Jacques Brel – No. 6 (Olympia 1961)

After 11 years of performing in Parisian cabarets and smaller town venues, Brel finally got the chance to take the stage at the most prestigious concert venue in France: the iconic Olympia Theatre in Paris. In 1961, his performance at the Olympia was a huge success and solidified Brel’s status as a major star in the French-speaking world. The popularity of his concerts skyrocketed, and soon he was performing in up to 300 shows annually.

The first iteration of this live album, however, was a strange amalgamation of 6 tracks from the concert and two new studio recordings. The full concert would not be released until the following year.

As I will cover the full release in a separate post, I will focus on the two studio anomalies: ‘L’Aventure’ (‘The Adventure’) and ‘Voir’ (‘To See’).

In ‘L’Aventure’, Brel compares every day’s dawn to the start of an adventure. Perhaps somewhat ironically, the adventures he sings of are mostly mundane: a blacksmith’s adventure is working iron on an anvil (as the listener hears throughout the song), for the baker it’s kneading dough, however for some it’s wine or a foaming sea. But regardless of whether the adventure is “between the church and the town hall” or trespassing onto private woodland, the overwhelming theme is the possibility of adventure in everyday life – similar to the concept introduced in one of Brel’s first works, ‘S’Il Te Faut’.

The lyrics of ‘Voir‘ follow a couplet pattern which sees Brel introduce a conflict in the first line, followed by a resolution in the second line. For example:

Seeing an old enemy

Bringing an end to that memory

‘Voir’ – Jacques Brel

In this couplet, Brel sings of reconciling with his past and things that have troubled him. The lyrics paint a positive and passionate outlook, and in the last few lines we learn that the narrator’s new-found optimism is because he finally “saw you”.

While the two songs are pleasant enough, they’re hardly among Brel’s best work. This iteration of the album has not been repressed for over 60 years, and the tracks are now usually tacked on to Brel’s third album – on account of them being initially recorded in this period.


Side one:

  • ‘Les Bourgeois’
  • ‘Les Paumes du Petit Matin’ (‘The Lost Ones of the Early Morning’)
  • ‘La Statue’ (‘The Statue’)
  • ‘L’Aventure’

Side two:

  • ‘Madeleine’
  • ‘Les Biches’ (‘The Does’)
  • ‘Zangra’
  • ‘Voir’ (‘To See’)

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