Boulevard des Hommes
“superb … one of the most beautiful and natural modern mixes of chanson I’ve ever come across” Folk on Tap
On the boulevard des hommes can be bought from all good CD shops and from www.amazon.co.uk.
Hear extracts on the jukebox page.
Welcome to The boulevard des hommes, my last album released by Irregular Records in 2004 and produced by Barb Jungr.
I wanted this album to explore the music of French men: men as songwriters, men as singers, men as lovers, predators or just plain bastards. While there are many notable French female singers, and some fantastic female songwriters, most chansons seem to be written by men: think Gainsbourg, Aznavour, Nougaro, Trenet, Brel and Ferre.
I also wanted to celebrate the music of Corsica, a passion of mine. It has a strong male tradition with very male themes. This music is not well-known in Britain and it is a hidden treasure of the Mediterranean landscape.
Barb Jungr: producer, Nigel Jones: musical director, arranger and co-producer, Robb Johnson: songwriter, translator, sleeve designer and founder of Irregular Records, Des de Moor: translator, Julie Walkington: double bass, John Peacock: guitarist, Eugene Skeef: percussionist, David Harrod: pianist.
boulevard des hommes
Words & music: Robb Johnson
The title for the album emerged out of my talks with Robb Johnson and he also came up with the title track. He understood exactly what I wanted to achieve and the song sets the mood: men as tough guys, men as children.
Eau a la bouche
Words & music: Serge Gainsbourg
I didn’t see why men should have it all their own way. This song is an early Gainsbourg, a song of a male predator, luring a female to his bed. The title is best translated as You make my mouth water….. I see it as a female spider, trapping a young, fragile butterfly and savouring the moment when the victim will yield. Or is it about seducing a toy boy …..
words: Monique & Robb Johnson
music: Monique & Nigel Jones
What did I say about men as bastards? I wanted a song with a strong African rhythm and a story of incomprehension, resignation and defeat.
words: P Guelfucci
music: C Mac-Daniel
The Corsican music that moves me is the stuff that combines European, almost classical, traditions and its echoes of Gregorian chant with Moorish rhythms and the special microtones of Arabic North Africa. I have sung it in the original Corsican – you can’t sing this style in English! It is a hymn to the glories of Corsica.
words: Michel Sardou & D Barbelivien
music: J Revaux & D Barbelivien
translation: Robb Johnson
I loved the words of this song in French, and Robb has captured them brilliantly in English. Sardou represents the continuation of the chanson tradition in contemporary popular French music.
words: Claude Francois
music: Thibault & Revaux
Everyone knows this song as My Way, but it started life in France. The original French lyrics had a mixture of desolation and ultimate hope. I have just gone for the desolation.
words: Claude Nougaro
music: Michel Legrand
translation: Des de Moor
Why is Nougaro so little known over here? This is a great story, rooted in the French obsession with cinema. Translated to be sung from a woman’s point of view, this man is so far from getting his act together that he can’t get on the boulevard des hommes at all! Des is so close to the original text while making the song sound entirely natural in English that it is uncanny.
Un so micca venuti
words & music: G F Bernardini
This song was written for and performed by I Muvrini. It is worth going to Corsica just to catch one of their concerts. You cannot classify the music – rock, folk, world, it’s all there. In mid-concert they think nothing of singing a six part a capella version of the Credo. Magic.
You against me
words: Charles Aznavour
music: J Plante
translation: Herbert Kretzmer
This is a classic example of the versatile Aznavour going for the emotional jugular. Chansons at its best. Kretzmer also translated the long-running West End success les miserables.
words & music: Charles Trenet
Trenet is full of joie de vivre, which has its occasional place on the boulevard des hommes. He was a prolific songwriter and a re-appraisal of his work surely cannot be far away. During World War Two the Germans banned this song as they thought it was fuelling the resistance. It is difficult to reconcile the maleness of war with the gentleness of the song. Perhaps that was what they didn’t like.
Le jazz et la java
words: Claude Nougaro
music: J Datin
I included this for fun. Another classic from one of the great French chansonnier, Nougaro.
words: D Golemanas
music: D Seff
The names of the songwriters don’t tell you the story! Robb came up with this song, which is a recent hit for that perennial French rocker, Johnny Hallyday.