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Album review

Charles Aznavour's "Duos"

Starring Elton John, Julio Iglesias & co.


10/12/2008 - 

Charles Aznavour has teamed up with a host of big-name music stars over the years, sharing the microphone with everyone from Nana Mouskouri to Frank Sinatra. Aznavour's latest release, the bumper double album Duos, finds the legendary French chanson crooner recording a series of multi-lingual duets with the 'crème de la crème' of the international music scene including Elton John, Julio Iglesias and Sting.

The credit notes on Duos acknowledge that Charles Aznavour's new album is based on "an original idea by his artistic advisor and personal manager, Lévon Sayan." However, the French chanson star actually seems to have taken a leaf out of an American music legend's book.

Listening to Aznavour's Duos one is instantly reminded of Duets, the 1993 & 1994 albums that marked the end of Sinatra's recording career. Interestingly enough, Aznavour was one of the rare European singers invited to duet with Old Blue Eyes himself. And on Duos he repays the compliment, presenting three posthumous duets with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Edith Piaf. (Chanson aficionados will be aware that Aznavour had previously experimented with a 'virtual' Piaf duet back in 1997 with Plus bleu que tes yeux, the first ever song recorded by the legendary 'chanteuse' for which he penned both music and lyrics).

Aznavour's Duos falls neatly into two linguistic halves. Volume I features a dozen hits in French whilst Volume II revolves around fifteen tracks recorded in English, German, Spanish and Italian. One of the novel ideas about the two-volume offering is that the same singers have been invited to record the same songs with Aznavour in two different languages. Quebec's chart-topping diva Céline Dion duets on Toi et moi in French and English; Herbert Grönemeyer sings Mes emmerdes in French and German; Laura Pausini performs Paris au mois d’août in French and Italian and veteran French rocker Johnny Hallyday joins Aznavour on Il faut savoir in English and French.

Aznavour, an eternally sprightly figure now in his eighties, was joined in the studio by a bunch of old friends (Paul Anka, Liza Minnelli, Nana Mouskouri), a smattering of young blood (Josh Groban), a flock of international pop legends (Elton John, Julio Iglesias, Sting, Carole King) and a number of "crossover" stars (including the opera giant Placido Domingo). This glittering array of guest stars not only proves how influential Aznavour's repertoire has been internationally, but also reveals the impressive content of the singer's personal address book.

Duos may offer few surprises in terms of casting, content or interpretation. But this star-studded double album demonstrates just how well-suited Aznavour's songs are to soaring orchestrations, powerfully-charged voices and larger-than-life personalities.

 Listen to an extract from Yesterday (with Elton John)
 Listen to an extract from Il faut savoir (with Johnny Hallyday)

Charles Aznavour Duos (Capitol-EMI) 2008

Bertrand  Dicale

Translation : Julie  Street