July/August 2010

Stacey Kent
Blue Note Records

The decision by American-born, British-based Stacey Kent to record her latest album entirely in French may seem odd, but the move is actually pretty commonsensical. Kent speaks the language with both the fluency and flair of a native and has been performing and recording French material for nearly a decade. Her fan base across France is immense, her concerts there are invariably SRO, and last year she became one of the youngest inductees to the elite Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, placing her in the venerated company of Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and Patti Smith.

Perhaps it is the language’s naturally soft beauty, but the unfailingly warm and sunny Kent sounds even silkier throughout these dozen tracks. Her equitable playlist draws from four sources: classic French chansons, contemporary French pop, classics in translation and new compositions. From the undulating waves of Jobim’s “Les Eaux De Mars” and dreamy expectation of “C’est Le Printemps” (“It Might as Well Be Spring,” as translated by Henri Salvador), to the accelerating tumult of the Barbara tour de force “Le Mal De Vivre” and carousel swirl of Paul Misraki’s “L’étang,” Kent’s selections are as varied and vibrant as they are affecting. Most beguiling are two of the new compositions: “Le Vénus du Mélo,” with its coy, rippling romanticism, and “Mi Amor,” with its femme-fatale smolder.

Originally published in July/August 2010

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