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La Femme Verte - Small Distortions (CD)

Genre: Various
Release Date: 13th December 2010

Label: Gonzo
Catalogue Number: T4A1005
Price: £9.99
Available: Sorry - Not currently available

La Femme Verte - Small Distortions

La Femme Verte is a project articulated around Jean-Marc Lederman, musician and composer (Alain Bashung, The Weathermen, Jules Et Jim with Julianne Regan...), and 9 singers making these classic songs themselves in a style that isn't classic at all; distorted, dismembered, rebuilt, re-made and re-modelled; these versions show here new facets of songs you thought you knew: mysterious, often dark, always fascinating.

In this, La Femme Verte is the counterbeat to other cover version albums that merely take the songs and place them with a more modern beat or style.

On Small Distortions you'll hear:

JULIANNE REGAN sing Moonlight Mile, Being Boring, Hurt, Falling, Monday Monday.  Singer of All About Eve who had 7 top 40 singles in the UK, Julianne makes the songs hers and impulse new sounds and vision in NIN, David Lynch, Angelo Badalamenti, The Pet Shop Boys, The Rolling Stones, Mamas & Papas.

SOPHIE VELDEMAN sings Where The Wild Roses Grow,  Me And Mrs Jones.  Sophie is a singer, composer and instrumentalist in the girls' band Dark Poem.

SHADOWHUNTRESS sings Enjoy The Silence.

JAY ASTON sings Moonlight Mile with Julianne Regan.  The fabulous broken voice of Jay inhabits this possessed version of Moonlight Mile, arguably one of the best Rolling Stones songs.

BERTRAND BURGALAT sings Monday Monday with Julianne Regan.  The elegant French dandy (known for his collaboration with Robert Wyatt and Laibach) takes over this psychedelic classic song.

SAMDEVOS sings Where The Wild Roses Grow with Sophie.  Quite a delicate task to fill in for Nick Cave, but Samdevos succeeds...

VINCENT LIBEN sings Perfect Day.  The singer from Mudflow interprets Lou Reed in this off beatversion of Perfect Day.

JEREMIE ORSEL sings Wichita Lineman.  A total singing UFO gives new angle to this forgotten classic and its strange lyrics.

IAN HUDGINS sings on the internet version of Hurt.

JEAN-MARC LEDERMAN produces and plays most instruments on Small Distortions.  JML has played with Fad Gadget, Matt Johnson's The The, Gene Loves Jezebel and  The Weathermen, but also with Alain Bashung, the sadly gone French rock star.  He's also busy making himself a household name in videogames music (Fairies, with Julianne Regan, Mystic Inn, Atlantic Sky Patrol, etc...)

All in all - an album that you must hear!

This is a surprising collection of covers given the musicians involved in the project. Led by Jean-Marc Lederman, the album features contributions from Lederman’s Jules et Jim partner Julianne Regan along with Jay Aston from Gene Loves Jezebel, Shadowhuntress and Sophie Veldeman, to name but a few of those who have produced what is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and captivating covers albums we have ever heard.

We could have expected an album of obscure covers given the musicians involved but Lederman has opted to choose songs that will be familiar to most of us and plucked them from almost every genre. ‘Sticky Fingers’ era Stones with ‘Moonlight Mile’, Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ and the Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode all get the Lederman treatment. There is a version of Mancini’s ‘Moon River’ and songs by the Mamas and Papas, Billy Paul, Jimmy Webb and David Lynch all get a fresh overhaul. It’s a nice, varied selection of songs.

That’s half the battle won then. Songs of such a high calibre can, of course, be massacred in the wrong hands and seeing Sophie Valdeman’s name as the vocalist on ‘Me and Mrs Jones’ was a little worrying but it’s one of the standout tracks on ‘Small Distortions’. Sophie’s vocals combine, again worryingly but it works so well on this song, equal measures of innocence and seductiveness and the instrumental backing throws up new sounds on every play while retaining some of the original’s jazz groove.

It’s debatable if listeners of a certain age really want to hear new versions of such classics as ‘Wichita Lineman’, ‘Monday, Monday’ or even ‘Moon River’. Surely the originals are so embedded in our musical memory banks that any cover would be pretty pointless. Well, ‘Moon River’, taken here as an instrumental, loses none of its charm and at least I can listen to this version without seeing a smarmy Andy Williams standing in front of me. Lederman has produced a version of this half century old song that sounds contemporary in 2011, which is no mean feat.

The vocals on ‘Monday, Monday’ are taken by Bertrand Burgalat and Julianne Regan and Burgalat (who has worked with Air, Mick Harvey and Louis Philippe) infuses the song with his French pop sensibilities which adds a new dimension to the song and which makes it even more appealing. Jimmy Webb’s ‘Wichita Lineman’ has been covered many times and Glen Campbell’s version is the best known, it’s one of those songs that really shouldn’t be touched; Campbell cut the definitive version so why bother? But Jeremie Orsel’s beautifully aching vocals bring a bitter-sweetness to the song that even Campbell’s version can’t match. Lederman’s instrumental backing loses none of the atmosphere that this song needs to work and the more I hear Orsel’s vocals the more they suit this song. The closing seconds are really affecting.

For such an eclectic collection of songs this album works very well indeed. In fact, apart from Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ and Nick Cave’s ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’, both of which don’t really add anything new to the originals every performance is inspired. Sophie Veldeman and Samdevos take the vocals on ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’ and while both turn in exceptional vocal performances (Sophie in particular shines on both the songs she is featured on) and although there are some nice touches along the way it doesn’t give you the feeling that you’d rather listen to this version than the original. Maybe the song is too recent which prevents any dramatic changes to be made.

That said, Trent Reznor’s ‘Hurt’ is a fairly recent song and although it was never in better hands that those of Johnny Cash the version here by Julianne Regan, even by keeping faithful to the version that Cash cut that moved so many of us, runs a close, a very close, second to the sadly missed Man In Black’s version. After being so familiar with the gruffness of the great man’s version it’s refreshing to hear Julianne’s vocals bringing another dimension to the song. It’s a superb song of that there is no doubt and Julianne turns in what must be one of her best vocal performances from her long career on her version. I’d have to say it’s just as affecting as the Cash take.

Both ‘Enjoy the Silence’ with vocals by Shadowhuntress and ‘Being Boring’ where Julianne once again shines, are competent covers adding something new to the originals and in the case of the Pet Shop Boys cover give me this version any day.

The David Lynch / Angelo Badalamenti penned ‘Falling’ which Julee Cruise sang so delicately and affectingly is taken here by Julianne again. While it can’t be said that it’s Julianne’s best performance on this album after her take on ‘Hurt’, her vocals are truly extraordinary and almost breathtaking as she handles a song that isn’t the easiest song in the world to cover and add something new too.

So Jean-Marc Lederman has taken a selection of popular, well-known songs and, for the most part, left his mark and that of his fellow musicians and vocalists on them forever. Most of these songs can stand proud next to the originals and Lederman has produced what must be in the running for the best covers album ever. After years of hearing our favourite musicians all but destroying their (and some of ours) favourite songs on albums made to satisfy record companies or fulfil contracts Lederman has lovingly taken some of our favourite songs and made a refreshing and compelling album. It really has to be heard.

Malcolm Carter (Pennyblack Music)

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