Aufray Chante Dylan
Hugues Aufray Aufray Chante Dylan 7" (Barclay, 1965)
In the early 90s, I was in a record store in British Columbia digging through boxes. I had just discovered Jacques Dutronc for myself and was hoping to find more French 60s pop. The Swingin' Mademoiselle comps had yet to come out, and there weren't any collections of French pop or garage stuff that I had found, so I didn't have a cheat sheet or a guide to go by. I did have the names Dutronc, Hardy, Bardot, and Gainsbourg to look for and Brel to avoid, but, other than that, I was flying blind. A record store clerk asked me what I was looking for and I told him Dutronc. He raised his eyebrows, surprised that some American was asking about the great French singer, and said that he was sorry, he didn't have any, "However you might enjoy Hugues Aufray." We walked over to the French section and he handed me the Aufray Chante Dylan LP, poked at the cover and said, "Very important disque." The record was only $6 Canadian, which is about $4 US, so I bought it. At the very worst, it was a guy with a French accent singing Dylan and that was worth the kitsch value.
A few weeks later, after arriving home, I dropped needle on Aufray's take on Dylan. Wow! Unlike others who cover Dylan, Aufray doesn't slick it up or mellow it out. Instead he puts a nice hard Rolling Stones like rhythm section behind it and let's his guitarist rip. For many a Frenchie, Aufray was their introduction to Dylan and lucky they were that Hugues got to Bob before someone like Jacques Brel or Mireille Mathieu did.
Being the French Ambassadeur de Bob Dylan has not lead to a cult of Aufray or the same kid of hipness that surrounds Dutronc or Antoine. Many of my French friends regard Aufray as Old Man Music. This is probably due to Hugues doing a fair number of music hall songs. For every great odd pop song like Le Serpent, Aufray made a couple dozen designed to make you cry in your wine. In 1968, he also took a musical stand for the establishment and against the students who were ripping up cobblestones and chucking them at the cops. For positioning himself against youthful rebellion, his name was written in the books of Stodgy Old Farts.
The two below are on the Aufray Chante Dylan LP, though I have taken them from one of two 7" eps of the same name. I recommend seeking any and all of these versions out. As far as the rest of Aufray, proceed with caution. I've got some great stuff, some okay records, and some shit stinkers. You can also check out a prior post on Hugues and the response.
As far as Jacques Brel, I've tried and tried and tried and sorry but I can see the appeal. It is too simpy and over orchestrated for my tastes. I can hack and even enjoy that in female singers but with male vocalists, it doesnt work. I dont know French so I cant judge his lyricism, only what I read in translation and in translation Brel comes off as sentimentalist tripe. I'll trust you and blame the translator, but still....
Please look at the comparisions as someone who is educating himself via record bins and what I find there. Record hunt for French stuff in the US and what you find are a lot of Matthieu, Mouskouri, Edith Piaf, and in more adventurous towns Brel. I've tried all those and Piaf I could listen to, but the rest? It is the same to me.
Imagine you being in France and the only R&B you find in used record stores are Lionel Ritchie, Janet Jackson, and Debarge. And then you came to the US and found so much stuff you dont know where to start. Well, that is me with French music. Lucky for you that you have an excellent sellection of records of all types in Paris.
tu as du bon français sur :
à un d'ces jours à Paris