Self-indulgent chameleon or master of artistic disguise? By all means, Nino Ferrer proved himself to be ever the "homme a tout faire" (jack of all trades) he agitatedly sang about in his theme song to the French television series Agence Interim. Ferrer was a late bloomer of the French yé-yé movement, with a legacy not as widely known as that of Jacques Dutronc or Michel Polnareff. However, his artistic trade should be viewed in the same vein: an eclectic brew of equal parts goofing around, subversive thinking, and pop genius. Ferrer was born in 1934 to a French father and an Italian mother, and a considerable part of his preteen years was spent under the stress of World War II. While his father was mining the far parts of the world in New Caledonia, in 1939 Ferrer and his mother found themselves stuck after a holiday in a hostile Italy. Reunited after the war, he grew up in a culturally stimulating environment. As a student of ethnology and archaeology, Ferrer developed a fondness for jazz and learned to play several instruments. Returning to Paris from a trip around the world, he decided to become a professional musician. Starting out as a hired hand in the capital's jazz circles, he was employed by bandleader Richard Bennett and later worked for American singer Nancy Holloway. After quite a few misfires, his big break came unexpectedly with the EP Mirza in 1965. Apart from its biting lyrics, it stood out for an ecstatic organ bridge, played in one take by Bernard Estardy. Ferrer had befriended Estardy -- nicknamed "Le Baron" -- at college. Their creative but sometimes tense relationship enabled them to cook up several more successful EPs and the Southern soul-styled debut album Enrégistrement Public. Hearing the likes of Otis Redding had been a revelation to Ferrer; he even took his love for soul music as far as to proclaim a desire to be black on the album's opening track. As a result, Ferrer soon found himself uncomfortably stuck with an eccentric image similar to that of Dutronc. Being ten years the senior to most other yé-yé stars, he was equally unhappy with the show business treadmill of nearly 200 live performances in 1966. Ferrer decided to flee his popularity for Italy, where for several years he co-hosted the television variety show Lo, Agata e Tu with Raffaella Carrá (famed for 1977's European disco smash "A Far l'Amore Comincia Tu"). At the same time, he continued to release a string of increasingly cynical, at times politicized EPs (Mao et Moa, Le Roi de L'Angleterre). The wacky but irresistibly groovy Le Téléfon was a success in 1967 even outside of France. In 1970 Ferrer returned to France, where he started working on what he perceived as his first "real" album. Serving brooding prog rock accompanied by more personal lyrics, Métronomie was again co-created with Estardy. Though the album went nowhere commercially, its not-so-representative leadoff track, "La Maison Près de la Fontaine," proved a huge mainstream success in France. This apparently irritated Ferrer, whose growing contempt for show business led him to view it as the umpteenth misconception of his artistic vision. In 1973 he found an ally in guitarist Mickey Finn. Together they started the group Leggs, who would accompany Ferrer on several albums from this point onward. On these he would switch directions many times: from rock & roll to gospel and from prog rock to laid-back funk. The latter style made up most of 1974's Nino and Radiah, which included another fruitful Estardy collaboration in the song Ferrer is best remembered for in France: "Le Sud." Over half a dozen more albums followed in the next 20 years, but their mixed reviews made Ferrer retire to family life and painting with ever greater intervals. A few days away from his 64th birthday, he dramatically ended his life by shooting himself in the heart in a corn field not far removed from the castle he had bought from the royalties of "Le Sud."
© Quint Kik /TiVo
© Quint Kik /TiVo
28 albums sorted by Most acclaimed
Narrow my search
Pop - Released January 1, 2004 | Universal Music Division Barclay
Deeply influenced by R&B and his years spent alongside Nancy Holloway, Nino Ferrer acknowledges his debt with this album. Like so many other French artists of that period, he covers some American hits, adding lyrics of his own. In particular, James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" and the classic "Nobody Knows You (When You're Down and Out)," respectively, become "Si Tu M'Aimes Encore" and "Le Millionnaire." However, it should be noted that Ferrer is conscious of his limitations. On the opener "Je Veux Etre Noir" (I want to be Black), he humbly asks Ray Charles, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, and B.B. King what is their secret. Moreover, he should not be strictly considered a copycat for he has too much respect and love for R&B music. His voice also has enough grit to give the songs the necessary soulfulness. Musically, the songs appropriately feature some nice Hammond B-3 accents and are supported by a spirited horn section. The lyrics can be very facetious and nonsensical and they contributed to Ferrer's sudden success, but also wrongly cast him as a humorist, a reputation he would have a hard time shaking off later on. © Alain Drouot /TiVo
French Music - Released January 1, 2013 | Universal Music Division Barclay
Taking into account Nino Ferrer's personal view of his discography, the album Nino and Radiah should be perceived as his third album (although chronologically this was in fact number seven). It followed the prog rock approach of 1971's Métronomie and the rock & roll leanings of the Mickey Finn collaboration Nino Ferrer & Leggs from 1973. The album is partly named after Afro-American singer Radiah Frye, and her pinup presence flanking Ferrer substantially upgraded the original album cover. Accompanied by the Lafayette Afro Rock Band (aka Ice), Ferrer set out on yet another shape-shifting exercise. Building on the groovy vibe of Métronomie, the album ultimately steers toward majestically orchestrated, laid-back funk. Entirely different from his earlier take on Southern soul, the result requires several listenings before it gently entangles your subconscious and reveals its addictive qualities. Reminiscent of the New Orleans-inspired funk of Little Feat and California singer/songwriters from the same era, it's perfect company for driving the French countryside or West Coast highways. It was recorded in November 1973 and sung in English with one exception. Ferrer's longtime accomplice Bernard Estardy rearranged the track "South," adding some widescreen organ touches. The resulting "Le Sud" had huge commercial appeal, much to the chagrin of Ferrer: he felt the artistic compromise of aiming at chart success had rendered everything else on the album pointless in a similar way to what had happened previously to Métronomie and its leadoff track, "La Maison Près de la Fontaine." However, the royalties did enable him to buy a 15th century fortress in the Quercy region, where he would retreat between albums and divide his time between his family and painting. "Le Sud"/"South" refers to a Louisiana-style mansion situated in Italy: a pleasant and idyllic place where the moody Ferrer seeks refuge from his dark side. Both versions serve as bookends to the album, which works best as a whole. Still, standout tracks are the funky "Mint Julep" (a relative of the Mojito cocktail) with its fuzzy guitar and the lengthy but mesmerizing "Hot Toddy." "The Garden" with its lazy organ and the bongo-laden "New York" sound fairly close to what the French band Air would build an entire career on. Remaining a relatively undiscovered gem, Nino and Radiah is in fact up there with classics like Melody Nelson and Polnareff's. [This CD release of the album adds the slightly disappointing, less coherent follow-up album Suite en Oeuf and unfortunately sports a different album cover.] © Quint Kik /TiVo
News feed Prev. Next
yesterday Qobuz | Yello: Still on Point
Fri Qobuz | Throwing Muses - Sun RacketThu Qobuz | Keith Urban broadens his horizonsWed Qobuz | DUCKWRTH, A SuperGood Album?
Tue Qobuz | Bronson Bronson BronsonMon Qobuz | Marilyn Manson's Self ReflectionFri Qobuz | Artemis: The Jazz Goddesses
Thu Qobuz | Bruce Hornsby: Non-Secure ConnectionWed Qobuz | The Flaming Lips: Sunset Youth in OklahomaTue Qobuz | Igor Levit Lock-down Recital