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Friday, October 24, 2008


Known for his eccentric nature, French pop songwriter Michel Polnareff created a buzz for himself in the early to mid-'60s when his debut single, "La Poupée Qui Fait Non," rocketed to the top of the French charts, but it was his early-'70s release, Polnareff's, that cemented him a place as a legend in French pop. Polnareff was raised in Paris somewhat as a child of the arts, his mother, Simone Lane, being a dancer and his father, Leib Polnareff, a musician who played sideman to many, including Edith Piaf under the name Léo Poll. The two surrounded young Polnareff with music, shaping his ambitions, so it is no surprise that he had learned piano by only five years of age and was writing music by the age of 11.
After a short stint in the French Army and a few menial jobs, Polnareff embraced his passions and busked the city streets with his guitar to moderate success. In 1965, he refused a recording contract with Barclay, a prize that he won in a songwriting contest, in one of his earliest displays of his now-famous aversion to conformity, but eventually signed to AZ under the direction of his new manager and Radio 1 musical director, Lucien Morisse. "La Poupée Qui Fait Non" was released in the summer of 1966 and rocketed him up the charts not only in France, but in Germany, Britain, and Spain. The song was the first of a string of hits for Polnareff, but before long, the French press focused almost entirely on his garish stage presence. Being under the scrutiny of the conservative press didn't seem to stop the hits, however, and Polnareff garnered praise from celebrities such as Charles Trenet, but the consistency of attacks began to weigh heavily on him.
By 1970, his stage costumes had become more flamboyant. The French press began questioning his sexuality, and the constant controversy around the singer came to a head when he was physically assaulted while performing. Not surprisingly, Polnareff canceled the rest of his tour, and shortly after checked into a hospital for depression when he learned that Morisse, his manager, had committed suicide. After five months of treatment, Polnareff bounced back and resumed his hectic recording and touring schedule, but scandal soon followed when he ended up in court due to a campaign for his 1972 tour that was centered around publicity posters bearing Polnareff's naked behind. Polnareff was found guilty of gross indecency and charged 60,000 francs.
The touring continued through mid-1973 with stops in Polynesia and North America, but upon his return to France, Polnareff found his bank account had been drained by his financial advisor. Polnareff's debt to the French government was over one million francs in unpaid taxes, and with little money in his name, he fled from France to the United States. Unknown in a new country, Polnareff was safely out of the limelight and the reach of the French authorities. He spent more than a decade in the United States before he cleared up his monetary issues with the French government, while in the meantime he recorded for Atlantic and composed movie scores.
Despite his absence from France, Polnareff's new music remained present in French popular culture and continued to chart through the mid-'80s, until he removed himself entirely from the public eye and quietly returned to France to work on a new album. Kama Sutra finally appeared in the summer of 1990, and the album garnered three French hits. Polnareff remained in France for five more years before returning to the U.S. to perform at the Roxy in Los Angeles. Through the '90s and into the 2000s, he continued to release new material and play occasional shows while residing in the United States.
Here, I present you with his 1968 album, "Le Bal des Laze" which includes timeless classics such as "Le Roi des Fourmis" "Y'a Qu'un Ch'veu" or the amazigly beautiful title track of this ecclectic and entertaining album.

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This early work by French performer Polnareff is a varied grouping of ten songs, all of which he wrote or co-wrote, usually singing in French (though occasionally in English). Various hues of circa-1966 pop/rock, folk-rock, and French sentimental pop are explored and combined by the singer/songwriter, whose vocal range is wide but not to everyone's liking. Sometimes he sings gentle, pleasantly melodic folk-rock ("Sous Quelle Etoile Suis Je Né?"); at others, period British-influenced mod pop ("Time Will Tell"); at others, in a more Continental crooning style ("Ballade Pour Toi"). At times he leaps into an almost yodeling falsetto. Procol Harum fans might want to seek this out for two obscure songs on here that Polnareff penned with Procol Harum lyricist Keith Reid, "Time Will Tell" and "You'll Be on My Mind". A nice debut but Polnareff can and will do better.

1. Sous Quelle Etoile Suis-Je Né ? 3:51
2. Time Will Tell 2:21
3. Ballade Pour Toi 2:40
4. L'oiseau De Nuit 2:49
5. Love Me, Please Love Me 4:29
6. Histoire De Coeur 2:49
7. Ballade Pour Un Puceau 2:16
8. You'll Be On My Mind 2:30
9. L'amour Avec Toi 3:07
10. La Poupee Qui Fait Non 3:13

password: NS112

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Second long play from Miche Polnareff, Le Bal des Laze is the first album where the french pop star starts to refine his sound and try different things such as the almost progressive title track, the fun/folk hit Y'a Qu'un Ch'veu. The overall tone remains aimed towards 60's english pop which suits Polna's voice perfectly.

1. Jour Apres Jour 2:43
2. Le Roi Des Fourmis 2:49
3. Rosee D'amour N'a Pas Vu Le Jour, Rosee D'amour N'a Pas Eu D'amour 3:08
4. Ta-Ta-Ta-Ta 2:25
5. Mes Regrets 3:30
6. Les Grands Sentiments Humains 2:05
7. Pipelette 2:49
8. Ame Caline 3:00
9. Y'a Qu'un Ch'veu 2:54
10. Le Bal Des Laze 4:56
11. Oh ! Louis 2:30

password: NS39

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The reissue of Michel Polnareff's self-titled psychedelic pop masterpiece from 1971 is both a welcome addition to the CD canon, and probably more than a little off-putting to many members of the Elephant 6 collective, as well as to Stereolab and others who have cribbed its originality and vision, and tried to claim it as their own. Others (DJs like the ever-cranky Gilles Peterson) can be imagined grumbling about how another obscure pillar of their record collections is now available to us plebians who weren't there — of course, none of them were, either. Polnareff's is composed and recorded as all of a piece. The lushly layered textures bring in everyone from Serge Gainsbourg and Burt Bacharach, to funky discotheque, along with intimations of the pop of Sandie Shaw and Françoise Hardy, The Turtles, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, and, of course, Scott Walker. Tracks such as "Petite, Petite," "Nos Mots D'Amour," and "Monsieur L'Abbe" reveal that Polnareff would err on packing his tracks with everything he could fit into his grandly baroque, kitschy schema, rather than have left anything to chance. It's overblown and excessive to be sure — in a manner, it's like an early model for the excesses of Fleetwood Mac's Tusk — but it is also so bloody well-executed and produced, it cannot be anything but brilliant. This is pretentious French psychedelic soul at its most garish and essential.

1. Voyages 2:52
2. Né Dans un Ice-Cream 3:21
3. Petite Petite 3:20
4. Computer's Dream 4:17
5. Le Désert N'Est Plus en Afrique 3:05
6. Nos Mots d'Amour 3:13
7. ...Mais Encore 2:15
8. Qui a Tué Grand-Maman? 2:37
9. Monsieur l'Abbé 3:30
10. Hey You Woman 5:20
11. A Minuit, à midi 3:37

password: NS113

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Album conceived for his 1978 comeback in France, after a few years in exile in California due to problem with the French I.R.S., "Coucou Me Revoilou" isn't the most essential Polnareff album but does contain some breathtaking melodies and timeless classics such as "Lettre à France" or "Le Clochard des Jumbos". Recorded in quite a short period of time, this album displays a simpler, purer Polnareff than his previous productions did. Gone are the somptuous string arrangements here replaced by a few guitars and a piano. Notable guest, Jaco Pastorius, Bass-Master-Man, plays on "Une Simple Mélodie". All in all, if "Coucou Me Revoilou" does not reach the grandeur of the 1971's "Polnareff's", it remains a nice and entertaining listen with real highlights and no real let-downs those who enjoyed the previous albums posted here should really enjoy.

1. Magic Man 2:59
2. Le Cigare A Moteur 3:21
3. Une Simple Mélodie 3:38
4. Une Femme 3:02
5. Le Clochard Des Jumbos 2:39
6. A Paris Sur Mer 3:08
7. Une Histoire Lamentable 3:23
8. J'ai Tellement De Choses A Dire 4:33
9. Coucou Me Revoilou 4:30
10. Lettre A France 4:50

password: NS114

BULLES (1981)
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Released in September of 1981, "Bulles" can be defined as Polnareff's renaissance as we find here the usual emphasis he used to put on arrangements and great melodies. Where "Coucou Me Revoilou" didn't succeed, "Bulles" does. The audiences celebrate the return of the real Polnareff. It will eventually sell around a million copies in France and French speaking territories. Best tracks here are "Elle Rit", "Je TAime" ot the autobiographic "Tam Tam (l'homme préhisto)". And though Michel remains a studio artist, he offers a special live concert for French television recorded on December 31st of 1981. Do try this, slightly more modern, traditionnal Polnareff album!

1. Tam Tam (l'homme Préhisto) 5:49
2. Elle Rit 4:14
3. Radio 3:21
4. Je T'aime 4:45
5. Où Est La Tosca? 3:40
6. Joue Moi De Toi 4:22
7. 365 Jours Par An 4:13
8. Bulle De Savon 6:01

password: NS115

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In 1995 Polnareff returned to the United States, moving into a luxury suite at the prestigious Peninsula Hotel in Los Angeles. Surrounded by banks and banks of computer screens and a vast array of mobile phones, Polnareff began organising his comeback concert, an event eagerly awaited by thousands of fans as well as by the French and American media. Polnareff made his legendary comeback on Sunset Boulevard, performing his first concert in several years on 27 September 1995 at the famous Roxy. Accompanied by a host of talented American musicians (Alex Acuna of Weather Report fame on percussion, Sam Sims on bass and Dick Smith on guitar) Polnareff proved that he had lost nothing of his magic stage touch. He performed reworked version of all his greatest hits and, conceding to a special request from his record company Sony, Polnareff even included his new instrumental "Lee Neddy".

01 La Mouche 4:02
02 L' Amour Avec Toi 3:16
03 Je T'Aime 4:33
04 Holidays 3:35
05 Lettre a France 5:08
06 Qui a Tue Grand-Maman 2:50
07 Je Suis un Homme 5:03
08 La Poupee Qui Fait Non 4:09
09 Goodbye Marylou 5:21
10 Dans la Rue 3:19
11 On Ira Tous au Paradis 4:52
12 Le Bal des Laze 5:44
13 Tam Tam (L'Homme Préhisto) 5:43
14 Love Me, Please Love Me 4:00
15 Ame Caline 2:47
16 Lee Neddy (Instrumental) 2:22
17 Ca N'Arrive Qu'aux Autres 2:27
18 Tout Tout Pour Ma Cherie 4:10

password: NS96


Holly said...

I don't know what the heck he's singing about most of the time (I've tried the translation sites) but Michel Polnareff is brilliant. "Balade Pour Toi," "Ame Caline," "Dans La Rue," "Le Bal Des Laze," his English language album with "No No No No Not Now" and so many others are terrific. This music makes you glad to be alive. But when will his very first album be available on CD? Tres cool.

waxhound said...

Merci à toi, ô, mon bienfaiteur!

Que de bonheur dans ces chansons retrouvées, et découvertes.

Marc (Canada)

PS: Sais-tu que le groupe québécois Aut'chose a fait une version de "Hey You Woman"?

Holly said...

Oh, dear. I needed to on-line translate. I don't know the song, "Hey, You Woman." I will search Google for it.
I wish more people would take the time to listen to music from around the world. I doubt many people know his music where I live (L.A.). Probably only old record executives!
Wow! This message made my day! Someone else who knows his wonderful songs.

And, yes, I should learn some bands/singers from Quebec. Guilty.