#44: Edith Piaf - "A l'Olympia" (1961)

I have hit the wall. Well and truly, folks. There isn’t any discernible reason as to why I have but so it is - I can’t think of a thing to say about Edith Piaf.

This is not a unique phenomenon. Fiona discusses experiencing it much more eloquently than I can in her take on Graceland. There is a comfort in that but the doomed overachiever in me hates not being able to see something through, especially once I’ve established a track record for it.

There’s plenty to be said about Piaf, of course. From her paradigmatically tragic personal life to her iconic status as the voice of a nation, it’s been said. Like most cinephiles, I’m au fait with La Vie En Rose and Marion Coitillard’s Oscar winning turn. I am sure I have a take on Piaf but it’s not presenting itself as I listen to A l'Olympia '61. Live albums are raw beasts, as they should be. It’s the  best chance to gauge and record what an audience themselves sounded like listening to that performer at that time. And at this time, Piaf was adored.

My French is rudimentary and, as you’ve gathered by now, so is my technical understanding of music. I couldn’t shake the sense of missing out on the wordplay, the banter in between songs. And maybe, just maybe, it's hard to hear your own thoughts above an adoring crowd. Making my way through the dark, I got the feeling of heading over the personal barricades from the brass section playing as if the ship was going down, as well as Piaf’s voice having that paradoxical and magnetic mix of strength and vulnerability, but I felt disconnected from it entirely.

So, yet again my respect for dedicated music critics swells. I am an emotional person, perhaps overly so - I nearly cried today as to how sumptuously round and orange the pumpkin I happened to select was - so when I don’t get any reaction, it usually falls into three explanations. 1) I’m not well. 2) Whatever I’m reviewing isn’t very good. 3) Technical issues in my critical faculties - and that is what’s happening here. It might be a combination of the first two but that isn’t the case just now. How people whose job this is manage, I don’t know.

This isn’t to say that the music is lacking the compatible ports to my feelings - but it didn’t rouse them from their slumber, either. And what do I have to say to that? Take it away, Edith.