A fine tribute to Serge
bimwa | Australia | 10/26/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For those unaware, 'Great Jewish Music' is a series released on John Zorn's Tzadik label, which pays homage to Jewish songwriters by way of a selection of Tzadik artists covering their tunes. The Serge Gainsbourg compilation is the second in the series, following Burt Bacharach. It doesn't quite match the Bacharach one, but is still well worth checking out.
The first two tracks are alone almost worth the price of admission. Elysian Fields' atmospheric take on 'Les Amours Perdues' discards the groove of the original, but it's still got plenty of soul, and is just beautiful. Then Mike Patton does all the voices (male and female), not to mention all the instruments, on 'Ford Mustang' and almost manages to outdo the original.
One of the big differences between this album and the Bacharach one is the level of diversity - here, most of the tracks are done relatively straight, and perhaps this is due to Gainsbourg's style of songwriting. His focus was definitely more on melodies than structures, to the point that rarely do any of his songs even have bridges or B sections, content with repeating one section over and over.
Of course, a few of the treatments are notably different, for example Zorn's 'Contact' which is totally a capella, including a snarling lead vocal; Marc Ribot's 'Black Trombone', slow and ponderous, with each note milked out of the guitar in his typical skronky way; or of course Ruins' hardcore take on 'L'Homme Tete Le Chou'.
All in all it's a great listen, and a good introduction to a legendary songwriter (obviously you should check out the originals too!). It's worth mentioning, this CD is quite easy on the ears (especially considering that it's on Tzadik) and could *almost* pass as dinner music, if it weren't for the Ruins track and a couple of others - but I guess that's the way Zorn likes it, just teetering on the edge of accessibility..."