Jacques Brel – No.3

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This is Jacques Brel’s third ‘album’, released on 10″ 33.3 rpm in April 1958. The album also goes by the name “Demain L’On Se Marie”.

Here we see Brel move further towards jazz and lush string arrangements (as on ‘J’en Appelle’). The album contains the popular single ‘Au Printemps’ (‘In the Spring’), which sounds like a jolly waltz to those unfamiliar with Brel’s lyrical style.

While ‘Au Printemps’ is a song about lovers in Paris, classically thought of as the most romantic city in Europe, the lyrics speak of ‘hearts burnt like cigarette butts’ and ‘fickle beating hearts’ (through the metaphor of an artichoke), and the illusion of love is prompted by the seasonal change, and presented through the people whose hearts have been ‘painted through white wine’. Considering this, the love depicted by Brel in the tune is fleeting, and shallow, which is reflected in the later line: ‘See the miracle (of love) that had to happen – this is the first and only chance of the year.’

Side one of the record focuses Brel’s emerging jazz style, however side two is somewhat more intriguing, with two organ-led songs (‘La Lumiere Jaillira’ (‘The Light Will Burn On’) and (‘Voice’ (‘Here’)), a poem (‘Dites, Is C’etait Vrai’ (‘Say, If It Were True’), and the achingly beautiful ‘Litanies pour un Retour’ (‘Litany for a Return’).

‘The Light Will Burn On’ utilises Christian imagery to represent a number of things; the first can be interpreted as a sudden understanding (or enlightenment/rebirth) which enables the singer to see things in a different light, the second is love – which has much the same impact as the first interpretation. Finally, the light can be interpreted as death, which is ‘hoped for every day’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘much needed’, which corresponds with the cultural significance of the term “walking into the light”. Most notable are the connections between this song and a number of later songs including Morrissey’s ‘There is a Light that Never Goes Out’, and David Bowie’s ‘Ashes to Ashes’, in which the bridge linking the verse and pre-chorus utilises the lyric: “Just one flash of light, but no smoking pistol.” Click here to read my thoughts on the other links between Bowie and Brel.

‘Say, if it Were True’ follows, which harks back to Brel’s earlier religious/political songs. In this poem, Brel muses on the life of Jesus, concluding cynically that he only believes it’s true because the act of believing it is beautifully naive.

‘Litany for a Return’ takes the form of a list of items dear to the singer and culminates in them being used as an offering to make the person who the songs directed at return. Mixed in with allusions to Brel’s life and other songs are allusions to Christian imagery: “My Grail… my bread… wine… blood… faith… my body, my flesh”. This mimics the offertory in the Catholic Mass, as well as the Bible theme of giving away one’s earthly possessions in order to gain wealth in the afterlife, however the love for God is replaced by the love of the unnamed subject of the song.


Tracks

Side A:

  • ‘Demain L’On Se Marie (La Chanson Des Fiancés)’ (‘Tomorrow we will Marry (The Song of the Fiancés’)
  • ‘Au Printemps’ (‘In Springtime’)
  • ‘Je Ne Sais Pas’ (‘I do not Know’)
  • ‘Le Colonel’ (‘The Colonel’)
  • ‘Dors Ma Mie, Bonsoir’ (‘Sleep My Love, Good Night’)

Side B:

  • ‘La Lumiere Jaillira’ (‘The Light Will Burn On’)
  • ‘Dites, Si C’était Vrai’ (‘Say, If It Was True’)
  • ‘L’Homme Dans La Cite’ (‘The Man in the City’)
  • ‘Litainies Pour Un Retour’ (‘Litany for a Return’)
  • ‘Voici’ (‘Here’)

Bonus tracks:

  • ‘Voir’ (‘See’)
  • ‘L’aventure’ (‘The Adventure’)
  • ‘Dites, Si C’était Vrai’ (‘Say, If It Was True’) – alternate version

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