Saturday, 31 January 2015

Review: Stella: Stella

A well-considered archive release of the debut album by Stella, collecting the album and associated tracks by one of France's most interesting female performers of the 1960s.

Stella, a schoolgirl from Paris, released one album in 1967, her recording career starting when she was 12. The album collected tracks from her EPs, and her career from 1963- 1968 saw a string of songs that not only encapsulated perfectly what was going on in music at the time, but also demonstrated a wit and intelligence that put her ahead of most of her contemporaries.

Stella cut a puckish figure, her songs cut through with a subversive humour. Like Gainsbourg and Dutronc, and earlier acts like Georges Brassens, she mocked what was afoot in the world at the time, targets including the protest movement, (Cauchemar auto-protestateur) folk music (Un air de folklore Auvergnat) and even the music business itself. (Pourqui je chante)

But over and above this, the songs - which she wrote herself - were wrapped up in some very fine 60s era sounds, embracing psychedelia, garage rock, pop and soul.

Highlights include the wonderfully titled Si vous connaissez quelque chose de pire qu'un vampire perlez m'en toujours, ca pourra peut-etre me fair sourire. Other tracks like Beatnicks d'occasion J'achete des disques Américains and displaying similar musical and lyrical panache.

If this collection was all Stella achieved in her musical career it would be a fine testament. But her interest in music would take Stella into a whole other direction. Stella the 60s French pop star would become better known a few years later as part of the jazz-influenced progressive rock band Magma, marrying its founder Christian Vander.

Stella Vander as she became would take a leading role in the band in subsequent decades, a role she continues to have as Magma remain a major player in progressive rock in France and beyond.

This CD  takes us back to the beginning of her career and it reveals an artist with talent and style, this collection serving as both an introduction to the work of a singer at the forefront of her era and as a fascinating chapter of the Magma story.

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