Serge Gainsbourg, A La Maison de la Radio, (Digger’s Factory)

For the past few years, buried within the layers and layers of overpriced trash flooding the bins on Record Store Day have been some wonderful archival Gainsbourg releases. These are essentially the Francophile equivalent of Dylan’s bootleg series or Neal Young’s recent flood of lost releases and live footage, and here we have a Live At The Roxy for Serge freaks only. There are different levels of Gainsbourg dedication, and if you’re on my level then you’ve already exhausted the better-known latter-day “spoken word” classics and have zeroed right in on the less-appreciated, but in many ways better, early chanson albums where we find our boy actually crooning (he had a great voice pre-gitanes-and-Crown Royal damage), documenting disaffected metro-workers and doomed love affairs in brutal detail, and  grooving on everything from free-jazz to big band swing to African percussion. This was a clean-cut and fresh-faced Serge, before Jane and Bardot and television talk show buffoonery, wary and humble like he would never be again. If you’ve skipped over Gainsbourg’s first six records then it’s time to rewind, my friend, and this “live on the radio” record works as the perfect cap to this buried era. Culled from two Maison de la Radio sessions in ’64 and ’66, right before Serge first started blowing up into his epochal era in the technicolor latter-’60s, this well-curated disc features tight, terse renditions of classics from this period including a pounding, almost punk “Le Rock de Nerval”, a definitive reading of “La Javanaise” where Serge somehow comes off both heartbroken and swaggering, and future Air-cover “Le Talkie Walkie”. We also get a rare live airing of jazzy No 4 classic “Intoxicated Man”, a “coolest dude ever doing cool-ass shit” moment that can raise the hair on the necks of those in the know.