I love Paris - as a city I find it beautiful, mind blowing and artist. I went there on my honeymoon (I know it is a cliché, I really do not care) and we stayed off the beaten tourist sites in a small two star hotel which over looked a street market in the middle of summer. It was just a really relaxing experience, very pretty and so fascinating. I can total understand why it is one of the most popular cities in the world. Zaz is the stage name of Isabelle Geffroy, this is her third album and is a collection of songs about the French capital. Now, I would like to point out that I am one of those people who can only speak my native language; this is something that I have not been able to redress and I feel really bad for it. It also feels that I really should not be reviewing this, but as soon as I heard that there was an album about one of my most favourite cities it was something I really wanted to do. So, hoping that I do not offend anyone with my haphazard style of writing, lets explore the city of love.
The first song on this album is “Paris Sera Toujours Paris” and with French not being my native language I cannot really comment on the actual lyrical content of the song. What I can say is that the music is the sort of tune I would imagine being played in a French cafe and the crowd tapping away to this jaunty tune. It is full of energy and light, you would have to be dead from the neck up to not enjoy this number. The music is very good indeed and never lulls at any point. Short, sweet and to the point. “Sous Le Ciel De Paris” is a number I recognise (even if the lyrical delivery is in a different language), it has a vibe which brings some Country & Western styling to the number, but it still has that loose jazz feel with the bass and drums keeping everything incredibly loose. It is an acquired taste to be honest, but it is still performed very well. “La Parisienne” starts off with a vocal choir backing Zaz in this number. It is very effective and reminds me of a project where Ben Folds had Universities in America have their choirs sing his songs in an a capella style. It is a change to the opening two songs and shows a lovely diversity in style for this album which so far is making it very interesting. “Dans Mon Paris (Version Manouche)” is back in the cafe with a fiddle/violin taking the main work of the song. So far on this album, it does not feel like there is ever a cloudy day in the French Capital. This song has such a sunshine feel about it, the lyrics might be saying it rains from dusk till dawn and the cats steal all the tuna – I would not know any different, but Zaz’s voice and band are playing with such a happy and professional style that it is brightening up my day here.
“Champs Elysées” is a song which is quite possibly being sung with the wrong tune. From the moment it started, I have been thinking it is the theme tune to an 1980’s American sit-com where a dysfunctional family of people are getting stuck in improbable situation with greater degrees of laughter track. The delivery of the song is not poor, it is done very well and the big band backing is very professional; but it does not work for me at least. “A Paris” is the first tune to take a more reflective look on the Île-de-France city, starting with a sombre guitar and accordion, you can imagine the colder time of years and people walking lost in thoughts of lost loves and people. As the song goes on it has more instruments added to the mix which takes something away from the song. It was more when it was just the voice, loose guitars and Zaz’s haunting voice guiding the audience; a good number that could have been great. “I Love Paris / J'aime Paris” is the seventh song on the album. It have slow dancing moment which merge with the faster jazz cafe of “Paris Sera Toujours Paris” making it a very changeable number, the build up to the ending is fun and once again show cases Zaz’s vocal range. It is a bit better than the last couple of number, but the way it keeps changing does take something away from the tune for me. “La Romance De Paris” is a piano led number that starts off with a sound that could be heart breaking (or it could be one of the best love songs ever). But then the big band jazz factor comes into play (as well as a duet with Thomas Dutronc and the number is much more fun, vibrate and full of energy (it is also the first song that has lyrics in another language other than French).
“Paris Canaille” opens with a strange noise, goes back into the catchy Jazz cafe sound and has a lovely duet who bring another aspect to this number. If it had have been like “Paris Sera Toujours Paris” then it might has delved a little too far into one style of song, instead the duet reminds me of the music played in some of my friends house as I was growing up – once again I have no idea about the lyrics, but the music is very good. “La Complainte De La Butte” brings back the wistful aspect of Parisian life with a mellon collie that does not need to be in your native language to understand. I also like the fact it does not change in style, keeps it nice and simple, making this one of the tracks of the album. “J'aime Paris Au Mois De Mai (En Duo Avec Charles Aznavour)” is a swing number that sounds as if it was written for the Rat Pack. It is another duet track , this time with Charles Aznavour whose voice is not quite as strong as the other duets on this album. However, I would like to say that they do complement each other very well and keep the song interesting from beginning to end. “Paris, L'après-Midi” is the penultimate track of the album and it is a short jazz cafe number again that is another foot stomper of a song which brings us neatly onto the closing song of the album – “J'ai Deux Amours”. It has the choir open the number once again, before it merges into a 60’s era number that ends the album with a sing along quality. It is really enjoyable and keeps in line with the changing mood of this album that has been happening for most of this album, and the end duet is a perfect ending to this record about one of my favourite cities in the world.
Overall, this is a strange album for me; mainly due to the language barrier (I feel a little rude in a way for trying to review it in the first place, but I like a challenge). My main drive for reviewing it as I mentioned before was that I fell in love with the city. This music does not remind me of the time I had then, but it does make me wish I could be wondering around its streets and sampling the Parisian life once more. It also makes me really wish I knew more than one language, but alas that is not to be.
7 out of ten - Ce est bon et la peine de vérifier (This is good and worth checking out)
Top track - La Parisienne Here is a link to purchase the album from Amazon here