Live On Stage - Monsieur Camembert
A "live" recording, when done right and under the right conditions, always offers something a little bit more and a little bit special over a studio recording, no matter how well done. Ultimately, of course, there is nothing like actually being there yourself for a real live performance, but a good live recording can come reasonably close. Monsieur Camembert's second album, Live On Stage, is such a close second and captures something of the electricity and sheer exuberance of this outstanding band. Live On Stage won the ARIA Award 2002 for Best World Music Album, the year it was released, and consists mostly of a live concert recorded for Australian ABC Radio National.
The line-up of Monsieur Camembert here differs slightly from their more recent album Absynthe and consists of founder/leader Yaron Hallis, lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Svetlana Bunic on accordion and vocals, Julian Curwin on lead guitar and vocals, Edouard Bronson on saxes, clarinet, flute, and vocals, Vladimir Khusid on trumpet, flugelhorn and vocals, and Michael Lira on double bass, piano and vocals, with special guest, didjeridu virtuoso Mark Atkins on Elixir in C. The music on Monsieur Camembert's Live On Stage also differs somewhat from their latest release. Every bit as eclectic, the live album does not yet exhibit the strong "Hot Club" swing and gypsy swing leanings as prominently as Absynthe. It is nonetheless a very diverse album, lively and zany and hugely enjoyable, irrepressible and compelling, with Monsieur Camembert's characteristic infectious zest, fervour and spontaneity proving irresistible.
The opener is that old favourite of Russian traditional origin, Dark Eyes, in a swinging and uncommonly sensuous rendition with a particularly impassioned sax solo from Edouard Bronson. Grine Kuzine, a Yiddish song of American origin gets a very lively rendering that should get anybody dancing, if only to collapse with exhilaration and exhaustion. A Yaron Hallis original, The Fat Lady starts off with a gentle swing intro leading into a blend of tango, musette, and touches of gypsy swing, with more than a hint of cabaret style especially in the vocal arrangement and interpretation. The tempo becomes exhilerant again with Choubi, while Elixir in C opens with a meditative alto backed by Mark Atkins' didjeridu and some very tsimbl-like guitar work, with tempo and intensity building up gradually to near fever pitch. Istanbul combines swing with cabaret again to delightful effect. A traditional klezmer favourite, Odessa Bulgarish gets the characteristic Monsieur Camembert treatment with strong overtones of gypsy style here and particularly outstanding flute and accordion solos. Avinu Malkeinu receives a gently swinging treatment and a sensitive vocal interpretation from Yaron Hallis. Another Hallis original, Cliches, again presents an irresistible blend of swing and cabaret - given Hallis' evident natural affinity for the latter, it would be fascinating to imagine Monsieur Camembert interpreting Spoliansky, Hollaender, Heymann, Weill et al in their own wonderful eclectic style! Tchavolo Swing is a very up-beat, up-tempo swing number that goes straight to your feet. As the name suggests, Yiddish Medley is a medley of Yiddish songs, brilliantly put together and again generally very up-tempo to downright zany. Sirba is another traditional klezmer tune given the Camembert treatment, with particularly fine accordion work by Svetlana Bunic and flute by Edouard Bronson. The closer, Monti's Czardas, is a sensuous rendition blending the czardas with touches of gypsy and gypsy swing and a hint of tango and generous helpings of exuberance.
The liner includes lots of small but effective photographs of the band members live in action. Monsieur Camembert's Live On Stage gives an excellent taster of this versatile and high-energy band's live performance style and is a definite favourite in my collection already. Whatever your specific musical interests, Live On Stage will be equally at home in modern world jazz, modern klezmer, or general world music collections.
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