This page is part of a larger guide, reviewing various French chanson and musette recordings, focussing mainly on older, classic material, but also branching out to include some newer performers working in the same styles. Suggestions, recommendations and corrections are always welcome...
This page covers the letter "D"
Damia "La Tragedienne De La Chanson: 1928-1931" (Chansophone, 1990)
Marie-Louise Damien, who went by the stage name Damia, was one of the great practitioners of a style called the "realistic song." These were popular compositions known for their outlandishly morbid lyrics, typically about a fallen girl whose flirtation with big city ways led to her tragic death by disease or gruesome accident. In the cheerful versions of these songs, the dying lass might get the chance to make amends with her parents before meeting her maker, but not always. I'm told that these "realistic" songs were meant as pure camp, not as actual moral lessons -- they were the Scream movies of the prewar French cabaret. These early recordings are a bit stark and glum, but they are also great art... You'll probably want to listen to these songs in small installments (and not mix them with alcohol) but if you don't mind a little depression and abject misery, this can be richly rewarding art.
Damia "La Tragedienne De La Chanson: 1928-1935" (Chansophone, 2008)
Damia "La Tragedienne De La Chanson: 1933-1937" (Chansophone, 2008)
Damia "La Tragedienne De La Chanson" (Forlane, 1993)
Recording later in her career, Damia seems to have lightened up a bit, or at least become friendlier to well-rounded melodies... Although this shares the same title as the Chansophone collection above, there are only a half-dozen songs in common. This set spans 1930-39, and finds her working with two of the premiere dance bands of the era -- the Orchestre Wal-Berg and Orchestre Pierre Chagnon -- and the performances are all first-rate. While the previous volume had a rather bleak feel, this one is markedly warmer and more accessible. It's all quite good, though I found this disc more enjoyable.
Damia "1926-1944" (Fremeaux & Associes, 2003)
For a more comprehensive view of her work, there's also this 2-CD set... Haven't heard it yet, but I'm looking forward to the day I do!
Damia "Grand Frise" (WEA, 2004)
Damia "Guingette A Ferme Ses Violets" (Intense, 2006)
Damia "Les Chansons Eternelles" (Chansons Eternelles, 2007)
Darcelys "Operettes Marseillaises" (MM)
Danielle Darrieux "Integrale: 1931-1951" (Fremeaux, 2003)
Danielle Darrieux "Le Premier Rendez-Vous" (Intense, 2006)
Danielle Darrieux "Mes Succes Des Annees 50" (Marianne Melodie, 2012)
Andre Dassary "Etoiles De La Chanson" (Disky, 1999)
Andre Dassary "Andre Dassary" (2002)
Andre Dassary "1939-1945" (Marianne Melodie, 2004)
Andre Dassary "Anthologie: 1939-1961" (Marianne Melodie, 2012)
A mammoth, 6-CD box set, covering his work from 1939-61... For true believers only?
Dany Dauberson "Ni Toi, Ni Moi" (Marianne Melodie)
A husky-voiced singer of the 1950s, as much American-style "pop vocals" as French chanson... Actually, probably more, with light arrangements that include light strings, a flute, harp, mild Latin percussion, and even an occasional marimba. This is a little slick and modern for my tastes, not completely lavish and over-the-top, but still less rootsy and unpolished than stuff I prefer from the 1930s... Worth checking out if you're interested in the transitional music of the postwar era, but I'll take Mistinguette any time over this.
Micheline Dax "Florilege Musical" (Marianne Melodie)
Henri Decker "Volume One: Les Chansons S'Envolent" (Mariane Melodie, 2001)
An appealing, youthful singer with a bright-toned voice, occasionally saddled with ho-hum arrangements. I picked this one up for just one reason: his cover 1948 version of Bob Hilliard and Carl Sigman's "Civilization," a a delightfully un-PC back-to-nature ballad with the zippy chorus -- "Bongo-bongo-bongo/I don't wanna leave the Congo/Oh, no-no-no-no-no!/Bingo-bangle-bungle, I'm so happy in the jungle, I refuse to go..." -- a song I used to play on my radio show (in Berkeley, California) occasionally provoking the ire of the more humorless listeners in the audience. But imagine my delight in finding a rendition -- in French! -- from the people that actually colonized the Congo! Whoo-hoo!! The arrangement, by Jean Marion and his orchestra, is one of the best on this album; others are less groovy and less upbeat, though Decker gets into a groove with some of the more sentimental material. This set covers his work from 1948-50, working with several bandleaders, including Paul Durand, Jean Marion, Guy Luypaerts, Jean Faustin and Boris Sarbek. Not top-flight material, but I'm still curious about Volume Two!
Henri Decker "Volume Two: Tout Ca Parc'qu'au Bois De Chaville" (Mariane Melodie)
Francois Deguelt "Le Funambule Du Charme: Florilege 1957-1968" (Marianne Melodie, 2010)
A 2-CD set of super-square, super-corny pop vocals from a deep-throated crooner who probably wouldn't have minded having a beer with Jim Nabors and Robert Goulet. This is way past the chanson era that I'm interested in, and doesn't have enough crossover with the rock scene (hardly any) to have camp value. I'll pass.
Suzy Delair "Avec Son Tra-La-La" (Mariane Melodie, 1999)
Although this disc starts out in the postwar era -- covering 1947-58 -- Delair's vocal style is a throwback to the flowery, ostentatious operetta tradition, punctuated by brassy Ethel Merman-isms, when she really gets forceful and emphatic. These more forceful moments are a distraction: when Delair is simply crooning, this is nice, nostalgic material, with a very old-world feel, despite the lavish '50s string arrangements. She has a beautiful voice, but tends to overdo, as on "C'est Tout," (her cover of "It's Been A Long, Long Time"), which starts out delicious, but becomes so ornate and overly stylized that she all but loses the original melody. I'm sort of on the fence about this one... mostly I think I like it, though, Delair's habit of working her way up into a crescendo often pulls me out of the song.
Suzy Delair "Lady Paname" (Mariane Melodie)
Suzy Delair "Amoureuses" (Musidisc, 2006)
Suzy Delair "Lady Paname" (Musidisc)
Pierre Delanoe/Various Artists "Chansons De Ma Jeunesse" (Marianne Melodie, 2007)
A collection of hit songs by composer Pierre Delanoe, covered by a variety of artists...
Lucienne Delyle "Les Chansons Eternelles" (Galaxy Music, 1998)
At first, this sounds quite nice... Delyle was a chanson vocalist whose first hits came in the late 1930s and early '40s, and whose career continued through the early '60s, when she passed away... She had a lovely voice, confident and deep, and she sang tragic songs much in the style of Edith Piaf, Berthe Sylva, et. al. But I have to confess this disc left me cold; after a while all the songs sounded the same, and there was little variation in the musical or emotional tone... It should be mentioned, though, that this album doesn't contain the songs she's most identified with, so another collection might better represent her...
Lucienne Delyle "Le Meilleur De Lucienne Delyle" (EMI-Pathe Disques, 1998)
Lucienne Delyle "Nuages" (Musique De France, 2000)
Lucienne Delyle "Le Charme Incarne" (Musique De France, 2010)
A 4-CD set... wow!!
Lucienne Delyle "1939-1946" (Fremeaux & Associes, 2003)
Lucienne Delyle "Mon Amant De Saint Jean" (Rym Musique, 2008)
Jean Deny "La Complainte Du Corsaire" (Mariane Melodie)
Colette Dereal "Polydor: 1959-1972" (Marianne Melodie, 2010)
Late-vintage pop vocals from the rock'n'roll era (and beyond) with some faint vestige of old-school chanson, but it doesn't have much resonance. Pretty corny, but comparable with the best of similar material from the States at the same time. Some of the rock/R&B send-ups are fun in a campy sort of way, although there are diminishing returns as time goes on. This stuff is totally square, but she had a nice voice.
Sacha Distel "CD Story - Album Luxe" (Universal, 2004)
Sacha Distel "Master Series" (Universal, 2006)
Sacha Distel "Profession Chanteur" (Universal, 2006)
A 4-CD box set, with guitarist Distel dipping mightily into the font of Sinatra-style crooning. Lots of punchy, swank brass and loping, rhythmic string arrangements, framing his hep, happening vocals. There are also a bunch of lamentable English-language numbers, though the French numbers have their appeal.
Sacha Distel "Sasha's Guitar" (El Records/Cherry Red, 2007)
Sacha Distel "La Belle Vie..." (Universal, 2006)
A 3-CD box set
Sacha Distel "Jazz Guitarist" (Universal, 2006)
Sacha Distel "45 RPM EPs" (?)
Les Djinns "La Plus Grande Chorale Feminine Francaise: 1959-1966" (Marianne Melodie)
A 1960's female pop/chanson vocal chorus with strings -- very corny!! A 2-CD set...
Aime Doniat "Grands Airs D'Operette" (Marianne Melodie)
Dany Douberson "Ni Moi, Ni Moi" (Marianne Melodie)
Dranem "1929-1935" (Chansophone)
Dranem/Georgius "Grands Succes" (Chansophone)
Jean Drejac/Various Artists "Les Chansons De Ma Jeunesse" (Marianne Melodie, 2006)
A magnificent, well curated collection of hit songs by composer Jean Drejac, covered by a variety of artists, many of whom are pleasantly obscure... A nice mix of perky novelty songs, nostalgia and serious romantic material, generally with bright, modern production, and a general sense of bonhomie. Recommended!
Pierre Dudan "Pierre Dudan" (Chansophone, 2000)
Lively, jazz-flavored music hall and comedic material, with a bright, appealing delivery. Dudan, a singer-composer whose father was Swiss, had a bit of swing and swagger to his style; his frequent duet partner Edith Burger (who appears on eight of the album's twenty-four tracks) was also kinda fun. Not a major talent, but still lots of fun. This disc gathers two dozen tracks, spanning 1940-1948, all of which were written or co-written by Dudan, and many of which feature him on piano... Quite a satisfying set!
French Music Index
French Rock & Pop