Jacques Brel is alive and well — at least in album production.
Twenty-five years after his passing, Brel again looks headed to the upper reaches of the French music charts with a new 16-disc retrospective that bowed Sept. 23 and a double-disc compilation “Brel Infiniment,” released Sept. 30 on the Barclay Universal label. The two sets even contain five new songs.
Brel’s emblematic “Ne me quitte pas” has been sung by a multitude of performers, from Nina Simone and Sting — in French no less — to Frank Sinatra, Dusty Springfield and Ray Charles, who performed the English version “If You Go Away.” Brel continues to have a cult following in the French-speaking world.
But not everyone is happy that the new songs are being released.
Gallic music mogul Eddie Barclay, who originally published Brel’s songs on his Barclay record label, claims Brel didn’t want the recordings made available because he felt the songs needed more work. He died in 1978 before he was able to finish them.
“I think he would have been furious about this sort of exhumation and its stench of commercialism,” Barclay told the French daily Le Figaro on Sept. 23.
Brel’s last album, in 1977, sold 650,000 copies on its first day of release.