In 1995, Mick Harvey put out his first album of Serge Gainsbourg songs. This is not an easy process to do because Gainsbourg's lyrics are very tricky to do in English. There are many layers of puns, jokes, and something meanings in his songs. Very textural work, and it takes a master to translate the lyrics from French to English. Harvey does the job swell, as well as my translator for the Gainsbourg biography I published (TamTam Books) by Gilles Verlant. Paul Knobloch catches the layers as well. But here we concentrate on Harvey's album of Gainsbourg tunes.
Gainsbourg as a songwriter, singer, arranger is a vast canvas. Harvey doesn't just focus on the hits here on 'Intoxicated Man," but also the 'deep cuts' of this songwriter. Also Harvey, perhaps due to his lifetime association with the world of Nick Cave, he automatically has a sense of sophistication. So Harvey matching up with Gainsbourg is a great fit. A wonderful introduction to the world of Serge's songs, but also the French Jazz/Pop culture as well.
Harvey has done five Gainsbourg albums, and "Intoxicated Man" is his first of the series. The hits are here as well as some of the more obscure songs - but the Bardot/Gainsbourg combination is well represented with "Ford Mustang," "Bonnie & Clyde," and "Harley Davidson." Harvey stays close to the song's purpose and melody, but he adds his own unique arrangements to the works here. This is very much of an album by a musician who is quite talented, perhaps brilliant as an arranger. I have always imagined that Harvey was Cave's music director in The Bad Seeds, and here he uses his talent in that sense by the selection of the songs, but their production/arrangement as well. Exceptional work. I can't imagine any Gainsbourg fan would find fault in these recordings. There's not a bad cut here because Harvey is an excellent editor and a man of great taste.