Famous Blue Cheese - The Leonard Cohen Show
It seems not often that triple Aria award-winning Monsieur Camembert release a new album. But when they do, you know you'd better listen up for you're in for a special treat. This, their fifth and most recent album, released in 2007, proves the point. Famous Blue Cheese - The Leonard Cohen Show is the most extraordinary, outstanding album that the wonderful fromage from down under has come up with yet.
The irrepressible, ebullient Yaron Hallis, leader and superb lead vocalist of Monsieur Camembert and an acknowledged Leonard Cohen aficionado - as, I have to confess, am I - just had to do a Leonard Cohen tribute. It took the shape of a cabaret show during 2006/07, Famous Blue Cheese (a witty combination of Cohen's song Famous Blue Raincoat and Camembert), sub-titled The Leonard Cohen Show. And rather than produce a studio recording of the songs, Hallis thankfully decided to record the show live. The result is simply glorious. The recording quality is excellent, and the resulting double album has plenty of atmosphere oozing out of every - I was going to say groove but CDs don't have these, so, out of every pit. Only one thing could have further improved this recording - more of the live intros/commentaries, but I'm not really complaining.
The personnel of Monsieur Camembert has kept changing over the years, and thus only Hallis himself (vocals and rhythm guitar) and Edouard Bronson on saxes, bass clarinet and button accordion, and Julian Curwin on banjo and guitar (on selected tracks) remain. However, the ensemble has lost none of its excellence and vitality, with Marcello Maio on piano and piano accordion, Mark Harris on double bass and backing vocals, Jim 'Santiago' Pennell on lead and rhythm guitar, Giosofatto Ciampa on percussion and backing vocals, Anatoli Torjinski on cello, and Daniel Weltlinger on violin.
In addition, Hallis recruited four outstanding female guest vocalists, perfectly suited to the Cohen material, Carla Werner, Elana Stone, Abby Dobson and Ngaiire. This choice could hardly have been better. All four ladies have just the perfect accentuation - with Cohen, every word, every syllable counts. They also superbly complement Hallis' own mellifluous, richly expressive voice.
Famous Blue Cheese - The Leonard Cohen Show presents two glorious hours of some of the best known as well as lesser known Cohen songs as well as poetry. Of course, this double CD couldn't possibly be complete without the song most often requested of Monsieur Camembert at gigs, 1984's Dance Me To The End Of Love in an extended version that also features extensive passages of Bronson's here highly impassioned, almost Gato Barbieri-like tenor as well as his reflective bass clarinet to beautiful effect. Despite its original dark, deeply sad inspiration, this is a deeply moving, tender love song. Cohen at his most tender.
As well as being a superb tribute, Famous Blue Cheese - The Leonard Cohen Show, with its generally very up-beat mood, should help in once and for all dispelling the popular myth that Cohen is 'music to commit suicide by.' Cohen's songs are some of the most beautiful, poetic ones of their 'genre' or even, some of the most beautiful, poetic songs, period. They are deeply felt and often life-affirming. If this were a soundtrack to suicide, it just wouldn't work. It's far too beautiful and far too long!
The interpretations of Cohen's songs throughout Famous Blue Cheese - The Leonard Cohen Show are outstanding, filled with the basic emotional truth, vulnerability as well as sensuality and a certain raw beauty so essential to Cohen. However, Monsieur Camembert has chosen to perform them in the context of a cabaret show, laced with overtones of jazz and even gypsy swing here and there. This is about as far as you can get from imitating Cohen while remaining true to him and doing him right as well as doing right by him. It is also quite a departure from Monsieur Camembert's more usual high-octane style, but they have managed it beautifully.
Favourites? You bet! Every single last track. And each and every one worth the price of admission by itself. Famous Blue Cheese - The Leonard Cohen Show is a hauntingly beautiful double album doing full justice to the both the poetry of Cohen's lyrics and the beauty of the melodies. Totally mesmerising. If there were a better Cohen tribute album, I'd yet have to hear it, and I'm very doubtful that it could be done.
Go and beg, steal, borrow, or preferably buy Monsieur Camembert's Famous Blue Cheese - The Leonard Cohen Show - it's an absolute must have, no matter what angle you're coming from.
© 2011 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.