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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 12 February 2004
This is undoubtedly the best introduction to Serge Gainsbourg there is out there. The variety of sounds and styles on this album is a testiment to the man's artistic integrity. No other comparable artist can straddle the genres of world music and pop music with such veritable ease.
You've got the nightclub, Vegas sound of 'Intoxicated Man', the subtle sensuality of 'La Javanaise'. The funk groove of 'Chez Les Ye-Ye' (released in 1963 no less!). The Brazilian flavour of 'Couleur Cafe', the pseudo-psychedelic 'Qui Est In, Que Est Out'. The wonderful backing arrangements of 'Ballade De Melody Nelson' and even some folk guitar on 'Je suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M'En Vais'.
You don't have to speak French to enjoy the wonderful songs on this album. Serge's laid-back vocal style (closer to talking than to singing) makes this album the epitome of cool. It says something about the Anglo-American world's lack of appreciation for non-English speaking performers, that an artist as talented as this should go, for the most part, unrecognized in the English-speaking world. Hopefully, discovery of this album will lead others to a greater interest in Serge's work and from there a greater interest in non-English speaking artists in general.
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Initials SG is a rather wonderful collection of Serge Gainsbourg's works- the bulk of it coming from the import collection 'Comic Strip' (from 1996), which focused on material from 1966 to 1969. Here are many of SG's classics: the Bardot duet Bonnie&Clyde, Initials BB, Qui Est "In" Qui Est "Out", the percussive Requiem Pour Un C..., Sous Le Soleil Exactement, L'anamour, 69 Annee Erotique with Jane Birkin- not to forget their controversial UK#1, Je t'aime...moi non plus. The song that stands out here is Ford Mustang- which takes an almost sexual look at mass culture (aspirin, Marilyn, Edgar Allen Poe, Ford Mustang)- reminding me of a chapter in Barthes' Mythologies (Citroen) & JG Ballard's Crash! chapter in The Atrocity Exhibition. Pity personal faves Chatterton and Torrey Canyon were left off, but you can't have everything...
The rest of the compilation comes from various albums still waiting to be reissued properly in the UK- we get 'The Ballad of Melody Nelson' from Histoire De Melody Nelson (just one track from the album many fans consider to be his classic longplayer?). We get the brilliant Intoxicated Man from Du Jazz Dans Le Ravine- which gave the title to the first English translation collection from Bad Seed Mick Harvey (the second was entitled Pink Elephants; both are great & it was the former that lead me to Serge's material- my French is quite poor, you see...). We also get the title track from the Couleur Cafe release- alongside several other tracks that feature Jane Birkin & Catherine Deneuve. Pity Lemon Incest wasn't included- as it kind of fits with my sense of humour (ditto Barrel of My 45).
Initials SG is a great introduction to a great talent, who is sadly remembered for what he said to Whitney Houston on TV than his great records. & I kind of loathe the fact he's dumped in with the lounge/nostalgia category- I don't think this is kitsch, I'd happily play it next to Scott Walker, Jacques Brel, Tom Waits, Kevin Rowland...I'd just like to see all SG's albums given a nice UK cd issue, so I can hear the big picture of a brilliant career. Still, with this release I'm going to have to give in & read 'A Fistful of Gitanes'...
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on 22 April 2008
Serge Gainsbourg is criminally underrated outside France. Listening to this comprehensive best of compilation it is evident that there was more to him than the sleazy Gallic rogue that is stereotypically presented in the media. By contrast, `Initials S.G.' reveals Gainsbourg to be a restless sonic innovator. While his lackadaisical, half-spoken vocal style may be limited, Gainsbourg's compositions are original and prescient. Many of his songs are based around carefully constructed loops of sound that suggest his popularity amongst pioneers of hip hop and breakbeat. I used to think MC Solar's `Nouvelle Westerne' was more layered in its use of samples but is in fact lifted almost in entirety from `Bonnie And Clyde' - already a hypnotically repetitive loop of sound that predates conventional cut and paste techniques. This song and the likes of `Ford Mustang' and `Qui Est In Qui Est Out' are - like the films of the Nouvelle Vague - are early post-modernist high-jinx from a time when Tarantino and the likes were still in short pants. With their shouted pop cultural references and sassy disregard for convention, Gainsbourg was making a mish-mash of contemporary US culture before the Americans had thought of doing it themselves.

With a cast of muses from Bridget Bardot to Jane Birkin, Gainsbourg was a master of self-mythologising publicity, simulataneously iconic and ironic. But he should be given credit where it is due, for mixing so many styles (lounge, funk, jazz, Tropicalia, folk, and French disco all get a look in) into his weirdly uncoventional pop songs. There is even something of Bowie's `Sound and Vision' about `Sous Le Soleil Exactement'. Fans of old-school hip hop, Bowie, DJ Shadow, Nick Cave, Portishead, Tricky and David Byrne & Brian Eno should find plenty to like here, as well as fans of classic French and English pop from Joe Dassin to The Beatles.
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There was so much more to Serge Gainsbourg than the heavy-breathing lech that 'J't'aime' might suggest. He was one of the most unpredictable, most controversial and constantly creative individuals in music, ever. From the early days of 'Le Poinconneuer Des Lilas' through to his barmy latterday stuff, Gainsbourg took delight in thumbing his nose at authority and music critics alike. This compilation acts as a useful intro to the man's work - tracks like 'Intoxicated Man' also feature some fantastic organ playing, worthy of a Brian Auger, whilst 'Requiem Pour Un c...' display an engaging funk feel. 'La Javanaise' is a beautiful Chansonnier ballad, whilst 'Initials BB' - all about a chance encounter in an English pub, no less, boasts a brilliant string arrangement by Arthur Greenslade, responsible for the arrangements on such UK classics as Chris Farlowe's 'Out of Time'. This is an essential purchase, frankly, but if I were you, I'd track down all of Serge's stuff - their is no British act that is quite the equivalent of this chain-smoking genius.
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on 19 May 2016
A compilation of Serge's most popular/best known tracks including Je t'aime with Jane Birkin (probably now better known for her handbag than her relationship with Serge Gainsbourg). Ideal for easy listening or if you want to maintain/improve your French. Good value for money, you will recognise some of the tracks/songs which includes some of his ironic/political songs as well as classics. I recommend this collection/album for both French and non-French speakers.
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on 1 July 2010
Of the British people who are even aware of Serge Gainsbourg's existence, the majority of them would simply see him as a dirty old Frenchman who got his young girlfriend to groan over one of his records.

While that's not exactly untrue, to write Gainsbourg off as the man behind "Je T'Aime Moi Non Plus", his only hit outside of his native France, is similar to basing the entire career of John Lennon around "Imagine". "Je T'Aime..." is just one of many shimmering jewels in a magnificent, Gallic crown.

Again like John Lennon, it would be impossible to put all of Gainsbourg's hits on just one album, a glorious career spanning 33 years in the spotlight, but Initials SG is certainly a good place to start, with a chronological look at how Gainsbourg evolved from a chanteur with a uniquely cynical style to the master of ye-ye penning hit after hit for the likes of France Gall and Juliette Greco before meeting his first muse Brigitte Bardot and beginning a golden era that would continue with his lover of ten years, English actress Jane Birkin.

His early career has a generous helping of the compilation, with the jaunty "Intoxicated Man" and "Couleur Cafe", a percussion-led trumph particular highlights. But it's the Serge of the late-1960s and 1970s that truly shines. The pounding "Bonnie & Clyde" and James Bond-inspired "Initials BB", both featuring Bardot, are stunning examples of sixties pop-rock at it's very best, and the simply outstanding and vastly under-appreciated "Requiem Pour Un..." gets a well-deserved place.

Only one track from Gainsbourg's magnum opus Histoire De Melody Nelson is included ("Ballade De Melody Nelson"), but it is a good choice and anybody who enjoys what they hear on this compilation would do well to seek out Melody Nelson. Near the end of the compilation, "Aux Armes Et Caetera", Gainsbourg's controversial reggae cover of "Le Marseillaise", the French national anthem, proves that even at the age of 51, Gainsbourg was still cutting-edge.

Serge certainly wasn't perfect, especially in his twilight years, but no deadwood has wormed it's way into this compilation and thus this serves as a fantastic introduction to one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. Hopefully one day the United Kingdom will realise the genius of Serge Gainsbourg, a man who was quite preposterously snubbed despite being hailed as a legend just 34 kilometres across the Strait of Dover.
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on 23 June 2016
A very good collection of songs from Serge Gainsbourg's career, including some of his greatest classics. The songs are presented in chronological order, which gives a natural flow to the album in spite of the changes in style and sound that Gainsbourg went through during his different phases. Listening to this collection will surely make you curious and inspired to hear more from this exciting and ingenious French singer.
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on 4 June 2006
Serge sings these words and we hear a woman crying in the background.A song that it is so easy for so many people to identify with.On other tracks there are people such as Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve who can hardly sing but who have been given lines to sing that enhance instead of detracting from the music.Initials SG is an intelligent and great sounding

album with all manner and mood of song included.Serge used to come to London and hardly anyone would recognise him - something which Jane Birkin said "drove him to distraction."There aren't many things that can distract me from listening to this cd - it's simply wonderful.
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Worried about dipping your toe into the world according to Serge? Look no further because this provides the hors d'ouevres to the rasping cream coffee sounds of gitanes set to music.

Brigitte may be known now for her love of animals and distaste of north africans but at one time she was the sea goddess incarnate. Symbolising a french cultural revival of freedom and beauty she delved into arthouse cinema and sang the songs of sin with Serge. The modern equivalent of Kate Moss was a free sprite, not just a clothes mannequin. Bardot and Monroe were two icons of the west and she decided to sing the original Je'T'aime later pulled and reissued with Jane Birkin. A song universally lauded and banned it epitomised the weathervane change in the 60's more than any opus by the Beatles of the Dead. Included here is Serge's duet with Brigitte about Bonne and Clyde, another genre busting movie with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. This was a landmark in American cinema with a tearing up of the Hays code and the development of a more realistic presentation of reality, including eroticism.

The texture of the sounds resonate whether there is a possession of french linguistic skill or not. Francophobes will be thawed by the collection of bacchus playing his pipes of pan, his cloven hooves dancing a rhythm whilst the world became invited to watch the party. Serge never the classical handsome man looks of say Warren Beaty weaved his charm with the worlds beauties through oozing a sexual charisma. If it was bottled and franchised to men then it would be the biggest money spinner on the planet. Instead the memories of the man are etched into this disc where they can be imbibed slowly.
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on 12 June 2011
Serge Gainsbourg was an unusual multi-talented man with an eclectic mix of musical talents.
This CD was my introduction to his unusual handling of vocals, his rich deep and cultured voice is one I shall never tire of and the concise presentation of the French language is to die for! Cannot wait to hear more of this man's music.

Yvonne M.
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