With the release last week of an album of covers by Nolwenn Leroy focusing on the work of French singer-songwriters of the 1970s, I thought it was worth taking a look and a listen to some of the original versions of the songs she's re-made for the 21st century audience.
Much as I like Nolwenn, and appreciate her new versions of the songs, the originals of these songs have their own charm. Her album inspires a dive into some of the forgotten rivers of French music, where cheesy album covers and Greatest Hits compilations congregate, along with artists who haven't had much of a media profile for years or who are written off artistically as well past their peak. But there are some gems that are worth investigation.
If you want to explore further, it won't take much expense. You'll find vinyl or CDs by many of the acts she's covered in the cheap section of pretty much any record shop in France.
Je ne peux plus dire je t'aime originally appeared on Jacques Higelin's 1979 Caviar pour les autres... album. Higelin released two albums simultaneously, Champagne pour tout le monde now combined with its partner as a double album. A later version that saw Higelin duet with actor Isabelle Adjani was probably the definitive Higelin version of the song.
So far away from LA was a hit for Nicolas Peyrac in 1975 and helped establish his career. It featured on his debut album D'où venez-vous ? Peyrac continues to perform and release new music, and is also a successful author.
Diabolo menthe was written by Yves Simon for the soundtrack of the film of the same name by director Diane Kurys. According to legend, the song was written in the space of two hours before a concert. The film, set in the early 60s, tells the story of two young girls growing up in Paris during that time. The song was also recently covered by La Grande Sophie.
Suzanne is obviously a cover of the Leonard Cohen classic, but the French version was adapted by Graeme Allwright. Allwright, a singer songwriter with a long career, covered and adapted many of Cohen's songs. It initially appeared on his 1968 Le Jour De Clarté album, along with an adaptation of Cohen's Stranger Song.
Allwright's French version was covered by Francoise Hardy in 1968 on her Comment Te Dire Adieu album. The song was also covered Alain Bashung, appearing on his final album Bleu pétrole in 2008, the year before Bashung's death.
Virages was a hit for Yves Duteil in 1972. His first single, it would feature on his 1974 debut album L'Écritoire. Duteil would go on to write the song Prendre un Enfant, a song that has been widely covered in different languages by a number of artists.
Hollywood was originally by David McNeil and appeared on his 1974 album L'Assassinat. McNeil, the son of painter Marc Chagall, has had a long musical career from his 1972 self-titled debut to his 2014 album Un lézard en septembre and his songs have been performed by artists including Yves Montand, Jacques Dutronc and Renaud.
Petite fille de rêve was a 1974 single by Jean-michel Caradec. It featured on the album of the same name, following his Mords la vie debut the previous year. One of his best known songs, Ma Bretagne quand elle pleut was covered by Nolwenn Leroy on her 2010 Bretonne album. Caradec died aged 34 in a car accident in 1981.
Je t'aimais, je t'aime, je t'aimerai was a single in 1994, from Francis Cabrel's Samedi soir sur la Terre. It's one of his best known songs, with previous covers by France Gall amongs others. It's a spectacularly beautiful song. Cabrel recorded an album of Dylan covers in 2012. If Dylan covered this song in English, it would be regarded as a masterpiece.
On est comme on est is the title track of the 1981 debut album by Renaud Detressan. He went on to release three solo albums, before forming the band Soldat Louis in 1988. The band took traditional Breton and celtic music and combined it with rock, with considerable commercial success. From their 1988 Première Bordée album to their 2017 Quelques nouvelles du front, they have remained one of the most prominent names in contemporary Breton music.
la rua madureira came from Nino Ferrer's 1969 album Agata, his third album. Ferrer had been active since 1959 and already enjoyed considerable success in France and Italy. A version of this song by Cali appeared on a tribute album to Ferrer - On dirait Nino - that was released in 2005. Ferrer died in 1998, five years after the release of his final album.
Marions les roses features on the second album by the band Malicorne, and came out in 1975. Malicorne were a folk act who fitten in well with the more pastoral tendancies of then-contemporary progressive rock. Manstay of the band Gabriel Yacoub had previously played with Alan Stivell on his key Chemins de terre and À l'Olympia albums anb.d founded the band with his partner Marie Yacoub. The band enjoyed considerable success in the 70s, and Malicorne 2 sold over 100,000 copies.
Jolie Louise was originally by Daniel Lanois from his 1989 album Acadie. Lanois was by then well-known as a producer, having worked with U2 and Brian Eno, and having played a considerable role in re-inventing the music career of Bob Dylan through his work on his Oh Mercy album. Lanois' debut solo album saw him explore the cajun folk sounds of French America and did much to revive an international interest in this style of music.
Sacré Géranium by Dick Annegarn is unique in the collection, in that Nolwenn duets with the original artist. The song is the title track from Annegarn's 1974 debut album, although the album technically is just titled 'Dick Annegarn'. Annegarn has continued to record and perform, his most recent release being 2018's 12 villes, 12 chansons.