Friday, 23 November 2012

Serge Gainsbourg - Histoire De Melody Nelson - 40th Anniversary

One for the hipsters. In depth re-issue of Serge's greatest LP.

You have to hand it to the French. As a nation they know how to “do cool”. And Serge Gainsbourg did it better than most. With a genre-straddling career over 4 decades, his status as a national treasure was assured via his genuinely controversial and provocative lyrics and music. It's difficult to imagine a UK artist generating a similar amount of admiration and love were they to release records dealing with incest, under-age sex, nazis, along with dub-reggae versions of the national anthem. His funeral in 1991 brought a shocked Paris to a standstill. It's a shame then that the world's most famous Gauloises smoker is almost as well known over here for what he said to Whitney Houston on a French chat show. Doubtless though the quality of his music which will win out over time, and where better to start than what's often cited as his greatest album, Histoire de Melody Nelson, now being re-issued with added bonus material 40 years after it's initial release.

Click over the jump for more on Histoire De Melody Nelson.

The record tells a story of the meeting between a 40 year old Frenchman, voiced by Serge and Melody Nelson, a teenage English girl, occasionally voiced by Jane Birkin. The music occupies similar territory to that made by David Axelrod, blending mostly spoken vocals, rhythm guitar, funk bass and drums, with subtle orchestral arrangements courtesy of Jean-Claude Vannier (also currently back in the public eye with a couple of recent album releases on Finders Keepers Records).

The original seven track album manages to be simultaneously sophisticated and earthy, erotic and thought provoking, sensuous and funky. In its original form it's a short album, clocking in at under half an hour, though this new expanded version has added new material including alternate versions and unreleased cuts that didn't make the original LP, notably the track Melody Lit Babar. Though not of the same standard as the cuts that did make the album, and slightly out of place stylistically it will be of interest to Serge-ophiles, and does serve to flesh out the story related on the record.

Available on several versions, there's an option to suit any pocket - single picture LP, Deluxe (2CD/DVD), Limited Super Deluxe (2CD/2LP/DVD). The DVD contains a documentary about the album featuring videos shot for each track at the time of the album's 1971 release.

I'm generally anti-canon when it comes to music and usually shy away from those top 100 album lists so loved by the music monthlies. That said I wouldn't begrudge this album a placing on them.