“ Genre: Rock - Pop Rock / Artist: Lara Fabian / Double CD / Audio CD released 2010-12-06 at Blue Wrasse „
Compilation albums tend to be released at certain points in a performer's career - the main time is invariably when their contract is up and they can either be a pay off from the record company or a reminder of why an artist is at the top of their game and ready to move onwards and upwards.
I must be honest here now and say I don't know why Lara Fabian chose the tail end of 2010 to release her "Best of ", as clearly her most successful period commercially was between 1997 and 2004 but perhaps it's taken until now for her to be able to release an album featuring music from both her Francophone Polydor contract and her English language deal with Sony.
I have written reviews of Fabian's work in the past - but have in always stuck to her English language releases in my reviews for two reasons. Firstly, my French never progressed further than schoolgirl level so much of what she sings in her native tongue goes over my head. And secondly, I have always enjoyed her singing in English better - Fabian has an incredibly powerful voice and has a habit of overdoing this with a good old fashioned French "chanson" - sometimes to the detriment of the overall effect.
Fabian's musical style is MOR pop - she does sing a lot of ballads, as seems to be the French way for female singers, but she does have a voice which can easily cope with other genres including rock and dance music.
What I am a little confused about is the track selection for this compilation. "Best of" must mean the songs Fabian herself thinks are her best as there are some puzzling omissions. Also, the track listing is confusing with each of the Cds in this double set beginning with a "new" song - but CD1 then moves into Fabian's biggest French hits from 1997 as opposed to beginning naturally with her earlier releases - I suspect this is done for commercial reasons but it stops the listener hearing Fabian's voice developing and her song writing improving.
I first heard Lara Fabian sing in 1997 when she was quite simply at the top of her game commercially, scoring huge hits in France and Belgium with "Je T'Aime" and "Tout" from her massive album "Pure". I was spending much of my time in Brussels at the time as my husband worked there and I regularly would watch a French language music channel on TV and back then you couldn't miss Fabian's videos.
I can see why "Je T'Aime" was such a huge hit in the Francophone market but I have always found it a bit turgid. It's also rather dated listening today, 13 years on - the big voiced ballad which was so popular in the nineties has long slipped out of vogue. "Pure" was my favourite French album of Fabian's ten years ago but much of it hasn't stood the test of time well with "Si Tu M'Aimes" relying far too much on Fabian shouting as opposed to singing for instance.
What is an excellent example of her singing is "Tout" - a soft rock ballad which is by and large very well sung and is also the sort of song you will struggle to get out of your head. Even better is "La Difference", Fabian's call for tolerance which shows off her vocals beautifully. Fabian has a beautifully controlled voice but she can convey emotion very well with it, no matter what language she is singing in. This is particularly evident on "La Difference" and it is, to my mind anyway, the best song she has had a hand in writing.
After the singles from "Pure", the album features earlier songs, which I find confusing. Fabian released two albums prior to "Pure" but very little is featured from them. "Tu t'en vas" is pretty dire - it sounds like Fabian wants to be Celine Dion. Much better is "Pas San Toi", a fan favourite and a much better sung song with Fabian singing over a stark piano accompaniment and allowing her own voice to shine through. I was fortunate enough to see Fabian perform live in Brussels about eight years ago and her performance of this song was a highlight of the evening for me.
Another fan favourite is included, Fabian's take on Serge Lama's "Je Suis Malade" and I have to say here this is where I struggle with Fabian's voice and disagree with many of her fans. I loathe this song with a passion and find it far too theatrical and over dramatic. Fabian isn't an actress but usually she can convey a lyric easily and convincingly however I have never been convinced by this song. Equally awful is "Requiem pour un fou" - a live duet with Johnny Hallyday. It goes without saying that Fabian sings the French equivalent of Cliff Richard off the stage but how on earth this found it's way onto a "Best of" album is a mystery to me. Fabian has duetted with far better singers and to far better effect in the course of her career and this song is another over dramatic and completely unbelievable track and does not deserve it's place here. There is something richly ironic about Hallyday singing a song entitled "Requiem pour un fou" of course.
Three tracks from Fabian's debut English album from 1999 are included and you can't really argue with the choices. "Adagio" is gorgeous until the final crescendo which I find too bombastic for my taste. I remember the first time I heard this song - being captivated by so much of it but finding the end such a let down. It's a shame because it is based on Albioni's Adagio in G Minor and the melody is beautiful.
"I Will Love Again" is a wonderful pop dance song which got a lot of club play ten years ago but never broke through to the mainstream. A fiendishly difficult song to sing, Fabian makes light work of it and it still sounds wonderful today. "Broken Vow" is another song which has stood up well, although again there's a touch of the bombast in places. Fabian co-wrote the song with long term song writing partner Rick Allison but it's probably better known from Josh Groban's cover version.
The thing that marks "Broken Vow" out from many of the powerful ballads that Fabian has recorded in her career is the utter sincerity in what she sings. She wrote the song following her broken engagement to French singer Patrick Fiori once she discovered his infidelity. Her voice conveys pain in a way that has moved me to tears more than once.
The second CD does manage to stick to chronological order but inexplicably starts with a 2010 version of "Ensemble" with studio trickery allowing Fabian to sing along with Ray Charles, who originally recorded the song in 2002 with Ginie Line, another French singer. Whilst it's nice to hear Fabian's voice with Charles' this strikes me as a pointless and lazy track. I have never been much of a fan of these posthumous duets and this does nothing to change my mind.
By and large the second CD features a more restrained Fabian - vocally anyway. The song writing quality is variable, with some of the more commercial touches deserting Fabian and Allison, but songs such as "La Lettre" and "Bambina" are simple and carried less by production values and more by Fabian's voice.
I said much the same thing in my review for Fabian's second English language album that as she has grown as a performer she has cut back on the shoutier style of singing she became famous for and has developed a more restrained, but far more effective way of delivering a song.
I also haven't purchased her most recent French releases, so many of the songs on the second CD were new to me and made me reassess my opinion that Fabian sings better in English. Instead what has happened is Fabian's voice has matured and she has moved away from merely belting a song out, leading to a far more enjoyable aural experience.
Another thing which may have led to this development in style is Fabian's parting of the ways with Rick Allison - instead she has worked with other musicians or written songs on her own and this is marked in the style of song she has recorded more recently. "Aime" is a particularly good example of this noticeable change in style with vocals which highlight a sweeter tone in Fabian's voice - a tone which has a habit of disappearing when she moves to those loud and higher notes. "Aime" uses clever key changes to keep the listener interested - and don't confuse this with the cynical key changes you expect from any X Factor contestant either.
"Toutes les femmes en moi" uses her lower register to great effect. Even better is Fabian's cover of French chanson singer Barbara's "Gottingen" which shows Fabian in a better place to tackle the traditional French chanson as she gets older and realises power alone doesn't make a great singer. There's a great world weariness in Fabian's voice as she progresses through this song - something that quite simply wouldn't have worked when she was younger.
These songs have made me realise that it doesn't matter which language Fabian sings in - when she uses her voice to the best of her abilities and exercises restraint she really is brilliant. Obviously I understand the vocal nuances in Fabian's English songs better but she is such a good singer I can pick some of these up in French and Italian too.
The album finishes with three songs from Fabian's 2004 English release "A Wonderful Life". "No Big Deal" is the strongest of the lot - a truly well constructed pop song which bears the song writing hallmarks of co-writer Gary Barlow. This is possibly one of the best songs Fabian has recorded in English and genuinely merits it's place on this album. "The Last Goodbye" is well sung but bland. The album closes with "I Guess I Loved You" which is erroneously titled "I Guess I Love You" on this packaging. The song is a strange choice to close the album with as it isn't really representative of Fabian as she sings today having been recorded six years ago. The song features a delicate vocal introduction but strays into the territory of histrionics at the end.
If you like Lara Fabian and can listen to her sing anything and are looking for her more popular songs all in one place, then this album is for you. I do think it's not the definitive "best of" however. Some of the omissions are painful - instead of including the quite hideous "Requiem pour en fou" for instance it would have been far better to include Fabian's duet with Josh Groban "For Always" which is quite beautiful, or "Surrender to Me" a duet she did with Richard Marx.
Of her French songs, I would have loved to have seen "Leila" on here representing earlier work, and "Silence" a song which is a big fan favourite. I also think "Walk Away" would have been a better representation of Fabian's vocal prowess than "I Guess I Loved You" and lastly it's a pity the compilers ignored "World at Your Feet", another Gary Barlow song.
This is a good one stop introduction to a hugely underrated singer. If you appreciate music which is melodic, well constructed and by and large well thought out, then you will enjoy much of this.
Fabian will never change the world with what she does, but she has a strong body of work here which reveals her to be both a strong singer songwriter and an excellent interpreter of other people's songs. Overall she is a singer who works best for me when she resists the temptation to veer into the territory of vocal hysteria - and if you view the tracks on here chronologically you can see that's exactly what she has learned works best for her.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 On S'Aimerait Tout Bas
2 Je T'Aime
4 Si Tu M'Aimes
6 La Difference
7 Pas Sans Toi
8 Tu T'En Vas
9 Je Suid Malade
10 Requiem Pour Un Fou
11 Perdere L'Amore
13 I Will Love Again
14 Broken Vow
Disc #2 Tracklisting
2 J'Y Crois Encore
4 Tu Es Mon Autre
5 Je T'Aime
7 La Lettre
8 Ne Lui Parlez Plus D'Elle
9 Je Me Souviens
11 Un Cuore Malato
13 Toutes Les Femmes En Moi
14 No Big Deal
15 Last Goodbye, The
16 I Guess I Love You