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The Sound of the Soul of France
on July 8, 2004
Edith Piaf (1915-1963) was an unexpected artist, the child of a part-time prostitute and a circus acrobat, raised in a brothel, singing on street corners for pennies in Paris--until 1935, when her success at the famous Paris nightspot Gernys launched her to what would become international stardom. Notorious for her many ill-starred love affairs, attacked as a Nazi sympathizer during the French occupation, belatedly defended as a member of the French Resistance, self-destructing through alcohol and drugs, she proved as unexpected in her personal life as in her talents--but whatever the lady's personal failings, no one can fault her talents. She is, quite simply, the sound of the soul of France.
Unless you speak French you may find the idea of purchasing songs sung in French a little off-putting. I myself speak what you might call "hotel French"--which is to say handful of standard phrases that would get me through in a pinch. When I listen to Piaf I occasionally understand a term here and there, but the specific meaning of the words escape me. But this no hindrance at all. Piaf has a passion that truly transcends the limits of language. No one need tell you that her tone is ironic; no one need tell you that the song is about poverty, lost love, a plea to God; it is there, it is inescapable. Her voice has the delicacy and strength of a steel wire, alternating sharp and flat tones in a uniquely French style, setting forth a meticulously rolled "r" in such a way as to give you chills and flying into a series of electrifying vibratos that are unique in all of music.
Although it would take a box set to do this artist justice, THE VOICE OF THE SPARROW is a very nice introduction to eighteen of Piaf's most famous songs. In a general sense, Piaf typically sang love songs--and had an uncanny ability to shift from bright to dark tones, allowing the listener to feel a dozen different shades of each emotion that colors any single selection. Be it the internationally celebrated "La Vie en Rose," the intense "Mon Dieu," the defiant "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rein" or the super-sophisticated "T'es Beau, Tu Sais," once Piaf adopted a song it became hers alone; every other rendition seems pale in comparison. Sadly, the recordings on this CD have not been remastered--but it doesn't really matter. For one who could escape the limitations of language it is hardly difficult to leap the boundaries of recording technology with the sound of the heart.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer