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Yves Montand - Les feuilles mortes
His 26 Finest
rec. 1947–1952

Yves Montand (1921 – 1991) became a leading exponent of the French chanson in the late 1940s, but he also embarked on a film career, which escalated after the success of The Wages of Fear (1953) and was seen in both French and Hollywood productions. Many readers will however remember his honeyed crooning voice and his skilful expressive singing of a wide repertoire, and here are collected recordings made between 1945 and 1952, “his 26 finest”, as the cover states. The main header is however “Les feuilles mortes”, the famous melody by Joseph Kosma that in Johnny Mercer’s translation is known as Autumn Leaves. The song with the original French texts by Jacques Prévert was sung by Montand in the 1946 film Les Portes de la nuit, directed by Marcel Carné but the melody had already been used in a ballet by Roland Petit the year before. Today perhaps the best known of all French chansons, it was not recorded until early May 1949. Although it has been recorded innumerable times by the likes of Juliette Greco and Edith Piaf and in the English translation by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and even Bob Dylan, for me it is Yves Montand’s version that is the ‘original’. He is so inside the sad story of lost love, where the final lines describe the sea ‘as it obliterates from the sand the footprints of the lovers as they go their separate ways forever’. Montand can even sing just la-la-la-la and convey a mood and a feeling.

Henri Betti’s C’est si bon from the same period is another classic, which Montand initially didn’t want to record, but fortunately he changed his mind. The relaxed swing and his singing with distinct ‘face’ is irresistible. I have no wish to give detailed descriptions of each song, but Luna Park stands out a bit through his indulging in some yodelling and there is even some step-dancing. Francis Lemarque’s Ma douce vallée is a charming song in ¾-time and Mathilda is very slooow, very different from Harry Belafonte’s version.

In Je suis venu à pied he is accompanied by a very badly tuned piano. Clopin, clopant is well-known and here guitar, piano and clarinet provide a lightly swinging background. À Paris, Francis Lemarque again, is one of the finest homages to the French capital. It is really atmospheric!

Les enfants qui s’aiment is a further collaboration with Kosma and Prévert, only accompanied by Henri Crolla’s guitar. Champion du monde is an easy-swing song with Goodman-style clarinet and the catchy Maître Pierre is a marching song with chorus and orchestra. The waltz Un gamin de Paris is stylishly accompanied by a musette accordion.

Norbert Glanzberg is the composer of Grands boulevards and it is one of the finest songs here. St.-Paul de Vence is beautiful and peaceful place in Provençe, where in December 1951 Yves Montand and Simone Signoret were married. They lived harmonically together until her death in 1985 – even though Yves had some affairs – including one with Marilyn Monroe.

Quand un soldat s’en va-t-en guerre (When a soldier goes off to war) was recorded in 1952 at the time when France was involved in the Indo-China conflict. The contents was controversial – “he comes back only if he is lucky” – and the song was banned on radio for many years.

A nice mix of entertainment and serious material that presents Yves Montand at his very best.
Göran Forsling

Previous review: Bruce McCollum

Joseph KOSMA
1. Les feuilles mortes [3:18]
2. C’est si bon [2:38]
Loulou GASTÉ
3. Luna Park [1:57]
4. Battling Joe [2:51]
Michel EMER
5. Il chantait [2:48]
Marguerite MONNET
6. Ma, gosse, ma p’tite môme [2:18]
7. Mais qu’est-ce que j’ai? [2:47]
8. Ma douce vallée [3:18]
9. Mathilda [3:12]
10. Je suis venu à pied [3:00]
Loulou GASTÉ
11. Vel’ d’ hiv’ [3:05]
12. Clopin, clopant [3:25]
13. Á Paris [3:12]
14. Les cireurs de souliers de Broadway [3:19]
Joseph KOSMA
15. Les enfants qui s’aiment [3:07]
16. Flâner tous les deux [2:33]
17. Champion du monde [2:16]
18. Maître Pierre [3:17]
19. Rien dans les mains, rien dans les poches [3:10]
Adrien MARÈ
20. Un gamin de Paris [2:31]
21. Le dormeur de val [3:02]
22. Grands boulevards [2:34]
Michel EMER
23. Rue Lepic [2:42]
24. St.-Paul de Vence [2:44]
25. Quand un soldat s’en va-t-en guerre [1:53]
26. Les routiers [3:02]



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