The Essential Recordings
Jacques Brel’s conservative, religious upbringing in Belgium would subsequently prove a crucial catalyst for both the satire and the more provocative elements of his marvellous lyrics. Brel was a major influence on songwriters ranging from Leonard Cohen to David Bowie, and the greatest cabaret artist of our times, Ute Lemper, is among the countless singers to delight in trying to draw the blood and tears from his songs.
Yet as ubiquitous as Brel’s works have become – he was arguably one of the most important non-English-language European songwriters of last century (alongside the Weill/Brecht duumvirate) – many people may be unfamiliar with the man’s own versions. This exceptional double-album of material recorded between 1954 and 1962 is a shortcut to redressing that. He had an attractive baritone voice big enough to convey all the drama implicit in his songs without tipping over into histrionics. (Alas, the latter job is sometimes done by a few over-the-top orchestral arrangements.) Most of his best-loved works are here, including a stunning Ne Me Quitte Pas.