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Carla Bruni: A L'Olympia: Bruno Coquatrix *

Album Notes

In 2013, Little French Songs marked the return of Carla Bruni to her vocation as a singer and songwriter. There had been more than one distraction -- serving as the First Lady of France being one of them. Recorded during that album's tour, A l'Olympia: Bruno Coquatrix is an excellent 19-song document that covers most of her recording career and contains a couple of true surprises. Ms. Bruni plays guitar here and is backed by her long-standing band. The recording quality is pristine yet doesn't get in the way of her intimate performance. Ms. Bruni's ability to communicate with audiences is legendary, and she doesn't need a lot of stage banter in order to do so; the songs do the talking. Starting with "Déranger les Pierres," co-written with her mentor Julien Clerc for 2008's Comme Si de Rien N'Etait, she gets right to the heart of her own take on French nouvelle chanson. The beautiful instrumental touches on her "Le Plus Beau du Quartier," with a lilting Wurlitzer, bluesy guitar licks, cabaret piano, and jazz trumpet solo, belie the simple, joyous delivery of the lyric. There are some wonderful covers in the set, too: John Prine's "All the Best" is a duet with special guest Marianne Faithfull, and their voices entwine around the melody, which resembles June Carter's "Ring of Fire" more than a little, to offer a romantic portrait of American symbolism that only Europeans can bring. Closer to home, her reading of Barbara's classic "Si la Photo Est Bonne" is a tad less rhythmic but just as sassy, and her take on Clerc's "On Serait Seuls au Monde" is searing and poignant. The live versions of tracks from Little French Songs -- such as the album's title track, the breezy "Dolce Francia," and "Darling" -- are more organic and warm here. Other highlights include the jazzy Caribbean groove in "Chez Keith et Anita," the café blues in "Le Temps Perdu," and her heartbreakingly beautiful waltz "Quelqu'un M'a Dit" (co-written with Alex DuPont). Just over an hour in length, this concert is resolutely gorgeous. [The deluxe version contains a DVD of the entire show (two more selections), and a documentary entitled Little French Songs in America, shot during her U.S. tour.] ~ Thom Jurek


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