BWW CD Review: Isabelle Georges OH LA LA! Is Tres Magnifique For Everyone, Not Just The Francophiles
People who are not indigenous to France (or who have not, at least, lived there for a significant amount of time) are most likely to have the wrong impression of the phrase "Oh la la" when they hear it. Much of the time, people think it is "Ooh la la" and that it means something is sexy. To the French "Oh la la" is more like "Wow" or "Oh my god" and it can have vastly different meanings, depending on the context.
French singing actress Isabelle Georges has released a CD titled "Oh La La!" that is the companion piece to her 2019 cabaret show and, here, the phrase "Oh la la" has more than one meaning.
WOW, this is a great CD. From start to finish, there is not one song that has not been arranged, orchestrated, conducted and performed as though it were not created especially for Isabelle Georges. A true original and one of the most exciting performers on any continent, Ms. Georges is the sort of artist for whom composers and lyricists create works of art. Imagine the days of Gershwin or Berlin, Porter or Coward - this is an artist one imagines would receive a message from one of the greats saying, "I've written a song for you" and, upon hearing her sing it, they would murmur "Wow." It is impossible to listen to "Oh La La!" without saying to yourself, "Wow."
OMG, this CD is full of surprises, not the least of which is how captivating Isabelle Georges is. It is difficult to capture, on an album, the excitement of seeing a performing artist live, but her musical director Sebastiaan Koolhoven has recreated a CD version of her show that represents the experience of Georges in action, sadly without the tap dancing, but happily with the bold style of Ms. Georges' couture, plainly visible in Francois Darmigny's breathtaking photography on the CD booklet. Think of the singers who have put out great album art and CD packaging, singers like Sarah Brightman, who never disappoints when creating a visual feast to go along with the audible one - that is what Mlle. Georges and graphic designer Fabrice Trillat have accomplished with Mr. Darmigny's photographs. Flipping through the booklet while listening to Georges & co. perform Herculean feats of musical majesty is akin to a 14-course meal, as, repeatedly, you say to yourself, "I know this song... What IS this song? It's THAT song! OMG!"
There is, though, a definition of "Oh la la" that will actually sneak up on you. It's disguised by the fact that Isabelle Georges is a French woman, singing in French (mostly) on her latest disc. It's hidden in plain sight. You will be listening to this album, enjoying the musical artistry, and you will find yourself humming along, singing in English because you know an English version of a tune, singing in French because a song is so famous that everyone knows the original lyrics, and you will say to yourself, "I can't believe she never sang this before." Maybe a song or two later, you will think, "This can't be the first time she recorded this." By the third time it happens and you exclaim, "How can this French girl have gone so long without singing this song?!" There it is. There is the point to the album "Oh La La!" Isabelle Georges, one of France's greatest singing actresses of the theatrical, cabaret, and concert stages is singing some of the most famous songs associated with French music... on an album titled "Oh La La!"
On this CD, you will hear the works of Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel, Gilbert Becaud, Charles Trenet, Louiguy & Monnot, and the great Edith Piaf. You will hear songs so famous, so French, and so fantastic as to leave you in a stunned state of shock over Georges' musical storytelling. Every inch the chanteuse, Isabelle Georges creates visuals for the mind that transcend any language barrier that may exist between her and the listener, singing in her native tongue, in English, and in Yiddish, as she paints pictures as vivid as those presented when she performs "Oh La La!" on the stage. One need not be a Francophile to listen to, to enjoy, a French singer. One need not understand French to buy, to listen to Ms. Georges' album. All one need be is a lover of quality musical storytelling and impeccable music: those criteria met, the listener is ready to go. With a voice like rolling, crashing oceanic wives, and interpretive skills that boggle the mind, Isabelle Georges takes the listener on a deep dive into well-known songs like "Ne Me Quitte Pas" and "Le Temps" that will open the eyes and the mind. She reinvents "La Vie En Rose" and preserves "Mon Emouvant Amour," and her performance of "Au Suivant" leaves one in a state of emotional dishabille, and all of it backed up by the magnificent City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Adam Klemens. This is a CD with exceptional production values from each person named in the acknowledgments - clearly Ms. Georges has worked hard to gather around her the team that best fits her aesthetic and artistic mission. In her hands and those of her colleagues, this CD is a musical journey so replete, so unique, so satisfying that, afterward, you may feel the urge to have a Gauloises and, frankly, you probably should.
Heavens To Betsy is NOT one of the translations of Oh la la... but Heaven is Isabelle should be.
Isabelle Georges Oh La La! Is a 2019 release on the Encore Music Label and is available on iTunes, Apple Music, Youtube Music, Spotify and at the Isabelle Georges WEBSITE