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Arielle Dombasle: C’est Si Bon

You can dress it up in French frills, but camp is still camp. So proves Arielle Dombasle on this curious collection of saucy tidbits that reads like a drag queen’s wish list. Culled from the coyly suggestive repertoires of Eartha Kitt, Pearl Bailey, Julie London, Carmen Miranda, Marlene Dietrich and others of the song-as-sexual-innuendo set, these 15 tracks have all the substance and weight of a feather duster. Dombasle, best known for her spicy screen performance in Eric Rohmer’s Pauline at the Beach nearly a quarter-century ago (and for her willingness to display her assets in dozens of subsequent European films), is a household name in France (though she was born in Hartford, Conn.). But this sex kitten’s no kitten anymore, and the quasi-operatic mewling that fills this disc gets old fast. As her “Boys in the Backroom” so tepidly demonstrates, she lacks Dietrich’s scorching sophistication. Likewise, her “South American Way” is missing Miranda’s raw sensuality and her lacy treatment of the title track contains not so much as a soupcon of Kitt’s predatory purr. The effect is like eating cotton candy: at first frothy and kinda fun, but ultimately amounting to empty, over-sweetened musical calories.

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