This 1961 EP is an intriguing mixture of Brel’s classic style of chanson with the Latin-inspired jazz of the song “Clara”, which reflected Brel’s growing popularity in South American countries such as Argentina.
“Clara” is an interesting song which revolves around a heartbreak set within the backdrop of Rio’s Carnival, where the narrator laments his lost lover, culminating in him drawing comparisons with the loss of Clara and death: “Death speaks Spanish.” The themes of love and death combined are common throughout Brel’s discography.
Also interesting are the lines which describe the poisonous nature of Clara’s love through almost oxymoronic phrases such as: “I died in Paris, shot by a flower.” This line in particular reminds me of the connection between Brel and some of the artists he went on to inspire, and is mirrored in Lou Reed’s David Bowie produced album Transformer which opens with the line: “Vicious, you hit me with a flower.” You can read more about the links between Brel and Bowie on my blog here.
Also of particular note is the first track, “Marieke”, in which Brel creates a Romeo and Juliet inspired love story between a French-speaking Belgian and a Flemish-speaking Belgian, set in the backdrop of the “towers of Bruges and Ghent.” The song is sung in a mixture of the two languages, which makes it unique in Brel’s catalogue.
Although Brel’s family was of Flemish-speaking decent, Brel’s Flemish was always poor (as seen in his school grades). Brel could barely write or read Flemish, so the songs that he re-recorded in that language were often translated for him. The troubled history of Brel and the Flemish-language was the subject of an exhibition in Brussels entitled “J’Aime Les Belges”, and was another theme that was seen throughout his songs from “Les Flamandes” to “Les F…”
- “Le Prochain Amour”
- “Les Prenoms de Paris”
Side A’s tracks remain the same when translated as they are names, side B’s tracks translate as: “The Next Love” and “The Names of Paris”.