[7 August 2014]
The music of Jacques Brel carries with it a theatricality that calls more for interpretations than straight covers. Those choosing to tackle the music most closely associated with him must fully inhabit the role, stretching their emotive limits with performances that feel more akin to musical theatre or opera, possessing an implied visceral physicality from the performer, than traditional pop music. Being one of the first to take on Brel’s highly emotional compositions nearly sixty years ago, Juliette Greco proves that, at age 87, she’s still more than up to the challenge posed by Brel’s virtually inimitable style with Greco Chante Brel.
Always a rather husky, full-voiced singer lacking any of the lighter, airier qualities generally associated with French female vocalists, here Greco’s voice has taken on, with age, an almost masculine tonality, most startlingly evident on opening track “Ces Gens-La”. Throughout, Greco interprets these Brel-associated chansons with a fervor that never once betrays her near-nonagenarian age, throwing herself fully into each performance. Accompanied by highly sympathetic, often idiosyncratic arrangements by former Brel companion Gerard Jouannest (also Greco’s husband), she fully embodies each performance, putting the whole of her heart and soul on display. One of the last remaining links to a fading generation of performers, Greco’s work her is a rare treasure and a welcome tribute to her late contemporary.