The most revered and celebrated French singer of the 20th century, Edith Piaf was only 20 when she first recorded for Polydor's French division in 1936. But even on her early recordings, Piaf sang with the wisdom, maturity and depth of a seasoned veteran artist -- a fact that's hard to miss on Mon Legionnaire. Spanning 1937-1940, this superb CD focuses on Piaf's early work and boasts many of the gems that put her on the map in France, including "Je N'en Connais Pas La Fin," "J'entends La Sirene," "Le Chacal" and the title song. Though Piaf was never a jazz singer, some of the orchestral arrangements are influenced by the American big-band swing of the 1930s, as well as American sweet bands (whose focus was pop with jazz overtones). The sound quality isn't ideal -- one wishes that Arkadia's digital remastering had filtered out more of the noise and that classics like "C'est Lui Que Mon Couer A Choisi" and "Le Voyage Du Pauvre Negre" could be heard without so many pops, crackles and clicks. Even so, the richness of the music comes through loud and clear. Mon Legionnaire is a CD to savor. ~ Alex Henderson
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