Thursday, October 05, 2006

French Soul At Royal Studios: Axelle Red

BUY Jardin Secret by Axelle Red
Belgian soul songstress Axelle Red (real name Fabienne Demal) has released her new album, jardin secret, on October 2nd. It was recorded at Royal Studios, produced by Boo Mitchell, with father Willie Mitchell dropping by to oversee the sessions. I guarantee that if you have been waiting for that new Marti Pellow CD, expecting the next great soulful album, its time to spend your money on this instead.
Axelle & Willie Mitchell
Axelle sings mostly in french on this album, but its worth persevering even if you are not linguistically gifted. You don't need to know all the words to know that this is seriously good music, and a masterful songwriter. Axelle started out as another teen pop sensation in her native Belgium, but quickly proved to her agents that she had her own agenda, and it included exploration of her own musical direction. She travelled to Muscle Shoals in 1995 to record the album a tâtons, and impressed producer Isaac Hayes, Steve Cropper, Richard Hawkins, Willie Weeks and Lester Snell with her talent and committment when she recorded with them. Sadly, Axelle is considering throwing in the towel after this album, disappointed that record companies the world over still only seem to want to promote the 'pretty girl shaking her r&b lite booty' format. Beyoncé and others of talent, take notes.

Listen to a sample of the first single, Temp Pour Nous (Time For Us), and buy it online at i-tunes, or at the link below. It's about people needing more time to love each other more. There are samples of other tracks from the album at Axelle's website here. They range from Fruit Défendu, a funky come hither number in English, to Changer ma vie, a more classically French song, and it is the fusion of soul instrumentation and musical themes with French conventions which makes Axelle's songwriting work so interesting. Yesterday, I watched Axelle live on a webconcert from Belgium, playing with her touring band, including Bar-Kays (and now MGs) drummer Steve Potts and once again Lester Snell on keyboards. She isn't a soul shouter by any means, but tries to inject her vocals with soul feeling while retaining the lyrical, poetic bent that is integral to French pop. The result sounds like few other French songs do. As a rough idea, Carole King is one songwriting reference that Axelle herself alludes to.

For a limited time, the blog filles souries is hosting the song Papillion (Butterfly) from the album, which you can also hear a clip of here. A soft and sweet ballad about intimacy, it stunned me into silence!

All of Axelle Red's more soulful albums are available on i-tunes, and at her website, including jardin secret, a tâtons, and French Soul: The Best Of Axelle Red. Information used here from Willie Mitchell's Royal Studios website, Axelle Red's website and the Belgian Pop & Rock Archives.

P.S. Ma copine (soul transl. 'My Cherie Amour') has reminded me that Axelle sang a song, Manhattan-Kaboul, with French folk pop star Renaud, who is her favourite songwriter. I think she wants you to buy Renaud records too now you all love French pop. That would be a good thing.

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