Lara Fabian: Best Of

Lara Fabian is often seen as a sort of junior Céline Dion. They both entered the 1988 Eurovision song contest and both were pretty unknown before that. They both appeared for countries they weren’t resident in: Dion for Switzerland, Fabian for Luxembourg. Dion won, Fabian came fourth. Where Dion actually is Quebécoise, Belgian-born Fabian moved to Canada in 1991 and subsequently achieved success there, which led to her breakthrough in France. Both Dion and Fabian have been exposed to the non-Francophone world through soundtracks (Fabian’s 'Que Dieu Aide Les Exclus' was heard on the international version of Disney’s Hunchback Of Notre Dame in 1996). More recently, she’s recorded a version of 'The Prayer' with Michael Bolton – Dion made her duet of this with Andrea Bocelli in 1998. But there are massive differences – Fabian has studied music, writes much of her own material and there’s no René Angelil-like figure behind her rise.
Issued earlier this month in France, this double CD will have been a big-ticket Christmas item. The English-language 'I Will Love Again' will be familiar. Even though it barely scraped into the British charts in 1999, it charted pretty high in America. But France is her prime market – 1997’s 'Pure' album shifted over two million on the other side of la manche.
Mostly sequenced chronologically, 'Best of Lara Fabian' picks up the story in 1994, with a couple of tracks ('Tu T'en Vas', "Si Tu M'aimes") from her breakthrough album 'Carpe Diem'. There's nothing earlier here and 'Best Of Lara Fabian' is exactly what it says it is, there's no digging. Beyond the two previously-unreleased tracks 'On S’aimerait Tout Bas' and the not-great 'Ensemble' (a duet with Ray Charles that must have been recorded before 2004, when Charles died), everything collected is familiar. This shiny stuff can veer towards being too glutinous, and songs like the yearning 'Tout' could have been sung by Michael Bolton if he were French, female and grounded in a different style of music. Unlike Dion, Fabian is not prone to oversinging, wringing every last drop out. Her own 'Pas Sans Toi' is attractive, sparsely arranged. But Alice Dona and Serge Lama’s 'Je Suis Malade' is harder to take, a bit too close to Dion for comfort. The dance pop of 'I Will Love Again' is still hard to resist. 'Je Me Souviens', with its orchestrated ebb and flow, is a winner too. But the silky-smooth and shuffling orchestrated arrangement of Barbara’s 'Gottingen' removes all the power from the lyrics (and sports some peculiarly out-of-place trip hop beats). It's great having all this in one place, but those looking to dig deeper for the less-immediate Lara Fabian should use this as an entry point only.
© Kieron Tyler