Friday, December 15, 2006

Gilles Valiquette

Gilles Valiquette is a singer-songwriter with 11 albums to his credit, five BMI/PROCAN Certificates of Honor, and three SOCAN Awards for the success of his songs. As creator of the Québec Ministry of Education approved “Computer Assisted Sound Design” program, he is widely known as a leader in the field of new technologies through his Musitechnic College where he holds the position of President and CEO. Gilles Valiquette is a current board member of the Société de Développement des Entreprises Culturelles (SODEC), a board member of l’Alliance NumériQC and recently served as President of the Board of the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) between 1998 and 2003.

Doesn’t seem like the type of guy who’d play lead guitar in a psych band, huh? It’s like finding out your mom used to date John Cippolina of the Quicksilver Messenger Service (happened to a guy i know, really...). But, yes, this respectable member of society wrote and performed the song “Le Magicien” with his band Someone. It's not really a psych song, more of a stripped down rock thing, but the vocals (and I am ASSUMING the words, too) give it that vibe.

On the rocking level, this is about a notch above Spirit and one below Frigid Pink, which is to say it never REALLY gets going, but it does have a nice energy to it, like if someone who only listened to really fey folk music was locked in a room and forced to listen to Jumpin' Jack Flash for a month straight. The guitar solo is actually pretty smoking, the drummer throws some popcorn into the choruses, and the bass players insistance on sticking to the root during the main verses is admirably punky (in a proto-punk way). Also, the song is barely 2 minutes long. Thus, the whole package thrown together recalls a much tamer, lamer, Quebecois take on The Stooges (circ. Funhouse). But, that's not a bad thing, no?
The B-side is fairly average folk rock, a preview of the majority of Gilles' 70’s material, like his album "Chansons pour un café", which naturally sold about 10,000 times better than this piece of wax... 

Someone-Le Magicien

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Johnny Hallyday

Johnny Hallyday. Yes, the mere mention of his name makes a lot of people roll their eyes. To hip music fans, he's poison; "Mr. Showbiz."

He’s the “French Elvis”, if by “Elvis”, you really mean Ricky Nelson.
Dude is cornball supreme and a national icon. He’s still making news (and records) in France to this day. His plastic surgery makes Kenny Rogers seem like a spokesperson for aging gracefully in comparison. And just as it seems odd to picture saccharine Kenny cutting tunes like the lovely and bugged out “Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Was In”, it’s equally difficult to picture Johnny Hallyday doing anything truly dope. But, low and behold he did. Like a lot of performers who change musical directions to match current trends, Johnny has some great late 60’s records, when the musical trends in rock turned lysergic.

To be fair, Johnny has always surrounded himself with good players. Like for example, Jimmy Page. Jimmy Page played on two Hallyday cuts from 1967, “A Tout Casser,” an almost funky heavy rock thing, and “Psychedelic”, which is sorta like the Yardbirds filtered thru Davie Allen exploitation movie trash. There’s no doubt it's Page because in the solo in “Psychedelic” he uses a trademark bending lick a la Albert King that he would use a few years later in one of the guitar breaks in “Whole Lotta Love.” Anyways,
I have no idea what the lyrics are about. Being that Johnny is about as mind bending as a Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast and that the EP this is from also has a cover of “San Francisco (be sure to wear some flowers in your hair)” on it, I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’s not giving Syd Barrett a run for his money... 

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Jean Ferrat

One of the advantages of coming into French music from a foreign perspective is not knowing which way is up, so you don’t know which way is down either. Outside of a few known names, you end up working without preconceived notions.
Jean Ferrat is a good example of this. First off, please note he looks like a lunatic. His reputation in France is that of an old school, left wing chanteur; sort of like Pete Seeger mixed with a cabaret act. Just as Serge Gainsbourg oozed sleaze, Ferrat oozed sincerity. If you tell people he’s got some funky records, you’ll get some looks.
However, the majority of his records are arranged by Alain Goraguer, who is mostly known outside France for his work with Gainsbourg, France Gall and for the soundtrack for Le Planete Sauvage.
For the most part, it’s hard to connect the dots between the man who made that trippy and funky film soundtrack with the restrained and traditional chanson material that fills Ferrat’s LP’s. But, there are a few exceptions to the rule, a handful of songs where Goraguar unleashes some of the wildness he’s revered for.
"Intox" is one such song. A mind numbing wash of electric sitar, synthesizer howls, pounding drums, and wackjob vocals, it definitely lives up to its title, with the arty psychedelia of the music being used to conjure up feelings of disorientation, and, yes, intoxication. The title is a sort of double entendre with “intox” meaning both drunk and poisoned. The lyrics are actually on a “Television, drug of the nation” type vibe, with Ferrat singing:
                                              Intox intox intoxiqué
                                              Opium opium televise
Or, as my best friend Babelfish tells me:  
                                              Intox intox poisoned 
                                              Opium televised opium
When interviewed recently, Ferrat was asked (again, Babelfish): 
A few years ago, you sang about the TV “intox, poisoned. Televised opium”. Which glance do you relate overall to the TV of today?
To which he replied:
At the time, the Ministry for Information controlled all the television news, as well as the programs. It was the voice of France, and it censure was of setting. All that hardly changed. But today, the TV is under the cut of another form of being able: tradesmen. Television became a machine to make sell products. The consumer, with large C, replaces the citizen
To read the interview in French, click here:

Intox- Jean Ferrat