Thursday, May 10, 2007

Michel Pagliaro

Along with Robert Charlebois, Michel Pagliaro is the dominant figure of Quebecois rock music of the last 40 years. He has had countless hits in both English and French and released over two dozen albums. His persona as the straight up rock and roller is the flip side to Charlebois’ brainy eclectic.
Sadly, most of his records are pretty boring boogie rock. Kind of like Status Quo sung in French. Chugging Rhythm guitars copping Chuck Berry licks.
However, his early solo material on Trans-World, Spectrum, and especially the DSP label, is amazing. These records are funky, yet sophisticated. It’s late 60’s bachelor pad music. He covers Claude Francois, Bobby Hebb, Otis Redding, and the Classics IV. Hearing songs like “Sunny”, “Spooky” and “You Showed Me” sung in French gives them a continental lounge lizard feeling that sounds impossibly suave to Anglo ears. However, these records are never cornball because there is genuine grit and soul in Pagliaro’s voice. He never sounds forced or awkward doing R&B the way Nino Ferrer or Eddie Mitchell can. His version of Otis Redding’s “Dum Dum Dum” is funky and sure-handed, with the band rising to the challenge as well.
Apparently, Pagliaro did not like being pushed in this pop direction that was supposed to make him palatable to a mainstream audience. He was definitely a rock and roll guy and did not want to be made into Engelbert Humperdink. However uncomfortable he may have been, he sounds good doing this type of material. His cover of “What a Wonderful World”, “Que Le Monde est Beau”, is beautiful, with an orchestrated pop feel similar to Dusty Springfield or the Walker Brothers.
Sadly, Pagliaro left this international playboy music behind forever in the early 70’s, becoming Quebec’s most beloved hard rocker, covering Little Richard and Chuck Berry, in addition to playing his own rock songs. It’s good, solid, meat and potatoes rock, but it doesn’t have either the funkiness or sophistication of his earlier material.
Michel Pagliaro- Que Le Monde est Beau

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