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John Greaves - John Greaves & Elise Caron: Chansons CD (album) cover


John Greaves

Canterbury Scene

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3 stars This is a remarkable album which really exists in a class of its own. 'Chanson' is a French genre in which the lyrics are more like poetry set to music - think Jacques Brel or Serge Gainsbourg - and there are singers known as chansonniers who interpret these, Edith Piaf being perhaps the best known outside France. This is John Greaves' vision of chanson, and it's a little gem, although fans of his RIO/Canterbury work may find it a little surprising.

Greaves wrote all the music and the words were written by one Christophe Glockner. My French is good enough to understand that the lyrics are extremely clever, but sadly nowhere near good enough to appreciate all their subtleties and nuances. The musical backing is quite minimal; Greaves plays piano and acoustic bass guitar, David Ventucci double chromatic accordion and Louis Sclavis plays clarinet and soprano sax here and there. Elise Caron is the chansonnier who brings the songs to life, and saving a couple of guest appearances that's it. This is very much in keeping with Greaves' recent albums, which have tended to be largely acoustic, although the style is very French and shows only traces of his RIO/Canterbury roots. Of especial interest is the guest appearance by Robert Wyatt on Melange, to which he contributes featherlight percussion and his distinctive voice, and this is where the album edges closest to any kind of rock connection. The arrangements are superb and the limited instumental voices are juggled adeptly to create a range of moods and atmospheres, and anybody who professes distaste for the accordion may be won over by Ventucci's incredible technique.

In its highly specialised field this is a minor masterpiece, but given the review criteria on this site I think good but non essential sums it up. Fans of Slapp Happy or the Greaves/Blegvad masterpiece Kew.Rhone will find plenty to enjoy here, especially French speakers, as will afficiandos of the eccentric French outfit ZNR. Newcomers to John Greaves would be better starting with Songs or La Petite Bouteille De Linge. Cautiously recommended.

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Posted Tuesday, March 20, 2007 | Review Permalink

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