I came to this album already knowing some of Jacques Brel's songs through English translations, and I suppose I was already a sort of proxy fan. Judy Collins, Scott Walker and others popularized Brel songs in the 60's and 70's, but it was still a revelation to me when I was given a vinyl version of this album and heard them sung for the first time by the man himself. All other renditions suddenly paled in comparison with the original. Compare, for example, Terry Jacks' 'Seasons in the Sun' with 'Le Moribund', or any of the many renditions of 'If You Go Away' with 'Ne Me Quitte Pas'. No contest! There are no dud songs on this album. Some of the tunes you will recognise, and those you don't will grow on you. Brel's voice has a biting edge which is particularly suited to the sharpness of the lyrics. But don't worry if you don't know any French; the emotion comes across whehter you can understand the words or not. Brel is noted for concentrating on the seedy side of life (and death) in his songs, but my favourite track on this album is the uplifting, feel-good 'Quand on n'a que l'Amour.' I've heard other versions, but the one on this album is the best.
Any beefs? In parts I think the orchestrations are too overpowering, and Brel is having to struggle against them. This is particularly true of 'Marieke', one of the great songs of lost love, longing and homesickness, spoiled somewhat by its brassy accompaniment. But this is a realtively minor criticism of a great album. If you just want to dip your toes into this wonderful stuff and get one album, without splashing out on one of the many boxed compilations that are available, then give this one a try. You certainly won't be disappointed.