Their self-titled double album, their fourth, was released in 2005 and won Monsieur Camembert their third Aria Award the same year. Monsieur Camembert presents a kind of retrospective of the band covering the years 1999 to 2003 and consists largely of previously unreleased live recordings (including radio broadcasts), and a few demo studio recordings.
What a treasure trove this proves to be! Material from traditional klezmer to contemporary singer-songwriter, Yaron Hallis originals to the classics, classic swing to classic rock and more gets the unmistakable, inimitable, energetic and inspired Camembert treatment with large doses of hot club/gypsy swing mixed with balkans and just about anything you care to think of. Genres collide with customary gusto and enthusiasm on Monsieur Camembert, to reveal something new and exquisitely beautiful. The opening track of CD 2, the Hallis original Swinging Both Ways, sums up the Camembert concept nicely. A combination of klezmer and very trad jazz-sounding tunes are both made to swing like only Monsieur Camembert can make them swing!
The exuberance of Monsieur Camembert could be described as cabaret as well as carnival-like. The energy resides in the band itself, driven by near-maniacally driven, ebullient, crazily imaginative leader Yaron Hallis. Of course, over the course of the years covered by this album, the line-up of Monsieur Camembert, as well as the large number of guests, varied, but it's all essential Camembert under Hallis. The ensemble playing is always virtuosic, joyful and full of passion as well as flawless. The vocals, whether Hallis' own or those of Bronson or guests, are passionate and a joy to listen to.
There are minor - very minor - differences in the recording quality among some of the tracks, as indeed one would expect from such a variety of sources over such a time span, but they are in no way detracting and you certainly don't have to keep your volume control in hand.
Included in this wonderful collection is a 2002 demo version of Leonard Cohen's Dance Me To The End Of Love. This is not entirely dissimilar to the version on Camembert's 2003 album Absynthe. The 2003 version is a little over a minute shorter and differs significantly in the vocal intonation. The current version here however, bears even stronger resemblance to that on 2007's Famous Blue Cheese - The Leonard Cohen Show.
Thoroughly consistent, Monsieur Camembert is also utterly compelling and enchanting. If you're looking for the ultimate in eclecticism, you've found it! This is a most enjoyable listen - but you may also want to get out your dancing shoes. Pure, unadulterated Camembert joy!
Monsieur Camembert is an absolute must have for any aficionado of world music with a difference - make that, with a huge difference. A generous two hours of the most fun genre smashing that a double CD can buy! Essential!
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