A massive undertaking, Quand On N'a Que l'Amour
reissues in roughly chronological order, on ten compact discs, all of the material recorded by Jacques Brel
for Barclay and PolyGram between 1955 and 1972 -- basically his entire career, except for the album recorded one year before his death. From Brel
's earliest recordings -- including his first hit, the title track -- on volume one (subtitled "Grand Jacques"), the box moves into his peak period, the late '50s and early '60s, with famous songs like "Ne Me Quitte Pas," "La Valse à Mille Temps," "Les Vieux," "Jef," "Mathilde," and "La Chanson de Jacky." A pair of highlights are the two live albums Brel
recorded at the Olympia, Paris, one in 1961 and another in 1964; both are masterpieces of dramatic yet often ironic French pop. In sum, though this enormous box set is obviously no place to begin for neophytes, the collection does indeed offer more experienced fans a lot
of room to grow into Jacques Brel
's music. And though Brel
's charms are difficult to understand, especially for those with a language barrier to cope with, his dynamic singing and playful arrangements make a difficult task much easier.