Alain Rozan “Histoires d’Amour”

Alain Rozan “Histoires D’Amour”

April 14, 2011 by alainrozan

Alain Rozan “Histoires D’Amour”

Posted on April 12, 2011 by Phil

Born in France and having made his home in the United States for the past 30 years, singer/songwriter and actor Alain Rozan is strongly influenced by the culture of both countries.  Counting influences as varied as Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Steve Forbert, Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg, Rozan is a genuine troubadour who has performed at many New York venues over the years.  As part of a Bastille Day celebration in 1995 in New York City (where he currently lives), along with friend and accordion master Walter Kuehr, Rozan actually did a one day mini tour, going from place to place, performing 3 songs at 23 different locations! In addition to his musical talents, Rozan is also an actor who has appeared in a number of French plays, including the works of Jean-Paul Sartre and Jean Anhouil, directed by the likes of Marcel Lidj and his Studio Dramatique.  Although he sings in both his native language as well as English, the songs on his new recording Histoires D’Amour (Love Stories) are all sung in French.
Histoires D’Amour is an acoustic-based album with a decidedly European flair, enhanced by Rozan’s exquisite voice as well as accordion, acoustic bass and understated percussion.  Melodically, each of the eight songs hold up so well that they can be enjoyed whether or not one understands the language, though it might not be a bad idea for Rozan to include English translations of the lyrics in the CD booklet if he hasn’t already done so.

Histoires D’Amour (Love Story) begins with some nicely played hand drum and percussion rhythms before settling into a warm and mellow groove.  Rozan’s voice carries the melody beautifully, with the ample yet understated support of bass, percussion and accordion.  Likewise, the guitar work from Erik Della Penna is tasteful and heartfelt; a combination of rhythmic strumming and Spanish-influenced picking.  With similar musical backing, “Une Femme (A Woman)” is a yearning ballad, augmented by the addition of some gorgeous cello accompaniment.  Characterized by yearning and passion, Rozan’s vocals are fervent and raspy, perhaps evoking a bit of Oh Mercy-era Dylan.  Here and throughout Histoires D’Amour, his voice is at the forefront, allowing the story to be told with clarity while the music provides the ideal framework and embellishment.

With its brisk tempo, “Y’a Pas Qu’Les Pauvres Qui Chantent Le Blues” is yet another strong selection, set apart by Rozan’s husky vocals and a wonderfully played accordion solo.  Rather than employ a standard blues progression, the song puts a creative twist on the tradition by tweaking things in terms of structure, providing a jazzy folk flavor.  The result is equal parts exuberant and pensive, with the weightiness of Rozan’s lyrical expression lifted by inspired musical reinforcement.  The wistful “Tu M’Avais Dit (You Said)” is sparse in its arrangement, made more evident by its slow waltz-like rhythm.  Singing in hush, almost whispered tones, Rozan again shows his ability to embrace a song, providing the delivery needed to let a tale be told effectively.  The sympathetic touches of fretless bass, cello, accordion, guitar and percussion offer suitable support.

“Pas Reussi (Not Succeeded)” is tinged with melancholy, yet tempered by the brightness of a pulsing rhythm, accordion flourishes and vocal harmonies.  Rather than employ sharp accents, tempo changes and the like, the songs on Histoires D’Amour are noted for their fluidity, and “Pas Reussi” is no exception in this regard.  With its haunting ska-influenced rhythm, “Tarentella” finds Rozan exploring previously uncharted creative territory on the album.  The musical accompaniment is characteristically understated, while the rare use of accents here provides fitting depth.  On “Tarantella,” his singing ranges from light and airy to guttural, adapting a sing-speak style at times.

At just over two minutes in length, “Feministe (Feminist)” is a song sketch featuring Rozan’s sweet vocals, sometimes brought to a whisper.  Despite its short length, the melody is memorable, enhanced restrained accompaniment, highlighted by a lovely accordion solo.  In reference to one of his influences, “La Chanson De Gainsbourg” is evidently Rozan’s tribute to the late French singer/songwriter and director.  Though the song lacks the appeal of most of Histoires D’Amour, the coronet of Lawrence “Butch” Morris does add unexpected dimension to the somber piece which otherwise includes only the Rozan’s voice and Della Penna’s guitar.

Overall, Alain Rozan succeeds with Histoires D’Amour by rendering an artful yet accessible body of natural-sounding songs, encompassing folk, jazz and world beat elements.  This is the sort of music conducive to coffeehouses and bistros, as well as the confines of one’s living room.  Though some may be disappointed by the brief length (8 songs), Histoires D’Amour offers an impressive and rewarding listening for French and non-French-speaking music lovers alike.

Review by Mike Roots
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)


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