immediately caught this writer’s ear was the accordion-led plus strings, ‘San Lorenzo’, which has an underlying nod to the tango tradition and conjurs up life in Buenos Aires. Ecological issues are the order of the day on ‘La colline du soif’ (The thirsty hill) which features a blues-inflected guitar that morphs into a rock-tinged number. His romantic side is not forgotten with ‘Je t’aime’, a duet between the vocalist and a cellist. If any song typifies his craft then ‘Pour moi, elle a toujours 20 ans’ skilfully pays homage to a woman in his life who will forever remain youthful. Another sparse sounding love ballad comes in the form of the whimsical ‘Qui m’aime me tue’ (Whoever loves me kills me), with just piano and vocal combining most effectively.

His coterie of long-term fans will be at home with this release and it should be stated to a wider international reading audience that Michel Sardou remains extremely popular. In 2001 he sold out eighteen consecutive nights at the Palais Omnisports of Paris-Bercy arena which is some achievement. He is renowned throughout the francophone world, and interestingly in the Netherlands, where he went to the number one spot with ‘Les lacs du Connemara’.

Tim Stenhouse