Recording information: 05/30/1963; 1963.
Photographer: Jean-Pierre Leloir.
This is the Jacques Brel EP morphed into a full-length album. A gorgeous reissue of the 1962 classic, Bourgeois showcases the singer at his finest, with his first set after leaving Philips and signing to the venerable Barclay label. Although there isn't a bonus track to be found, the set is steeped in all those moments that make Brel a pure pleasure to behold. From the opening "Les Bourgeois" to the closing "Rosa," there isn't a moment of lapse, a second of down time. Of all the tracks, though, there are several that stand out among the crowd of well-known chanson. "Les Paumes du Petit Matin" is the essence of melodic swing, while "Zangra" evokes both chuckles and moribund fear with its juxtaposition of an enlisted man hoping to climb the ranks with a single blaze of glory and the cheating women who surround him. "Casse Pompon" continues Brel's common thread of the military, as does "La Statue," which chronicles the story of a young enlisted man who joined up because of the promise of loose women. Rounding up the mix are the eternal crowd favorites "Madeline," "Les Bourgeois," "Bruxelles," and "Le Plat Pays," the latter one of the first songs Brel recorded for Barclay and a stirring tribute to his birthplace. With the simplest of accompaniments, just guitar and organ to cradle his voice, "Le Plat Pays" sings the praises of a gentle life, a quiet life, a rural life, ushering in a vision that was the complete antithesis of what Brel's life in Paris had become. For content and variety, it really doesn't get much better than this, although a little extra bonus material would have been a welcome addition. ~ Amy Hanson