Tuesday, 29 March 2011


Artist: Francoise Hardy.  Titles: If You Listen, La Question.  Format: LP.  Country: France and US.  Year:1971.

Slightly different format for this post - as there are 2 LPs I'm focussing on - both issued in (or around) 1971 by Francoise Hardy.  Firstly the "If You Listen" album which is to date the last full English language set of songs she's released - which of course doesn't include the track with Blur (the 'La Comedie' full french and half french/half english version of 'To The End'), and 'Revenge of the Flowers' done with Malcolm McClaren.  The album was recorded at Sound Techniques in London - the very same studios used by Nick Drake and others on Joe Boyd's Witchseason rosta, and features amongst others Richard Thompson playing on a number of tracks.  Other connections include sound engineer Vic Gamm who worked alongside John Wood on the Nick Drake stuff.  The highlight of the album for me has to be "Bown, Bown, Bown" - co-written by a pre-Foreigner Mick Brown, who was part of FH's studio band during this period, after having fulfilled a similar for Sylvie Vartan in the mid-60's. And what's great about it - apart from FH being in very fine form as you would expect - is that very Nick Drake-y vibe to the whole thing, especially with the interplay between the acoustic guitars and the Robert Kirby styled strings. There's a french version of this which appears of Francoise's subsequent 1972 LP 'Et Si Je M'en Vais Avant Toi' which I presume was recorded at the same time as the english version (as well as the Portugese version!).  And in common with a lot of the stuff translated into french - Francoise does the honours herself - as she did with the Bacharach & David/Shirelles song 'The Love Of A Boy' amongst others back in the 60's.  And if anyone was listening to BBC Radio 2 back in January you would have me talking about it on Michael Ball's 'Sunday Brunch' show before they played the song - a great way to get this wonderful song out there to the wider audience it deserves.

Despite what been said about this set on some other Francoise Hardy related blogs, I have to differ. As it's one of those albums that subtly hooks you and gently reels you in without your consciously realizing it.  And it has some great tracks on it in addition to one already mentioned.  Including 2 by Beverley Martin "Ocean" and the rather excellent "I Can't The One I Want", and 2 by Buffy St Marie:- "Until It's Time For You To Go" and "Take My Hand For A Little While".  Add to the version of "The Garden of Jane Delawney", and an enderaring version of Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going To Rain Today" - which pretty much follows the Dusty template.  And to round things off an slightly quirky version of ole Shaky's "Till The Morning Comes".
Alternate Cover
La Question 45

The second FH LP is another personal fave from this period "La Question" done with the Brazillain female flamenco guitarist Tuca - and again a pretty superlative set.
What's most noticeable is the stripped down sound and arrangements of the songs - especially when compared to overdone/overcooked arrangements on FH's late 60's stuff - the worst offender I can think of being the 1968 'En Anglais' LP where you're struggling to hear the vocals over the sea of strings.  This thankfully  doesn't.  The thing that immediately struck me when I first heard this (and still does) is that it's pretty apparent that FH had heard Nick Drake's stuff - and "Oui Je Dis Adieu" wouldn't sound out of place in either 'Five Leaves Left' or 'Bryter Layter'.  And of it's generally thought to be the case that a joint project between Francoise  and Nick Drake was in the planning stages when he died in 1974.  (As to whether anything was recorded is a matter of conjecture for another post at another time.)  The other highlights here have to "La Question" itself the albums opener "Viens" and "Bati Mon Nid".
Reve 45 sleeve
Chanson D'O 45 sleeve

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