Sunday, October 16, 2016
Tout pour la musique - France Gall
Atlantic 50 857
In the 1960s most of France Gall's best songs were written by Serge Gainsbourg. In the 1970s she married songwriter Michel Berger and began recording only his compositions. I don't think Berger was in Gainsbourg's league as a songwriter, but I think you can make a case that his work was more compatible with Gall as a performer as demonstrated by this record. The album opens with "Tout pour la musique" which describes people who are obsessed with music. As a music fan, I find it a little offensive, it makes fans sound like zombies or drones although the overall tone of the song is positive about music. The song has a reggae-style rhythm and a catchy chorus. Gall sings the song wonderfully particularly in the improvised section that closes the song. It is easily my favorite track on the album. "Les accidents d'amour" is about wanting to find love and happiness in the short time that we are alive. The song begins with a dramatic piano intro from Berger before slipping into a more mellow groove that again features a reggae-inspired rhythm track. Gall sweetly croons the song giving it a pronounced pop flavor. "La fille de Shannon" is about an Irish girl who loves with great passion. Gall's girlish vocal and the sugary pop sound of the music remind me of her 1960s work although Berger's arrangement is a lot more elaborate and artistic than was typical with those songs. "La prière des petits humains" describes the desire of people throughout a strife-torn world to live free from the chaos and violence inflicted on them by their fellow humans. The song rocks with a surprisingly funky sound in the guitar riff that drives it as well as the chunky rhythm line. Gall's vocal is bit too precious to deliver the bite in the lyrics and musical arrangement. "Résiste" urges the listener to resist a complacent, mundane existence, and to prove that we exist by actively seeking love and happiness. The song is disco-flavored rock with an effectively urgent vocal from Gall that is one of her best performances on the record. It is another one of my favorite cuts. "Amor también" offers a bland perspective on life which is seen as being alternately good and bad. I guess the point of the song is to persevere and seek love. The song has a reggae/world music sound to it and an ultra-poppy chorus. It is a bit too sugary for my taste, but Gall's terrific vocal makes it listenable for me. "Vahiné" is about a Polynesian woman who is encouraged by her father to follow her heart and find love. The song continues in the reggae vein with a relaxed vibe that suits its subject. "Diego, libre dans sa tête" discusses a political prisoner who is free in his mind. The music is dramatic and inspiring but although Gall's vocal is very pretty, I find it unconvincing. "Ceux qui aiment" suits her voice better and she delivers a strong performance. The lyrics contrast lovers with those who fill the world with turmoil and cruelty. The music alternates between the melancholy, gentle sound of the verses and the robust, punchy sound of the chorus giving the album a dynamic finish. I enjoy this record but I find it a bit dull compared to Gall's work with Gainsbourg. The songs are intelligent and well-crafted. Berger's humanism and romanticism reflect my persepective far more than Gainsbourg's cynicism and provocateur mentality, but I also find his songs rather monotonous and obvious particularly over the course of an entire album. We all know that love is good and life can be hard, no need to belabor the point. The album lacks the frisson and dialectical tension of some of those classic Gainsbourg recordings but Gall does sound happy and comfortable singing Berger's work. Her singing throughout the record is first rate and she displays lots of feeling and verve in her performances. Her voice makes the album worthwhile for me. Recommended to Francophile Cat Stevens fans.