Tuesday, July 21, 2009

After Hours

Les Surfs - A present tu peux t'en aller

Yeah, kinda more like les Smurfs - only without all that blueness. Who are these tiny people and what were they doing in France in 1964, besides singing cover versions of tunes that were originally in English? Well, that seems to have been their only job. Apparently, they sang French versions of "If I Had a Hammer," "Be My Baby" and many others. This rendition isn't all that bad. It just doesn't pack the same wallop as the original. The band plays a decent arrangement and although the lead singer is a little pitch-challenged at times, she turns in a good live performance. But it doesn't hold a candle to its source. My favorite part comes at around the 1:27 mark during the instrumental break. Everybody stands up, but most of them forget to look like they're having a good time - especially the ladies; they're just totally not into it. Uh, yeah, awkward. But once that's over, those two guys over on the side sit down again and look grim. People, everybody Wang Chung tonight!!

Let's contrast that performance with the original from 1963:

Oh, lord... Although she's just lip-synching in a simple spotlight, this is tons and tons better. Dusty's got the energy and charisma that les Surfs sadly lack. If there's any criticism of this tune, it's that her voice tends to "honk" every so often. It seems to come straight out of her nose. But this was her first solo single - and what a single it was! Other critical ears probably heard the same thing. That's why so much of her stellar follow-up stuff was lower, subtler and breathier. That's why "Son of a Preacher Man" works so well. But don't get me wrong, this is one of the best singles of all time. I think we're all in agreement that les Surfs' version doesn't even come close to Dusty's reading. And there are six of them out there trying. So I would say, French: not good. English: very good.

And at the risk of over-saturating you with this tune (if that's possible), we'll close with the Tourists' seventies version of it. Yes, that's Annie Lennox - and Dave Stewart back when he had some halfway-decent facial hair:

Yeah, not bad - and not altogether good. But it's catchy - just like leprosy. I still prefer Dusty.

Please, don't think this is the last you've heard from les Surfs.

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