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Jacques Brel – Olympia ’64 (1964)

March 23, 2016


Le beau logo est par Sarca @ caughtmegaming

Made in France Artist #1: Manu Chao

Made in France Artist #2: Daft Punk

Made in France Artist #3: Jean Michel Jarre

Made in France Artist #4: Jacques Brel


[Album 455/1001]

When seeing an artist perform live, I hope to hear a few things:index

1.The artist performing as if this particular concert is significant.

Is there a more disappointing experience than witnessing an artist phoning/mailing it in? Everyone has off nights but when you feel like a performer’s just going through the motions for the paycheque, it’s an awful feeling.

By the sounds of it, on Olympia ’64, Jacques Brel did not phone in a single note. He goes all-in, on all tracks, I appreciate that.

2.An appreciative crowd.

The audience certainly seemed to appreciate it too. They were so impressed by Brel’s vocal performance on the opening track, Amsterdam, they burst into applause before the orchestra’s closing notes. If there’s a ‘how-to’ guide on kicking off a show, that’s how it’s done.

3.Something you can’t necessarily experience by merely listening to the studio albums at home.

It turns out, my three favourite tracks (Amsterdam, Les Timides, Les Jardins du Casino) were never recorded on a studio album. Maybe they wouldn’t have been as effective in that manner? Even still, he released a baker’s dozen of studio albums, impressive that these fine tracks didn’t re-appear on any of them.


There’s a line in the film Good Will Hunting, where Robin Williams’s character challenges Matt Damon’s character, “I bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel.

While I can never physically be at the Olympia in 1964 (being recorded in Paris prior to my birth presents somewhat of a logistical hurdle), there’s something very vivid about this recording. Perhaps it’s the accordion on the opener, the upper-register piano in Les Timides, or the fine arrangement featuring muted trumpets on Les Jardins du Casino: the audio is somehow very visual.

To say I now feel like I know what the Olympia smelled like would be a stretch, but I certainly feel like the music created the setting nicely and brought me along for the trip.

Though sometimes the trips got interrupted, including on my most recent front-to-back listen while preparing dinner yesterday evening. Partway through the album, my 5-year old daughter looked up from her drawing, smiled, and yelled “FRANÇAIS” promptly taking me out of the Paris concert hall in 1964 and back into our 2016 kitchen.

But considering the reason & manner of the trip interruption, it only enhanced the experience!

From → 1960s

  1. You just schooled me Geoff!
    Well Done….

    • haha, it was you who educated me yesterday Deke with the appropriate term to describe Ratt in ’83!

  2. What Deke said. Heard OF him, never heard him.

  3. Jenn permalink

    I’m so excited that Jacques Brel is on the list, and that you enjoyed!

    Reading this just sent me down a YouTube rabbit hole watching videos of his concerts. I enjoy what a storyteller he is in his performances.

    • I know that rabbit hole all too well, darn their recommended videos following the initial video!
      I haven’t seen any of the videos yet, it sounds (especially in Amsterdam) like he wouldn’t just be standing rigidly while singing.
      I thought the modified Earnest quote applied here when he got really powerful, anyone can sing accurately, but with the emotional storytelling, he did it with wonderful feeling!

  4. Hackskeptic permalink

    Your review was all in too Geoff…gotta admire that. I can almost smell l’onions in garlic butter. Oh hang on, the wife’s cooking dinner, sorry.

  5. I have Jacques Brel hits set in my collection, love it. Love it. Especially the song Quand On N’a Que L’amour… I love the idea of a live disc. Thanks for this Geoff!!!

    • I think I may invest in more Brel – I was reading Leonard Cohen was quite influenced by him. Thank you Aaron!

  6. Nice post, Geoff. Always meant to check Brel out, but always end up forgetting my intentions! This is a swell reminder. Well, at the moment it is!

  7. Tangled Up In Music (by Ovidiu Boar) permalink

    Very true, the best live albums are the ones that make you feel like being part of the audience, at that exact time, at that exact place.

  8. Formidable.

  9. Hi, I’m writing about every song that ever became a #1 hit, backwards chronologically, in the journey that is the Every Number One blog. I would really appreciate if you took a look around.

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