French Chanson and Musette Music, Letter "M" (Slipcue.Com Music Guide) Obnoxious amphibian portrait... ribbit!

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 "M"

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Pierre Malar "Volume I: Merci Pour Les Fleurs" (Mariane Melodie)
A fun set of prissy, melodramatic, satisfying vocals... The half-Spanish Malar was a youthful star of the 1940s, following in the footsteps of Tino Rossi, singing romantic material that alternated between French and Spanish-language lyrics, which he does here with great elan, singing beautifully and precisely, but with great feeling and conviction. Heard one way, these songs are terribly antique and corny, and the buoyant orchestrations don't echo the jazz influences of other '30s/'40s chanson -- but they are irresistible nonetheless, an entry point into a refined popular style that's not quite as brittle as classic operette, not as earthy as the bluesy, wartime French swing. Tino Rossi is the most obvious comparison, but I find Malar more appealing -- he has a lighter, less stuffy feel, and is less self-conscious of his fame, a trait which I find unappealing in Rossi's work. The melodrama and enjoyable corniness is still there, but in a giddier form. This disc covers 1949-51. Highly recommended!

Pierre Malar "Volume 2: La Divine Melodie" (Mariane Melodie)

Pierre Malar "Volume 3: Tango Melodie" (Mariane Melodie)

Rose Mania "Manana" (Marianne Melodie, 2001)
Meh. This is a set of mostly-manic, somewhat clumsy big-band/pop vocals, sort of along the lines of early Peggy Lee or Patti Page, with plinky-plunky novelty-toned arrangements and undisciplined, piercing vocals. The Latin craze was still in full swing, with several rumba- and samba-inspired novelty numbers, including several Brazilian-flavored tunes, all notably lacking in any semblance of subtlety. It has to be said, though, that as her career progressed, Hungarian-born Mlle. Mania improved as a stylist -- this album covers 1948-50, with Henry Leca's band backing her on all the tunes, and somewhere around 1949, they started to actually find a groove that was less shrill and comedic. There are several homages to Brazil's Carmen Miranda (which are okay) although in the 'Fifties she tried tacking more jazzy material, such as "Oublie Loulou" and "Aba Daba," in a Nellie Lutcher-ish cutesy scat singing style that is absolutely disastrous. I wouldn't recommend this particular volume even for kitsch/nostalgia value, not unless you're really delving deep into the French fascination with "foreign" exotica, in which case you get quite a few Latin-flavored numbers, just not super-enjoyable versions. It's your call... Just don't say you weren't warned.

Jean Marco "L'Amour Se Joue" (Mariane Melodie)

Lina Margy "Volume 1: Rendez Moi Son Amour" (Marianne Melodie, 2007)

Lina Margy "Volume 2: Les Carabiniers De Castille" (Marianne Melodie, 2007)

Lina Margy "Volume 3: Rose-Marie Polka" (Marianne Melodie, 2007)

Lina Margy "Succes Et Rarites" (Chansophone, 2008)

Lina Margy "20 Succes" (2007)

Luis Mariano "Disques Pathe -- Luis Mariano" (EMI-Pathe, 1997)
A Spanish-born Basque singer who emigrated to France during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, Luis Mariano became a star in the French music halls, specializing in the deliciously corny, emotive operette style... This is an excellent 2-CD set of his best work on the Pathe label from 1952-1961. It includes various ethnic-themed songs (with Mariano playing the role of a "Latin," and often "Latin American" singer) as well as Gallicized versions of pop hits from abroad -- songs such as "Chantilly Lace," Tom Glazer's "Pussy Cat," and "I Feel Pretty," from West Side Story. There's also plenty of good, old-fashioned mainstream French chanson -- although the 1950's production may sound a little smoother and less antique than the classic stuff from the 1930s and '40s, this is still a deliciously nostalgic set. Corny, but wonderful to listen to, time and time again.

Luis Mariano "Le Prince De L'Operette: 1939-1952" (Fremeaux, 2008)
The perfect compliment to the 2-CD set listed above; this leaves off where the other collection begins.

Luis Mariano "L'Operette A La Chanson" (Marianne Melodie, 1997)

Victoria Marino "C'est Ma Prairie" (Mariane Melodie, 2002)
Now, as you can probably tell from this website, I do have a sweet tooth for corny old music, but even I do limits. Ms. Marino, an Italian-born chanteuse who immigrated to France in the 1930s and established herself as a singer in the mid-'40s, isn't really awful or anything, but she's got sort of a slight whiff of Kate Smith/Madame Castafiore that makes her sound a little too stuffy for me. The orchestrations, by bandleaders such as Franck Pourcel, Jacques Henry-Rhys and Marius Coste, are all fine, standard-issue postwar chanson stuff, but Marino herself rubs me the wrong way. Nothing horrible, but there are other artists I prefer.

Marie-Jose "Etoiles De La Chanson" (Marianne Melodie, 1995)
This 1940s starlet specialized in chanson with a slight Spanish and Latin American twist, thus, these 1939-42 recordings are peppered with castanets and rumba rhythms, and a hint of flamenco at times... It's all very subtle, and all very nice... Recommended!

Marie-Jose "Les Plus Belles Chansons D'Amour" (Forlane, 1996)

Marie-Jose "En Souvenir De Marie Jose" (Marianne Melodie, 2006)
A 2-CD, 40-song selection of her work...

Marie-Jose "Vous Que J'aimais" (Marianne Melodie, 2008)
Two more CDs, and fifty(!) more songs...

Leo Marjane "Seule De Soir" (Musique De France, 1999)

Leo Marjane "1938-1944" (Fremeaux, 2004)

Leo Marjane "Derniers Succes Et Chansons Rares" (Marianne Melodie, 2007)

Colette Mars "Jimbo L'Elephant" (Marianne Melodie, 1995)
Emotionally rich postwar chanson, recorded from 1946-49. I really enjoy Mars' voice and the feel of these recordings -- it's true to the 1930's spirit, sort of antique-y and genteel, though the sound quality and production values are smoother than the Depression-era music it emulates, while still not drifting into the stylistic flatness of the '50s, '60s and '70s. Mars also compares favorably to the great Edith Piaf: the range is the same, though Mars doesn't have the occasionally grating tenor of Piaf's vocals, nor the crushing emotional pathos that suffuses Piaf's work... It's the same kind of music, but you can just listen and enjoy, without feeling the weight of the world upon your shoulders. Anyway, it's a wonderful record... track it down if you can!

Paul Mauriat "Les Merveilleuses Orchestrations De Paul Mauriat: 1957-1961" (Marianne Melodie)

Raquel Meller "1926-1932" (1996)

Raquel Meller "La Violetera" (Blue Moon, 2004)

Armand Mestral "Jalousie" (Marianne Melodie, 2006)

Armand Mestral "100 Chansons" (Marianne Melodie, 2007)
A 4-CD set...

Maurice Meunier/Hubert Rostaing "Jazz In Paris: Clarinettes A Saint-Germain Des Pres" (Emarcy, 2001)
Sweet sets by two Benny Goodman devotees, smooth, swank instrumental nightclub jazz from the 1950s or '60s (I'm guessing) that lacks originality but it pleasant nonetheless. Worth checking out, although there's little that's particularly "French" about it... Rostaing also did a lot of soundtrack recordings, and worked with Yves Montand.

Maurice Meunier "...And His Orchestra" (Barclay)
More from clarinetist Maurice Meunier...

Mick Micheyl "Mes Premieres Chansons" (Marianne Melodie)

Mick Micheyl "Les Meilleurs" (FDC, 1998)

Mick Micheyl "Mes Premieres Chansons" (Marianne Melodie, 2007)

Mick Micheyl "Les Meilleurs" (FDC, 1998)

Mick Micheyl "Un Gamin De Paris" (Edina Music, 2010)

Georges Milton "Le Joyeux Bouboule" (Forlane, 1995)

Georges Milton "Le Music-Hall Des Annees 30: Georges Milton"

Mireille "Integrale -- Avec Le Concours De Jean Sablon, Pills & Tabet: 1929-1939" (Fremeaux, 1995)
Star of stage and song, Mireille Hartuch had an irresistibly appealing, immensely charming and refreshingly direct vocal presence. With her comedic bent she was a bit like a French version of Gracie Fields, though with a more serious, more glamorous side. She wrote or cowrote much of her material, and delivered it with a comedic touch that demonstrated her command of the music. She had many notable collaborators, including movie idol Jean Sablon, who sings several duets on this fine 2-CD set, as well as the music-hall duo, Jacques Pills and Georges Tabet, along with pianist Georges Van Parys and lyricist Jean Nohain... Certainly of the cream of the crop in French pop during the Depression era. Nice stuff; highly recommended!

Mireille "Les Chansons De Mireille" (Pharaoh, 1995)

Mireille "Succes Et Rarites: 1929-1935" (Chansonphone, 1996)

Yves Montand "Integrale, v.1: 1945-1949 - Et La Fete Continue..." (Fremeaux & Associes, 2000)
Ruggedly, Gallically handsome, actor Yves Montand was actually of Italian ancestry (born Ivo Livi, in 1921). He became nationally famous just as the Second World War engulfed Europe, and his star rose steadily during the war years. The patronage of diva Edith Piaf made a huge difference -- she chose him to open her shows in 1944 and pushed his film career along, so that by the postwar period he was poised to become one of France's leading celebrities. This excellent 2-CD set gathers together some of his earliest work, opening with lively swing-oriented material straight out of the Charles Trenet stylebook, and gradually settled into a more staid -- even corny -- romantic style. The big band/pop vocals arrangements support Montand's immense warmth and charismatic confidence. This is a top-notch collection of some of his best early work, and a great introduction to his career, particularly for those who are looking for some of his livelier material.

Yves Montand "Integrale, v.2: 1949-1953 - Sensational..." (Fremeaux, 2004)

Yves Montand "Integrale, v.3: 1953-1954 - Une Etoile a l'Etoile" (Fremeaux, 2007)

Germaine Montero "Le Meilleur De Germaine Montero" (EMI/Disques Pathe, 1998)

Germaine Montero "Germaine Montero" (EMI-France, 1999)
A generously programmed 2-CD set featuring early-to-late '50s recordings of fairly standard-issue chanson. This comes pretty late in the game, and lacks the loose feel and hint of wildness that the stuff in the 1920s, '30s and '40s had -- it's just too smooth and even-keeled, too studio-y. Montero has a pleasant voice, but she takes no risks with it and overall, while this music sounds okay, it's not very moving. Montero apparently was of Spanish descent; she later specialized in recording Spanish folk and popular songs, and did an album based on the works of poet Federico Garcia Lorca. (I'm not sure, but I think this might be the same set as the Le Meilleur collection listed above, just with different cover art...)

Germaine Montero "Songs Of Parisian Nights" (Vanguard Classics, 1997)

Germaine Montero "Folk Songs Of Spain" (Vanguard Classics, 1953)

Dario Moreno "Maria Christina Vent Toujours Commander" (Mariane Melodie, 2004)
While tropical-themed songs were all the rage in French pop for several decades, singer Dario Moreno brought a new level of authenticity to the genre. The son of a Spanish father and a Mexican mother, Moreno occasionally sang in Spanish (though mostly in French) and brought distinctly Mexican styles into his work (as opposed to the ersatz rumbas and sambas of other French stars...) However, I can't say I care that much for his work: when he's singing straight romantic material, it's super-corny, and when he goes into Mexican music, he often plays it for laughs -- the upbeat tempo of the corrido is transformed into "wacky," Spike Jones-style frollicking and the cheerful, yipping cries are turned into manic laughter and semi-yodels. The French bandleaders -- Michel Legrand, Paul Durand, Daniel White -- are all too willing to either play it for laughs or to smother Moreno in coy, pizzicato-laden romantic orchestrations. A few tunes, like the title track, are okay, but overall I'd prefer hearing French chanson stars getting Latin music "wrong" than a guy like Moreno simply hamming it up. This disc covers Moreno's work from 1952-53, with all but a couple tracks recorded with the Legrand orchestra, and the perky, brassy mambo style of Perez Prado and Tito Puente can be heard in a few tracks.

Mouloudji "Master Serie, v.1" (PolyGram-Podis, 1998)
A nice representative collection of 1950s hits from singer-actor Mouloudji; the bounce of the swing era is largely gone from French pop by this time, replaced by sedate, "classy" orchestrations, but Mouloudji himself was not as lugubrious a singer as many of his contemporaries -- there's a brightness to his voice, and a subtle snap that gives him a distinctive presence. This best-of set is fairly interchangeable with others, and includes his version of Boris Vian's "Le Deserteur," an antiwar song inspired by France's quagmire in Indochina (aka Viet Nam), a song banned by the French government and later translated into English and covered by Joan Baez and others. The bluesy "Toi, Tu Souris" is also nice.

Mouloudji "Master Serie, v.2" (PolyGram-Podis, 1997)

Mouloudji "1951-1958" (Fremeaux & Associes, 2010)

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