Composer: Mitch Leigh.
Lyricist: Joe Darion.
Personnel: Jacques Brel; Joan Diener .
Considering it contains one of Jacques Brel's best-loved performances -- not to mention one of the few cover versions ever to pass his lips -- this original cast recording is one of the most obscure releases in the singer's regular catalog, at least so far as Anglo-American ears are concerned. In France, it's another matter entirely. Staged at Paris' Theatre des Champs-Elysees during 1968, and co-starring Joan Diener (of the Broadway production), Dario Moreno (replaced on the recording by Jean-Claude Calon), and Armand Mestral, this French-language adaptation of the well-known Man of La Mancha marked Brel's mainstream theatrical debut and was, by all accounts, a roaring success. He performs seven of the 13 songs on the LP, including duets with Diener and Jean Mauvais, but only one truly solo piece, a stirring, and increasingly intense "La Quˆte" -- better known, of course, as "The Impossible Dream." The closing sequence, however, is at least the equal of that most emotional performance. "La Mort," a nine-minute medley, floats through several of the themes previously visited during the duration of the play and, while Brel is again only one of several featured vocalists, still it is difficult not to become ensnared in the breathtaking drama of it all. A funereal reprise of "La Quˆte" is fabulous, a broken-sounding Diener emoting for all she is worth, while the fallen Don Quixote (Brel) orates himself into the grave. And, if one catches just a hint of some earlier Brel melodies in the carnage, that simply adds to the momentum of the moment. As a whole, L'Homme de la Mancha is not a necessary addition to the Brel catalog. At its best, however, it is an essential one. ~ Dave Thompson & William Ruhlmann