It is a rare and astounding privilege to be able to watch the evolution of a young artist over the course of only a few years. And thanks to wunderkind label Light in the Attic, we lucky listeners now have access to a sweet little package of French pop sensation Francoise Hardy’s discography. As Hardy came of age in the 1960s, she also became an icon, both in style and sound, and with this treasured reissue of five of her records, we are reminded why she is timeless.
The collection includes Hardy’s French language records Tous Le Garçons Et Les Filles (1962), Le Premier Bonheur Du Jour (1963), Mon Amie La Rose (1964), L’Amitié (1965), and La Maison Ou J’Ai Grandi (1966), all recorded over four years, and come January 2016, they’ll also be available as deluxe LPs. Hardy was a conundrum in so many ways. She was a pop star who was also as good a songwriter as any folk artist. She was incredibly sexy, but also modest and private. And while the songs featured on these five albums are very much of their time, they also transcend any period and prove why Hardy was considered a muse.
Regardless of your understanding of the lyrics, all 60 songs on offer are filled with that classic, swooning French romance, and though Hardy’s sound could be cute, it was never precious or twee. She had such a specific and unique sound that was all her own, and it remained cohesive even though it covered a wide range. “Ce Petit Couer” (L’Amitié) is sweet and even a little psychedelic (a la The Byrds), and “Si C’est Ca” (La Maison Ou J’Ai Grandi) is soft and subtle with a more classic American sound.
Listening to the records in progression, it is clear that Hardy is growing and changing, but she never loses that moxie that made her so inherently special and beloved. Her voice was never a powerhouse, but it was so pretty and so expressive. She was sultry and mysterious (“C’est À L’Amour Auquel Je Pense” and “Ça A Raté” – Tous Les Garçons Et Les Filles) even from the beginning, and it was impossible not to want to know all about her. Her sound has such an alluring quality, and it sucks you in completely so before you know it, you’ve listened all the way through the collection.
Tous Les Garçons Et Les Filles has elements of doo-wop and sock-hop pop, with that classic femininity Hardy had mastered. Le Premier Bonheur Du Jour introduces more keyboards and strings, and its songs would pair nicely with a paisley mini and a martini. It’s more laid back and a tad sexier. By Mon Amie La Rose, Hardy seems to get more serious and introspective. These songs channel a classic sound, like Edith Piaf, another classic French chanteuse. And by L’Amitié and La Maison Ou J’Ai Grandi, Hardy has become so effortlessly cool and confident, exploring a rock and roll sound that had never shown up before.
It is fascinating to hear the evolution of the instrumental arrangements over the course of these records, and to hear them move toward a looser vibe as the late 1960s approached. Much like The Beatles, Hardy seems to transition from wholesome to free-loving flower child between ’62 and ’66, giving this collection an unexpected historical significance.
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