1001 Albums 0043-0044

Published March 20, 2013

My continued journey through the albums featured in the book
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

0043: Jacques Brel: Olympia 64 (1964)

Six years of French in school, yet I don't really understand the language and I'm unable to hold a meaningful conversation in it. It wouldn't annoy me so much if it didn't mean that I'm also unable to understand the lyrics of the many French-speaking artists I admire. This live album by Belgian Jacques Brel is a case in point.

Although I haven't listened very much to Brel over the years, I've always liked his songs. Listening to this album, I'm struck by what a great performer he was - not just a composer whose songs have been covered by David Bowie, Scott Walker and countless others, but a fantastic singer in his own right. In contrast to most of the live albums covered in this blog so far, I feel that this LP really works. I would guess this is simply because an artist like Brel is more about giving each song an identity than whipping up a frenzy in the audience, which translates well into home-listening as well.

I'm really glad I got to hear this album - even though I don't understand a lot of the lyrics.

Verdict: A great album of a great performer in his prime.

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0044: Solomon Burke: Rock ‘n Soul (1964)

Out of all the soul great from the Sixties, Solomon Burke is someone I've never listened very much to. I've known about him, of course, but for some reason his music never really came my way. I guess that's partly because he never had any really big cross-over hits, despite many charting singles on Billboard's Pop chart. I finally bought a compilation a few years ago, but I haven't listened it to it so much.

Listening to this marvelous album a couple of times I feel like I should dig out that compilation again. Sometimes you can feel that the legacy of the great soul singers has been reiterated so much that you almost don't "hear" them anymore when you listen to them - the sign flashing "good, approved music" gets in the way and you feel like playing an Engelbert Humperdinck album just to rebel.

But this album really caught my imagination and reminded me exactly why I love this kind of music so much. Just listen to Burke's singing on 'Goodbye Baby' for instance, the way he takes in the whole register of singing, hitting the high notes with confidence, sounding deeply sensual on the low notes, holding back when necessary, making quick interjections when appropriate - in other words, showing us what singing should really be about. And I haven't even mentioned the musicians and the backing vocalists.

Verdict: Sixties soul music at its best.

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Jacques Brel: Olympia 64.


Solomon Burke: Rock 'n Soul.