Friday, 8 June 2012

Francoise and the Man from Mars

Ask me what my favourite era of Françoise Hardy records is and I wouldn't hesitate for a second to say the mid- to late-60s. A time when the production values on her records went HUGE, the arrangements (by Charles Blackwell, Mickey Baker, Jacques Denjean, Johnny Harris, et al) were GRAND and the songs were unashamedly POP (see her London-based 60s TV special The Piccadilly Show for some Hardy evidence).

So when someone comes along and tells me that an album from 1971 is one of her best, I refuse to believe them.  This was the case with La Question, recommended to me by a few bods (in person, and in print).  I had to see what the fuss was all about so I downloaded it, stuck it on and did some work whilst it passed by like so much background noise.  I dragged it onto my i-affixed personal stereo and forgot about it until one day I needed something gentle to block out the sounds of the commuter train on the way home from work.

Then the magic happened...

La Question is much sparser than the baroque pop of her output throughout the 60s, but the high production values are still there albeit in a far more tempered and subtle form.  Orchestrated throughout with pared-down strings and intricately plucked Spanish guitar, Françoise's voice is pushed to the forefront, sounding intimate and confessional - it's almost as if she's leaning in close to your ear to confide in you, the listener.

Studio trickery is simple but effective, panning voice and instruments across the whole Stereo spectrum, with a light and airy reverb added to everything. The only bells and whistles are a bit of piano and organ, sleepy upright bass, plaintive whistling, and the desolate winds of the Martian tundra as manifested by the human voice in this song...

Françoise Hardy - Le martien/Chanson d'O

Please do yrself a favour and stick yr headphones round yr ears before listening. Do this and I promise you're in for a spine-tingling and majestic listening experience.

Françoise Hardy - Le Martien
[buy La Question from or allmusic]

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