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53 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two-disk definitive introduction to all things Jacques Brel, 27 Feb 2008
Jacques Brel remains an integral and hugely influential singer/songwriter in the scheme of twentieth-century music; with his gloomy and orchestral tales of whores, sailors, tramps and harlots influencing everyone from Scott Walker, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Shane MacGowan and Nick Cave, to bands like Jack, the Divine Comedy and Pulp. Like those acts, Brel's music is literate and theatrical, unfolding in a bleak world populated by lost love, loneliness, angst, melancholy and despair, but with the darkness softened by witty arrangements, satirical motifs and moments of dark comedy. The atmosphere of the songs is rich and evocative throughout... so, like the work of his contemporary Serge Gainsbourg; the songs practically reek of cheap booze and cigarette smoke, with the music occupying a special place upon the stage within the low-rent night club scenario that play out inside our minds.

The forty tracks collected here represent Brel at his best, offering a great introduction for those previously unfamiliar with his work. Although it is true that there probably could have been a third disk included, with some of Brel's equally great (but lesser known) songs missing from this collection, the real point of this set is to introduce Brel's music to a new audience, or to act as a definitive collection of hits for those of us who can't afford the epic Jacques Brel box-set released a few years before this. If you're at all interested in European music, theatrical-decadence, grand orchestration and a genuine outpouring of pure emotion through song, or perhaps if you're already familiar with Brel through the references to him from subsequent artists like Scott Walker, Neil Hannon, Nick Cave and Jarvis Cocker, then this really is a must-have purchase.
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128 of 129 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars After 25 years - 'new' material from Brel!, 20 Nov 2003
By 
Merilahti Kristiina (Finland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Ok, this is another collection of Brel's music, on double-CD there are 40 tracks and most of them are very clear choices: 'Ne me quitte pas', 'Jacky', 'Les bonbons' 'Chanson des vieux amants', 'Amsterdam', 'Les bourgeois' and so on. But everything has been remastered for a clearer sound and obviously there is an attempt to cover the whole career, with early songs like 'Le diable' to the last album - and with five songs that were intended "for the next album" as Brel decided - and died before being able to make it. Of these 'L'amour est mort' is the most impressive one, with extremely cold piano sounds and Brel's passionate, coarse voice. The leaflet contains the words for these five songs, others have been published earlier in other collections. Or if you want all the lyrics, try to find 'Tout Brel', everything he wrote in one book.
How necessary is this after all the collections? Very. Not only because of the newly found records but because even the oldest songs sound better than on older CD's. However, I still wonder why 50's songs are so poorly presented in this and other collections, after all 'Seul', 'La mort', 'La tendresse' and 'La colombe' from the end of the 50's are all powerful songs and bring out Brel's themes clearly, and from the earlier years there are lots of interesting songs, like beautiful 'Sur la place'. All of these are missing from this collection, which follows the very mainstream 'best of Brel'-tradition. Still, Brel family has done a good job, when finally releasing the previously unedited songs, so I simply can't give less than five stars and would like to give more.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Troubadour Of The Soul, 8 Mar 2009
By 
The Wolf (uk) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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Mr Brel was no ordinary singer / songwriter. We know this to be true.

A maverick. A vocal dramatist. A musical painter of some of the most
luminescent and some of the darkest songs ever imagined.

A troubadour of the soul.

The compositions are both deeply affecting at an an emotional level,
without ever sinking into bathos, yet also wholly satisfying intellectually.

This collection is a welcome addition to the history of his existing recordings.

The heart and soul of the album can be found between tracks 2 - 10
recorded in 1977, just one year away from his death from lung cancer.

The intense chiaroscuro of these nine songs, despite Brel operating with
only one lung, is an extraordinary testimony to his bravery and artistry.

The vivid sonic reconstructions place the voice forward and stage centre.
Almost too much so. His presence is unnervingly close.
A man and his music facing down death with his spirit ablaze.

The dour accordian introduction to 'La Cathedrale' presages a performance of such
tremendous dramatic power that the hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention.

'L'Amour Est Mort', with it's mercurially elusive melody, is equally chilling.
A deeply impassioned cris de coeur which never loses focus for a moment.

'Mai 40' sounds like a man dancing by his own open grave in an act of defiant jollity.

'Avec Elegance', with it's simple echoing piano accompaniment, is an elegant gem.

With 'Sans Exigences' we are drawn into a cold, dark and terrible place.
The subtle and haunting organ and harpsichord arrangement bring an almost
hymn-like quality to the performance but there is no god here to console us.

'Les Marquises' is one of Brel's true masterpieces.
Francois Rauber's orchestral arrangement and direction is here, as elsewhere,
full of limpid, exotic colour and texture. Truly beautiful.

'Orly', with it's slow crescendo, thrilling brass punctuation
and half-spoken vocal is an evocative story, well-told.

'La Ville S'Endormait' brings a nocturnal landscape alive against
a gently strolling orchestral ostinato. Stunning.

'JoJo', a song of true friendship, brings this group of
existential gems to a quiet close.

The 1972 recording of 'Ne Me Quitte Pas', also on Disc 1,
raises uncertainty and loss to a transcendent level.

The 20 tracks which comprise Disc 2 is a box of treasures.

Ranging between 1955 and 1973 these recordings display the full
power and range of this great performer's almost otherworldly talent.

The thrilling 1968 live recording of 'Amsterdam', on it's own,
would be worth the outlay.

For aficionado or novice alike this release is a loving testament
to the complex world of both the man and his incomparable voice.

Essential.
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely the greatest!, 15 Nov 2005
Jacques Brel was most definitely the greatest Chanson singer of all times, and I find it regrettable that his work is so little known in the English-speaking world.
Of course, many people have heard "Ne me quitte pas" ("If you go away") or "Le Moribond" ("Seasons in the Sun") sung or played by other musicians, but listening to Jacques Brel can also be a wonderful experience, even for those who do not understand the French language: you can feel the passion in almost every word, and songs like "Amsterdam" or "Quand on n´a que l´Amour" are bound to move you.... Try it!
Jean-Luc Dancy
French singer / songwriter
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66 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure genius., 26 Nov 2003
By 
Sigmund Melberg (Stavanger, Norway) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
What more is there to say? The Franco-Belgian poet, songwriter and singer Jacques Brel was pure genius. If you didn't know already, this double CD will convince you. It is beautifully remastered - and many of his finest songs are there. There is really only one reason NOT to buy it - that is if you choose to buy his COMPLETE songs instead.
I cannot possibly think of a future where the people of Europe are not moved by the songs of Jacques Brel.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jacques Brel est BELGE!!!!, 17 Nov 2010
JACQUES BREL WAS BELGIAN, NOT FRENCH!!! He just sang (mostly) in French. Get it right, Amazon...Those Belgians have got enough to worry about without you getting their cultural icons wrong!

Get this CD, it's great. Faves are Bruxelles (hint?), La Biere and Amsterdam. There's even one song where he has a go at singing in Flemish!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent collection, 28 Mar 2010
By 
Ilidio Santos (Lisbon, Portugal) - See all my reviews
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Nice collection for those wanting a "sampler" of Mr. Brel's masterpieces, having, or not, some of the original recordings. Remastering sounds excellent and gives us an increased pleasure when listening to his music. In some cases it seems Mr. Brel is singing in our living room. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes...but he was BELGIAN..... !!, 12 Oct 2011
By 
A fine Anthology of this -apparently under recognised BELGIAN singer/songwriter and performer -whose songs often interpretded by British+US performers gave rise to a number of classics from John Denver/Peter Paul and Mary- Nina Simone abd even Frank Sinatra and Scott Walker (as well as being covered by Marlene Deitrich and -I beleive- Edith Piaf to the eponymous Alex Harvey version of 'NEXT' (au Suivant). He deserves better recognition by the English speaking World.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jacques Brel 40 Chansons, 28 Oct 2011
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This was bought as a birthday present for someone who loves Jacques Brel by someone who loves him too!! I chose this album for the famed "Ne me quitte pas". You need to watch a rendition of said song on the internet first (it brought me to tears!) to enjoy it on CD and the rest of the album did not disappoint. 100% satisfied with this product and the speedy arrival.Thanks AMAZON!
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5.0 out of 5 stars REMASTERED TO VERY HIGH STANDARD, 3 April 2014
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JACQUES BREL WAS THE MASTER OF CHASON THIS TWO CD SET HAS BEEN MAGICALY REMASTERED AND SOUNDS LIKE IT WAS RECORDED YESTERDAY.OF COURSE IT HELPS TO KNOW FRENCH AS ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS ALWAYS LOOSE MUCH OF WHAT IS BEING SUNG.HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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