Gabriel Yacoub - Je vois venir...
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Gabriel Yacoub
Je vois venir...
Le roseau (

cd cover A quarter decade into his career, Gabriel Yacoub releases this double CD, a complete live recording without any overdubs or audio enhancements. After his years with the Alan Stivell ensembles, his illustrious career with Malicorne and his own solo outings, he has created a recording that sounds quintessentially French.

Yacoub hints at the musical center of this record in the liner notes. He writes about creating a music that is halfway between Renaissance music and the blues. How very true and beautiful that point turns out to be. The record has a very distinct vibe it's not exactly an easy listen but neither is it gloomy. It's not experimental but neither is it middle-of-the-road. It's not a French record but neither is it an ethnic one. It's not a strictly traditional one, but neither is it an electric one.

As has been the case for Yacoub for his whole career, this is a recording balanced between the technological and the traditional edges of the musical universe, a feeling best exemplified by the artwork on the record. This artwork consists of hundreds of email addresses our world, now made up of human beings defined by an email address, an expression of what we perceive to be our own identity, something almost pagan in our modern, highly evolved lives. Similarly, this record carries memories, emotions, sounds and stories of many cultures. It's elusive, multi-leveled, powerful, evocative, and timeless while the registration is simply wonderful, as it really transports the listener to the middle of the hall.

"Pour une joie au loin"
The liner notes feel like Gabriel Yacoub is sitting next to you, sharing stories of his career and that night with you, but to really make sense of the record, visit his website and download his majestic lyrics - poetic and powerful, in the great Gaul tradition. The opening "mes belles anciennes compagnes" with its thankful wishes for former lovers, is followed by "gris" where he uses a mandolocello to great effect under the vocals. "Pour une joie au loin" is described as "a piece of positive philosophy," while "si c'était" is presented here in a more stripped-down version than the one earlier recording, but it carries the lyrics with exceptional power and beauty.

"Je vois venir"
"Trahison" is about his Lebanese origins, "my ultimate attempt to sing the blues." This is followed by one of my favorite songs of this recording, "les rues des vieilles capitales," inspired by Brussels, New York, London and Paris in particular. "Je resterai ici" is a song talking of exile, first covered by Malicorne, but here presented in an almost a capella version. "Je vois venir" is the signature tune of the album. As Yacoub says, "I chose this title for the album because of the concepts of patience and vigilance that it evokes," and it defines everything this record is about with its uillean pipe solo by Ronan Le Bars. It's a magnificent, classy song with vocals and lyrics of utmost beauty. "Die nachtegaal die sanck een lied" is a Flemish traditional tune, presented as a vocal trio between Ludo Vandeau, Gabriel Yacoub and Sylvie Berger. Finally on disc one, "L'amour marin" is a Georges Brassens original that is given a heart-wrenching reading with half-lit but full-bodied lyrics. The arrangement was "conceived like a film scenario, through the intervention of Ludo Vandeau who locates the action in a harbor city of the North, I would say Antwerp, and the trio (hurdy-gurdy, violin, bassoon) is like an evocation of a work by Norman Rockwell, showing a small amateur orchestra, playing for pleasure in the back room of a barber shop, itself forming part of the group."

The second disc begins with the related "chanson de fol" and "ouvarosa" with its warm and autumnal vocal by Sylvie Berger in a song about her grandmother. It's one of the best songs on the record. "Dame petite dame" features the classic trio of these recordings with Yannick Hardouin on bass or piano, Vincent Leutreau on violin and Yacoub on vocals. It sounds like a classic singer-songwriter ballad, straight from the Sixties. "Désir," describes four seasons as a symbol of a life. It describes the domino effect of desire as more desirable people populate a certain place. "Rêves à demi" talks of a Utopian world where we would be able to share our dreams like we share other beautiful things - it sounds slightly Irish to my ears. "Beauté+twelfth song of the thunder" is inspired by Navajo ceremonies, while "pluie d'elle" is another love song. "La complainte du coureur de bois" is a traditional French tune to a Québecois text, about the French-Canadian pioneers who were the first to contact the Native population.

"Carmin + le ballet des coqs" is an instrumental halfway between the Baroque and the blues, while "les choses les plus simples" is his biggest international hit, covered by artists such as Joan Baez and June Tabor; he talks of his desire to emulate its simplicity and clarity ever since. "Il me reste un voyage à faire" is a constant in his live shows, while "ami âme amen" is dedicated to Jean-Pierre Arnoux who passed away a few months before these performances.

Finally, particular notice should be given to the short video included in the second CD, with beautiful images from those two nights on the 17th and 18th of January, 2003 in the Théâtre de Cornouaille, Quimper.

This is an essential record for anyone interested in French music, contemporary or traditional. - Nondas Kitsos

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