It is little surprise that the Jacques Brel estate applauded Marc Almond on making one of the best albums of Brel covers in many years. Indeed, all English speaking Brel fans owe a debt of gratitude to Marc for bringing some of the great man's lesser known material to the fore.
The album starts with two of Brel's early acerbic songs, "The Devil" and "If You Need" which set the uncompromising tone well for the rest of the album. Of the material we already know from Scott Walker, Marc Almond takes on the standard "If You Go Away" letting the song stand on it's own rather than add further vocal hyperbolae. "Next" is perhaps the biggest shock, a cold and brutal version that even Brel himself might never have imagined, and "My Death" closes the album dreamily rather than dramatically.
Other highlights include "The Bulls" and the chilling, steely take on "I'm Coming". There are no dud tracks on this record, but best of all is probably "The Lockman". I had heard Brel do this song as "L'Eclusier", but not speaking French did not know just how powerful it could be. Almond, with bleak minimalist backing, has turned this into what many English speakers will regard as one of Brel's finest songs.
In short, I would thoroughly recommend this record to any Brel fan or indeed anyone who likes their music stark, uncloyed and uncompromising.