It took no more than the opening line to the promo lit for this release to convince me I had to hear it: the disc, I was informed, concerns itself with "debauched damsels and dirty old men". Delightful! Georges Brassens, with whom I'd never been acquainted previously, must rank as one of the world's most unique poets, not to mention an accomplished composer. Certainly the French, who have a deserved repute for the erotic and anarchic, regard him as one of the most important post-WWII poets on the face of the Earth, and, upon evidence here, I'd rank the dear departed (1921 - 1981) with Bertolt Brecht and ilk…not in mode of expression particularly, though there's plenty of reason for that as well, but in tone, temperament, and audacity. For sheer bluntness, one would have to travel beyond even the bawdier spawn of Verlaine…while, heh! clinging to limericks.
Pierre de Gaillande, transplanted from gay Paris to California to NYC, obviously has more than a little of the rogue in him as well (perhaps even a trifle of the roue!) and has taken on the task of bringing Monsieur Brassens to U.S. audiences. Bad Reputation, Vol. 2 is his second foray and is deserving of wide exposure equally for Gaillande's birdflip in the face of propriety for shouldering the burden, which has only rarely been done (it's IMPOSSIBLE to find Brassens lyrics in English on the Web) as for Brassens' insouciantly admirable effrontery. It's highly possible Mr. Gaillande will even find himself in a spot of trouble for his pains. Seriously, y'all, this CD marks a very rare, indeed singular, occasion in the arts.
But it also features an 11-spot of merrily dark, ribald, forbidding, antagonistic, pornographic, and sometimes even just ruminative songs delivered by a spotlessly clean crack band, including the guitarist who played with Brassens in the 70s: Joel Favreau. The band is headed up by de Gaillande, who sings everything in a street troubadour's voice and strums an amiable guitar. The surface tone is maddeningly guileless while explicit as hell, simultaneously soothing and subversive, as though Maurice Chevalier or one of his buddies got too deep into his cups and started encanting what was really on his nasty ol' mind.
How one is supposed to react to these ditties, I have no idea, save to marvel at them. You will, I guarantee, find NO disc like this on the market anywhere, none whatsoever, and I think we can even safely place Mr. Brassens in with Lenny Bruce, Lord Buckley, Bill Hicks, Lee Camp, Marc Maron, and the all-time masters of social stand-up comedy as well. I can only very strongly suggest Mr. Gaillande locate a latterday Beardsley or Grosz to illustrate the poems and put Brassens' work in permanent book form in English here in America, thus doing our aegis of letters a huge service. Here's a taste why:
Although these bourgeois pigs prefer
For even with their pedigree
Not only are their bunions sore
These filthy johns who cross their path
They must be taken by the hand
They are despised by everyone
Though they make love all day in bed
You sons of vapid women born
It wouldn't take much, my brother
[Those last three lines are sung in French: "Cette putain dont tu rigole, parole".]
You're not going to find that on a Pat Boone album, now are you? No, but if Pat's curious, he'll find this CD on my 2013 Year's Best and can avail himself of a copy through Amazon or wherever. When he's done blushing, someone please tell him I was only too happy to turn him on to it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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