In terms of immediate song recognition, Jacques Brel's sixth studio album is probably his most widely acclaimed. Opening with the somber "Jef," a song which David Bowie had certainly appreciated when he composed "Rock'n'Roll Suicide," the album is further dignified for rock audiences by the presence of "Au Suivant" ("Next," of Sensational Alex Harvey Band fame) and two of Scott Walker's most successful vehicles, "Mathilde" and "Tango Funebre." Add the childish confection of "Les Bon Bons" and the joyous frolic of "Titine," and Jacques Brel 6 also emerges as Brel's most representative album yet. Of course it is "Au Suivant" which dominates. The strongest of Brel's wartime epics, the no-holds-barred tale of a young soldier undergoing basic training, it has a physical realism which is almost tangible, and a desperation which is painful to contemplate. The pensive tango accompaniment, meantime, is almost skeletal in its sparseness, and all the more stirring for that. The mocking "Tango Funebre" is almost its equal, however, while a similarly foreboding mood haunts "Le Dernier Repas." Indeed, placed alongside any of the so-called literate Anglo-American albums of the era (a pitiful handful though there is), one cannot help but grimace at what must be the greatest cosmic joke in rock history. Had Brel written and performed in English, and enjoyed the same success in the U.S. as he did in France, the course of the then-burgeoning folk-rock/protest movement would have been very different indeed, and even Dylan would have been hard-pressed to keep up. Instead, Brel performed in French. And everyone knows what that means to a serious pop audience. ~ Dave Thompson, Rovi

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