Thursday, November 16, 2006

 

The King Of Belgium

Next week sees the release of the eagerly awaited 'Orphans' Tom Waits 3 disc box set, those of you that appreciate his gravelly tones could do a lot worse than checking out Arno. Born in the Flemish port of Ostend longer ago than he probably wishes to remember, Arno the greatest blues singer from the Belgium Delta has graced us with many an interesting album since his 1986 debut under his own name. His recording career dates back to 1972 as a member of the group Freckleface followed by Tjens Counter and T.C. Matic. Arno has proved to be as difficult an artist to categorise as he has been to control by his various record companies. An accomplished keyboard player and songwriter he is as at home in both his native language as he is in French or English. Maybe what has held him back from larger international success is his love of the bottle, for which I can testify having spent a few nights in Montpellier working behind the bar when along comes Arno through the darkness of the night to help me prop up the bar until the early hours as we share a few glasses and some small talk, truly a great chap!

To give you a good idea of what he sounds like I'm posting four of my favorite songs of his that represent differing styles and periods of his solo career. 'Putain Putain' is an old favorite of mine, I'm not sure that it received a great deal of radio play, due to it's title, shame really as in retrospect it's still a great song almost with shades of industrial and post punk. As already mentioned Arno feels very much at home in different tongues the previous song being a mixture of French and English where as 'Les Filles du bord du Mer' is 100% French and I must say all the better for it, mixing classic chanson with 1920's style Berlin cabaret with great results. As with many artists from time to time they bow down to record company pressure to chase that ever elusive cross over hit, on 'Whoop That Thing' Arno does just that with a slice of funk disco that is nothing to be ashamed of. 'Ils Ont Changé Ma Maison' is in fact a bi-lingual cover version of the old Melanie song, I'll let you discover which one for yourself, which I think illustrates to great effect Arno's voice. This is not the only song that he has covered to good effect, his version of 'Little Red Rooster' is a must, but for this one you're just going to have to buy his albums! Recommended listening for beginners would be the 2000 compilation 'Le Best Of' and should you wish to see the artist on stage I can vouch for the quality of the DVD 'Arno Live In Brussels' so you won't have to leave your living room or wait for him to visit your town or country.

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