Yves Montand: Les Feuilles mortes - His 26 Finest 1947-1952

Italian-born Ivo Livi, better known as Yves Montand (1921-1991), became one of the great French entertainers of the post-war period. He enjoyed a stellar film career and enormous popularity as a singer after being discovered by Edith Piaf. The immortal Les feuilles mortes (Autumn Leaves) was Yves Montand’s best-known recording, and it heads Retrospective’s evocative sequence of 26 songs that, between them, offer a kaleidoscopic vision of French life. There are so many classics of the genre – C’est si bon, Mais qu’est-ce que j’ai?, Clopin, Clopant, À Paris – to remind us of Montand’s status as a French icon. Sit back with a glass of Beaujolais, maybe light up a Gauloises, and enjoy…
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Yves Montand (1921-1991) was born Ivo Livi in the Tuscany region of Italy near Florence. When he was three years old the family moved to Marseilles, where they became naturalized French citizens. Yves dropped out of school at the age of eleven during the Depression to go to work to help the family. He began singing in amateur shows as a teenager and adopted Yves Montand as a stage name. Yves was a talented performer with an engaging personality and sense of humor, and later became an internationally popular actor and singer. His tenor was light and lyrical, and his care-free singing style endeared him to his fans. This disc contains 26 of his songs recorded between 1947 and 1952, and all are sung in French.

Jacques Prevert was a famous French poet whose works have often been set to music. Joseph Kosma composed the music to Jacques’s elegant piece Les Feuilles mortes, and it became Autumn Leaves when Johnny Mercer added lyrics in English. Yves recorded the French version heard here with Bob Castella’s orchestra in May 1949 for the Odeon label. The song became one of his biggest hits, eventually selling over one million copies. Another of his hit songs was C’est Si Bon, written by Henri Betti and Andre Hornez, and recorded with Bob Castella in 1948. The song is a happy celebration of life, exquisitely sung to a finger-snapping tempo and a delivery that exudes pure excitement that rises higher with each verse. Battling Joe is an interesting tune about a boxer in Paris who career eventually ends with him blind and forgotten. Jean Marion and his Orchestra provide the accompaniment, beginning with boogie-woogie piano and booming trombones, and switching near the end to a slow ballad with strings. The song was written by Loulou Gaste and Jean Guigo. The two songwriters also composed Vel’D’Hiv, a tribute to the Velodrome d’Hiver. The velodrome was an indoor bicycle racing track and stadium located in Paris near the Eiffel Tower, and was used for various sporting events and shows. Yves sings the tune accompanied again by Bob Castella’s orchestra, featuring an unidentified but marvelously adept accordionist. Francis Lemarque was a French singer and prolific songwriter who composed over 1000 songs in his 70 year career. He wrote the song A Paris, a quintessential French chanson which Yves recorded in July of 1948. The tune is sung in 3/4 time at a good clip, with piano, guitar and accordion accompaniment, and extolls the sights and sounds of the city.

This is a choice collection of seldom-heard French popular songs, recorded during the postwar period by one of Frances’s great entertainers. The sound quality is excellent. A 12- page booklet is included with the disc, with notes and background details in English and provided by Ralph Harvey. Bruce McCollum, MusicWeb-International

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