Monday, September 20, 2010

Michel Polnareff - Fame à la Mode (1975)

The story of Michel Polnareff is a tempestuous one lined with tragedy, troubles, and tribulations, but with a triumphant and inspirational ending. He was a French singer-songwriter who at one point was the most popular, exalted musician in France, however a series of stochastic misfortunes intervened causing his career and life to suffer a massive downfall. His salacious image which consisted of his muscular build, bushy hair, signature large white sunglasses, and flamboyant clothing contributed to both to his success and partially his eventual exile. His attitude which was rooted in his music was virile and passionate, and added to his controversy at the time.

In 1970, after he had put out 2 records already, his close friend Lucien Morisse committed suicide. This upset him gravely and his depression sequestered him in Paris for many months. After a while his morale improved, but he began to have vision problems and was forced to wear his thick, dark sunglasses almost all the time. In 1972, his problems escalated further. A promotional ad showed his naked rear, causing a scandal and resulting in censorship and lawsuits. Finally in the midst of a world tour, his manager, Bernard Seneau, ran off with all of his money. The combination of this, the death of his mother and the inability to pay his debts caused him to leave France where he began an anonymous life in the States. Things seemed hopeless and bleak for Polnareff at that particular juncture.

However, after a brief period of inactivity he began recording again and produced one of his best, most ardent and personal albums, Fame à la Mode. The sincerity of songs like "Wandering Man" and "So Long Beauty" are heartbreaking and obviously influenced by his own calamities. The beautiful thing about these songs is that instead of whinging about his adversities, he transforms them into beautiful poetical ballads. Later in 1976 he composed the soundtrack for the film Lipstick and in 1978 he released another album, Coucou me Revoilou. However, it wasn't until 1981 with the release of Bulles, that he recaptured the hearts of the French public, selling 800,000 copies and getting generous playtime on French radio. In 1989 he moved back to France and continued recording albums all to great success. This sense of triumph is prevalent throughout all of Polnareff's music. Its a powerful testament to the human soul and its willingness to push on, to overcome obstacles, and the refusal to succumb even through the darkest times.

Rating: 8.5/10


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