Robert Charlebois avec Louise Forestier
Robert Charlebois avec Louise Forestier s/t LP (Gamma, 1969)
I discovered Robert Charlebois through the back door. In the early 90s, I was in a record store in small town in Canada and the clerk asked me if I was looking for something in particular. I told him French 60s stuff - Francoise Hardy & Jacques Dutronc, pretty much the only two names from that time in place (aside from Claudine Longet) that I knew. He showed me a Dutronc LP ($5 Canadian), a couple Hardy LPs ($8 Canadian), and then said, "You might like this", handing me a double album best of by Louise Forestier. I bought a stack, put them in the box in the truck, and drove for two more weeks before I got to listen to the stack. The Forestier was good, just solid Ye Ye, until I got to the track she did with Robert Charlebois, the amazing La Marche du President. I flipped. I played it for whomever I could. Put it on mix tapes. And the next time I was in Canada, I got more copies...and stuff by Charlebois.
Robert Charlebois is not French, neither is Forestier. They are both from Quebec. Charlebois has been active in the Montreal music and theater scene since the late 50s, releasing records, acting in plays, and being a thorn in the side of the powers that be. In 1969, the year this record was released, he founded the Rhinoceros Party and ran for president of Canada. His party's manifesto promised that, if elected, Charlebois would do nothing. It is with that kind of absurdism that Charlebois music makes the most sense. At times when it seems a bit hokey, there is a good chance that Robert is being a smart ass. His mish mashes, like La Marche..., are more like surrealist pop collages than run of the mill psychedelia. As with Charlebois, Forestier divided her time between music and theater, though she tended toward more conventional song and act than her brief singing partner.
And... Canada has a Prime Minister not a President.
Charlebois was a theatrical student around 1964, not since the late 1950's.
The big news on that album was the song Lindberg. Pretty good stuff from 1968 to 1973. After that... Sometimes good, sometimes just another singer. He's a great guy, by the way !