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article imageReview: Serge Gainsbourg – 'Casino de Paris 1985'

By Adrian Peel     Oct 20, 2015 in Music
In October 1985, this cultural icon of the 20th century - the epitome of nonchalant Gallic cool - performed at the Casino de Paris in the French capital. A new limited edition two-CD/DVD collection documents the entire performance for the very first time.
30 years ago, the revered Serge Gainsbourg, best known for the controversial - and often parodied - duet with his then-girlfriend Jane Birkin "Je t'aime Moi Non Plus," was only six years away from the heart attack that took his life at the age of 62.
This loving tribute includes a 28-page book and is also available as a triple vinyl set. It offers a reminder of the natural charm that made this man so irresistible to women, as well as the widespread appeal - seemingly achieved with a minimum of effort - that his work still enjoys today.
A 20-track single CD, Serge Gainsbourg Live, came out a year after the concert took place in 1986, but now, as mentioned above, fans will have the chance to listen to the full 29 tracks for the first time ever.
The long, stretched out groove of "Love on the Beat" gets things underway and is a satisfying listen, thanks to that instantly identifiable voice - given its hoarseness thanks to years of heavy smoking - of the man eloquently speaking French over the beat.
"Initials B.B." is a darker and more menacing in its tone, Gainsbourg's crisp, lived-in vocals perfectly fitting the mood. In stark contrast, track three "Harley Davidson" injects a touch of reggae into the proceedings, before "Sorry Angel" with its angelic choir takes us once again down a more foreboding path.
Despite its title, "Nazi Rock" is much more upbeat than the tracks preceding it. The genre-hopping Frenchman then returns to reggae on "Des Laids Des Laids," while the delightful, piano-led whimsy of "Ballade De Johnny-Jane" is probably my favourite track on CD One.
The haunting "Bonnie and Clyde" has been covered by a number of other artists, including Belinda Carlisle, Mick Harvey and Freedom Fry, and it's easy to see why.
The second CD opens with the bleak "Dépression Au-Dessus Du Jardin" and "My Lady Héroïne," a light-hearted pop song with an infectious melody.
The singer/songwriter/poet/actor/writer/director has the audience in stitches with his ramblings on the spoken "Histoires Exclusive" (just as he does earlier with the spoken interruption on "Lemon Incest"), one of the cuts not on the original live album.
There is some welcome '80s synthesiser on "L’eau À La Bouche" and we're back to reggae on the snarling "Lola Rastaquère." It's entertaining to hear the charismatic star, the father of actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, introduce the members of his band and speak in English while doing so - and again this insightful interplay had never been heard before, until now.
Other highlights on the second disc include "Marilou Sous La Neige," the rockier "Harley David Son of a Bitch" and the moving "La Javanaise."
A recommended purchase for admirers of Gainsbourg, who even in death remains a much talked about and divisive figure, and for people with a bit of money to spend interested in mapping the musical landscape of late 20th century continental Europe. Hearing it live makes it all the more rewarding.
Casino de Paris 1985 will be available to buy or download from October 30.
For more information on Serge Gainsbourg, visit his page on the Universal Music website.
More about Serge Gainsbourg, french music, casino de paris, Paris, je t'aime
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