Francis Cabrel: À l’aube revenant

Son, Disciple, Troubadour

Listening Post 294. On his fourteenth album Francis Cabrel exhibits a striking mix of freshness and nostalgia, reminding fans new and old why his voice, pen and ever-expanding canon of folk-blues-chanson remain so central to the soundtrack of the French-speaking world. Aside from its evocative treatment of modern and courtly love, freedom and alienation, technological tyranny and global warming, the perspective of À l’aube revenant (As Dawn Returns) highlights the artist’s endurance: Nearing 68, Cabrel still approaches songs more as disciple than teacher, honoring sages—from Verlaine to Barbara, from Jacques Dutronc to Leonard Cohen—as he reveals his own acute vision. He has often paid tribute in song to his role models and adds a new-old figure to his pantheon with Te ressembler (To Be Like You, video 1), an homage his hardworking immigrant father, who never understood the concept of a fun job. Early in his career Cabrel was dubbed a troubadour for his lyrical prowess and elegant melodies—a youthful mustache and long hair gave the label visual dimension—and he here he digs deeper, devoting four of the album’s 13 tracks to the medieval singer-composers of Occitania, the southern French region where he was born and still lives; Rockstars du Moyen Âge (Rockstars of the Middle Ages, video 2) celebrates his spiritual forebears, and includes passages in the troubadours’ language, Occitan, still spoken by more than 100,000 people. The quest in Les bougies fondues (Melted Candles, video 3) is to find poetry in unlikely places, from a blank wall to a reflection in a puddle. J’écoutais Sweet Baby James (I Was Listening to Sweet Baby James, video 4), adapts James Taylor’s classic as a reverie of passion and regret. And Peuples des fontaines (People of the Fountains, video 5), finds Cabrel again seeking wisdom from the poet-philosophers—in whose company he belongs, not as disciple but as peer. (Chandelle Productions)

Francis Cabrel: À l’aube revenant
Francis Cabrel: Vocals, guitars
Freddy Koela: Guitars, violin
Gérard Bikialo: Keyboards
Alexandre Léauthaud: Accordion
Nicolas Fiszman: Bass
Laurent Vernerey: Double bass
François Soulier: Drums, percussions
Claude Egéa: Trumpet, bugle
Aurélie Cabrel: Choirs
Hiliko Paganotti: Backing vocals
Julia Sarr: Backing vocals
Olyza Zamati: Backing vocals
Bertrand Lajudie: String arrangements

Related post. Francis Cabrel, In Extremis, Listening Post 35, February 22, 2016.
http://worldlisteningpost.com/2016/02/22/francis-cabrel-in-extremis/

 

Te ressembler / To Be Like You
Lyrics & music: Francis Cabrel

(From the French lyrics)
You never reached the age I am today/You worked too hard for that
Every hour of the day at the factory/On the edge of the village
In the evening not one but two gardens/All so your children could eat
I know it well, I was there

It took courage/To get up at those hours
Leaving long before daybreak/In the dim light
Bare hands on the cold handlebars/All while your children slept
I know it well, I was there

I would have liked to be like you, I swear/But look, it’s not enough to want, it wasn’t in my nature
You must have wondered, I’m sure/One day I came across a guitar, and I’ve lived by having fun
You had your feet on the ground/And I was just the opposite

We didn’t say “I love you”/We didn’t hug
When it came to love/We had to imagine
That’s how we grew up/And you see we grew up just the same
I know it well, I was there

Sometimes I feel guilty/To have been so lucky
I look around/At my huge house and my lush garden
And I know that from your faraway place/You’ve kept an eye on me

I would have liked to be like you, I swear/But look, it’s not enough to want, it wasn’t in my nature
You must have asked yourself, I’m sure/One day I came across a guitar, and I’ve lived by having fun
You had your feet on the ground/And I was just the opposite
Completely the opposite

You never reached the age that I am today/You worked too hard for that…

 

Rockstars du Moyen Âge / Rockstars of the Middle Ages
Lyrics: Francis Cabrel, Claude Sicre, Jean Bonnefon/Music: Francis Cabrel

(From the French and Occitan lyrics)
There are no ancient languages/It’s always the same
To tell the same sorrows/Swear the same love
It’s written in your pages/Better and long before us
Rockstars of the Middle Ages/We are your children

You are a stroke of the pen/The step of the horses
The songs to your Ladies/All that is most beautiful
Their souls and their faces/Far above all
Rockstars of the Middle Ages/We are your children

The maiden at the window/Sings with eyes tightly shut
Look and you will see yourself/In each and every word
It’s value so much more/Than the heaviest of jewels
Rockstars of the Middle Ages/We are your children

Your only piece of armor/The skin of a tambourine
Under the towering walls/The unlit balcony
Where Beauty is captive/And her jealous lover
Rockstars of the Middle Ages/We are your children

The young girl at the window/Sings with eyes tightly shut
Look and you will see yourself/In each and every word
It’s worth so much more/Than the heaviest of jewels
Rockstars of the Middle Ages/We are your children

Jaufré Rudel, Guillaume/Bernard de Ventadour
Pèire, Bertran de Born/One hundred troubadours more
We cherish our heritage/Guitars around our necks
Rockstars of the Middle Ages/We are your children

 

Les bougies foudues / Melted candles
Lyrics & music: Francis Cabrel

(From the French lyrics)
On my big sofa lying under the moon/
My arms crossed, I waited for fortune
Between two blank partitions and a bare bulb: Poetry
Life passing peacefully, without fuss/But it was all too real and I preferred to wander
In the shapes drawn in melted candles/Poetry where it never was

A building monolith blocks my horizon/Those who designed it still not in jail
A child can doodle one more graffiti scrawl, poetry
On the badly paved sidewalk that fractures and cracks/As we stop, we see each other in puddles
A piece of the hereafter beneath our feet/Poetry where it never was

Life is a contest where no one wins/A path that winds around a mountain
We all meet at the top, when the time comes, poetry
I saw a man go by, armed as if for war/Dying his project, must get used to it
We’ll dance later, when calm returns/Poetry where it never was

Of the kid who survived under tons of stones/In the flakes that float in their glass ball
We think that heaven would have intervened, the poetry
Pulling open the gates of the captive tiger/Ten square meters for him and his family
Every step an immense expanse/Poetry where it never was

Look at her, ten years old and see how beautiful she is/Beautiful and yet she never leaves home
Body and soul hidden under fabrics, poetry
On my way back home I saw a brass band/Rows of drums, bells, guitars
She walked in front, her long hair undone/Poetry where it will never be

Playing on the radio, a lovely refrain/She’s sad without him, he’s sad without her
The radar flashes on the beaten track, poetry
While the street vibrates, crowded with cars/Sunlight clings to the roof corners
And every tree poses like a statue/Poetry where it never was

If one day I come across a random face/The singer that I was at the village dances
We would look at each other like two strangers, poetry
He would surely say, “You must have seen the world”/But in the end I might answer
“It’s the person I used to be that I miss the most”/Poetry where it never was

I hurt my eyes under heaven’s arch/I know where the hours I have left are recorded
Looking to tomorrow for what is planned, poetry
Like certainties, I couldn’t find any/On the big sofa lying under the moon
I peered at the melted candles/Poetry where there never was

 

J’écoutais Sweet Baby James / I Was Listening to Sweet Baby James
Lyrics & music: Francis Cabrel

(From the French lyrics)
In a long-ago December, I can still remember/The studied disorder in the depth of your room
The snow outside that we watched coming down/And above all the mad beating of our hearts 

Of the two of us, you were the wiser/You turned the radio up a notch or two
That suited me I admit, I was afraid of silences/And suddenly a song penetrated the air
You whispered two words but I couldn’t hear 

I was lost in my own world/Listening to Sweet Baby James
After a long kiss, you asked, “Do you love me?”/I lied, I wasn’t going to say
That I was listening to Sweet Baby James

I remember my fingers drumming to the tempo/And a chord sequence that gave me a rush
In a moment when I should have been thinking only of your lips/ Only of your burning gaze and honeyed skin

I never said the words you dreamed of hearing/I still remember your long black hair
The length of the hallway when I left you room/The snow-mirror in the December cold
And the strange voice that altered the story

I was lost in my distant moons/Listening to Sweet Baby James
I should have gone back, explained to you/I didn’t mean to hurt you …
But I was listening to Sweet Baby James

 

Peuple des fontaines / People of the Fountains
Lyrics & music: Francis Cabrel

(From the French lyrics)
I entrusted my sorrow to the People of the Fountains/So that one day you might come back and hang on my arm

Sunday and the week are just a chain/Of gray days that never end

Streets where I linger always, always/Always remind me of those fleeting moments
The Rhône or the Seine, Rimbaud or Verlaine/Nothing, no one consoles me

Princes and sovereigns, mere actresses/Like dozens of clumsy lovers
Engraved in the same silly songs/The same sighs in the same places

Streets where I linger always, always/Always remind me of those fleeting moments
The only ones who understand, who know where it leads/Fountains, tell me

You who have heard it all/You who wouldn’t know how to lie
Do they know how to forgive/The beauties for whom we breathe?

Do you see us approaching/Leaning over your sapphire reflections?
Say that we can start over again/Search your memories

I entrusted my pain/To the People of the Fountains
So that one day the sound of your footsteps might lead you back to me

I would give all of Barbara’s Göttingen/All of Leonard Cohen’s Suzannes
For the blessed day when you return

I would give all of Barbara’s Göttingen/All of Leonard Cohen’s Suzannes
For the blessed day when you return

 


One thought on “Francis Cabrel: À l’aube revenant

  1. Very nice feelings that you have perfectly identified. A very popular singer with deep lyrics that need explanations even for french listeners. Thank you!

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