Les Rita Mitsouko

1998: Delabel 724384271121

  1. Nuit d’Ivresse
  2. Andy
  3. Stupid Anyway
  4. Marcia Baila
  5. Ailleurs (avec Princess Erika)
  6. Les Histoires d’A.
  7. Les Consonnes
  8. Les Amants
  9. Riche (avec Doc Gyneco)
  10. Y’a d’la Haine
  11. Cheres Petites
  12. La Taille du Bambou
  13. C’est Comme Ça

It took many, many playings of this CD for me to appreciate what a classy achievement it is beyond simply being a fun “unplugged” concert, and I think it was the later album with the Orchestre Lamoureux that gave me the perspective I needed to revisit this one properly.

That it’s a strong and intimately-scaled concert is clear, especially on headphones, and with the exception of one obvious vocal overdub on “Riche” it appears to be impressively well-executed live by all involved. The orchestration is limited only in a literal sense, achieving superb range and depth throughout (and in the process providing a delicious new cozy setting for some of these songs).

Catherine Ringer delivers enchantingly, only straining or screeching at arguably appropriate points (“Les Amants” having suffered badly in its original appearance that way, it’s much better here if not quite wail-free), and guest singers Doc Gyneco and Princesse Erika are well-chosen tangents on their “duets” (the former’s being more of a bounced-back-and-forth rap, whereas the latter really does present the singers together and ends with Princesse Erika nailing a final high note I didn’t think she’d make).

The three songs here I didn’t know from previous albums—“Les Consonnes,” “Riche,” and “La Taille du Bambou”—were individually intriguiging by their sound alone, but it took me a long time to get around to attempting to translate or even recognize their lyrics. Having recently found the latter at, I now have a fresh appreciation for those three tracks and a much better comprehension of them (“Les Consonnes” is probably the most profound and symbolist, “Riche” is pretty straightforward and droll, and “La Taille du Bambou” seems to be pretty deftly sensuous if not just raunchy).

In all tracks here, one thing is consistent: the lyrics are clearer and more central than they are in most of the songs’ original album versions, and the songs stand up to this setting nicely. I don’t know how Catherine & Fred feel about this album, but I give it a fond caress now and very much enjoy playing it through from time to time. There’s a feeling here of it being a casual appearance at friends’ parties or at a private event at a very cool Parisian neighborhood café, albeit a bit more rehearsed than that, and at times the magic of the musical moment is deliriously transcendent to hear.