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Friday, 15 August 2014

Friday's French music break - Les Prêtres, "Écris l'histoire"

Often a cover version of a song is a simple repetition of what went before; pleasant enough in its own way but not really offering anything more than the original.

Sometimes - as in the case of Coeur de Pirate's recent remake of Renaud's  "Mistral gagnant" - there's a little extra - either in the voice, the interpretation or arrangement.

And then there are the covers that fall so far short of what came first, it's almost an embarrassment to listen to, let alone write about, them.

Such is the case with this week's Friday's French music break - Les Prêtres with "Écris l'histoire".

Originally, the song was recorded in 2005 by the late Grégory Lemarchal, whose career was cut short just two years later when, at 23, he died of complications from the genetic condition  cystic fibrosis.

Love him or loathe him, there's no denying that Lemarchal, who won the fourth edition of the now defunct TV talent show Star Academy, had an exceptional voice, managing to reach those notes that defy many a singer as you can hear, for example, on the B-side of the single.

It's a cover version of "SOS d'un terrien en détresse" written by  Michel Berger and Luc Plamondon for the 1978 musical "Starmania" and originally interpreted by Daniel Balavoine.

Grégory Lemarchal (screenshot from 2006 single "Même si" - What you're made of - duet with Lucie Silvas)

Enough "scene setting".

Back to Les Prêtres.

As the name of the group suggests, this "boy's band with a difference", if you will, is the French equivalent of the similarly-named Irish group The Priests.

In 2010, the Bishop of Gap, Jean-Michel di Falco, was having a brainstorming session with close friend and singer-songwriter  Didier Barbelivien, as to how to raise funds for a school in  Madagascar and the construction of a church in his diocese.

Inspired by the success of The Priests, the Bishop went about recruiting three likely candidates - Jean-Michel Bardet, Charles Troesch and Joseph Dinh Nguyen Nguyen - allowing Barbelivien to handle negotiations with TF1 musique

Les Prêtres, left to right, Jean-Michel Bardet, Charles Troesch and Joseph Dinh Nguyen Nguyen (collage of screenshots from official video "Ecris l'histoire")
The first album "Spiritus Dei" complete with cover versions of French standards, was a runaway success, topping the charts for nine weeks and in the process becoming the biggest-selling album of 2010 in France.

TV appearances and concerts followed, as did a second album "Gloria" in 2011 - the trio once again putting their own "special" vocal touch to some French pop songs and throwing a few ecclesiastic and classic tunes into the mix.

Another top selling album.

Finally - and not before time, some might say - their very last (and appropriately entitled?) album "Amen" in 2014, from which "Écris l'histoire" is taken.

The song is the trio's tribute to Lemarchal to mark the 10th anniversary of the Star Academy victory which launched his career.

"His whole story touched me," Troesch said in a recent interview.

"Seeing someone who greatly influenced a generation dying from a disease that still doesn't have a cure - it's a tragedy."

Their intentions (or rather those of their management) might well have been honourable, but the rendition is...well cheesy and cringe-worthy.

And just for good measure, the official video to accompany the song, borrows heavily on one produced by the French "shoegazing" (Internet search time, but basically it appears to be "a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged from the United Kingdom in the late 1980s - trust the French to be bang up to date) band Alcest for their 2012 single "Autre temps".

Take a fast forward look at both (click on the links provided) and you'll see that,  as has been pointed out in many comments on YouTube, there's an uncanny resemblance, although the video from Les Prêtres is less dark, more "uplifting" and well...judge for yourself.

Best of luck!

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