Known as the French Elvis, Johnny Hallyday is a bit of an iconic figure here in France and he still manages to draw huge audiences. Eighty or nine years ago he headlined the Vieilles Charrues festival a few minutes up the road from where we live and folk travelled from all over the country to catch a glimpse of this living legend. So beloved is Johnny that in 1997 Jacques Chirac awarded him the Legion Of Honour medal. Personally I’ve always seen him as a bit of a caricature, but then I’d never taken the time to listen to his music, though he’s had 33 number one singles and sold over 110 Million records in his time…perhaps this was a bit remiss of me. 

Rester Vivant (Staying Alive) represents Johnny’s 49th album and this time he’s produced by Don Was. When it arrived in the post I was a bit nervous about reviewing it as, as I say, Johnny is a bit of a figure of fun in our household….indeed youngest son was a bit incredulous that I’d agreed to review this record at all.However,it’s a very, VERY good record. Great production, great musicianship, fab songs and Monsieur Hallyday’s voice is really rather special.

There’s twelve tunes on Rester Vivant and you would never for one moment believe that this man was in his early seventies. The record has already topped the chart in France (his 11th so far) and it will do well elsewhere too I think.

There’s a good mix of styles on here. It kicks off with the plaintive opening vocal of  J’Ai Ce Que J’Ai Donné that builds nicely until Hallyday’s voice soars above the music and this is sure to be a hit in istelf – the French audiences will lap it up and sing along when it’s played at concerts…or campsites’ dodgy PA.s.

Regardez Nous is a ballady number and (remember we listen to a lot of French radio) is very French in its style – big vocal, big production and not a little bit heroic. It build and builds to a crescendo and never once does Hallyday’s voice sound anything other than superb!!!

And then we go to Rester Vivant that sounds like the Stones and this is no bad thing.

Seul (Alone) is a stripped back number of piano and voice and is a welcome diversion that again showcases Hallyday’s vocal ability superbly. It’s full of emotion and moves into a really superb ballad…again this will be HUGE with the French…

Au Café De L’Avenir is a bluesy rock and roll number reminiscent musically of Dire Straits perhaps.

At this point I can’t help thinking that I’ve got it all wrong in treating this man as a comedic figure as I’ve simply loved every tune so far. Not my usual fare it has to be said, but then a change is as good as a rest and the records is varied enough to have something for most people…even if you may not understand all the lyrics.

Une L’Ettre A L’Enfant Que J’Etais (A letter to the child I was) is another tour de force (hey I speak a bit of French) for Hallyday’s voice and again he is able to communicate a great deal of emotion though the vocal….and then we’re back to a bluesy number with J’Tai Meme Pas Dit Merci where Hallydays conjures a gritty and throaty vocal. He’s nothing if not adaptable!

I’m not going to go into all the tracks in detail but here’s the thing  – THIS IS A VERY GOOD RECORD by anyone’s standards. There really is something that is sure to appeal to most folk, with me finding it difficult to find one tune that really stands out…this is not to say that there is nothing great on here, it’s just I’m finding it hard to pick a favourite from all the very good tunes on the record….perhaps easiest to say my least favourite was Te Voir Grandir…but then I do REALLY like the very last belter of a tune A Nos Promesses!!!

OK, I was wrong…I admit it, M. Hallyday (if this record is anything to go by) has something that appeals and this record is a brilliant example of why the man has become the legend he has in France. It’s also a great example of why you should always open yourself to new music and things you think you will not like…Oh, and and I promise not to poke fun at this Gallic Elvis ever again.

Rester Vivant is out on Warner Music France in the UK on 20th July and despite all my worst fears I really do recommend it!!

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