from Denis Valerga
The youngest of the ‘Valerga Brothers’singing duo, Denis has just released an album which he has called ‘Naked Songs’. The album comes when he has recently turned seventy. The title might suggest an idea that these are a collection of stripped back basic tunes with little other than a simple melody and guitar or piano backing. How wrong you would be- this very musical collection is bursting at the seams with rich orchestrations and multi-instrumental soundscapes in which Denis as an excellent musician and producer is in his element. He makes no secret that his leanings in song writing are inspired by the late great Leonard Cohen and this album sits squarely in that genre of musical poetry.
We discover well observed lyrics about loves lost, ladies of the night, the backdrop of war and seedy tavernas with sweat beds, and allthose give life to a collection of songs of passion, regret and beauty, with palpable musical evidence that the writer has poured his heart into each song in his compositions.His captivating fragile vocals are endearing to listen to as he has managed to retain a very youthful voice. These are all introspective songs so don’t be expecting bouncy disco commercial pap. These tunes and lyrics deserve to be enjoyed with a glass or two of wine in subdued lighting and a reading of the lyrics as the rich music pours out of the speakers or better still, immersive headphones. There are ten songs in the CD and I have noted my observations on half dozen of them for fans,lovers of art and sweet music, to unravel further when they listen.
‘Annabelle’ opens the album … an oldflame from the heady London days of 1969. A mournful cello chases the melody and dispels any notion of songs ‘naked’ of music accompaniment.It suggests other naked forms locked in embrace. The second track on the album is called ‘I will always love you’. It’s a tender love song, fragile and majestic in equal measure. This one is anthemic in its scope and very engaging grandeur. Track 6 ‘The last time I saw You,’ opens with a plucked acoustic guitar in a wash of echo and nostalgia. It suggests an abrupt ending to a love affair where… ‘You win your body and lose your soul’. There is a great sax solo by DJamal Ma Ad in this song which lifts it out of the rich musical tapestry. I had to come back to this one a few times…great stuff.
At the other end of the album there is a song which speaks about a tattooed former prisoner of war who seeks love. This one is called ‘Lovers on the Run’ (Trk 9) and is very much in Leonard Cohen inspired territory. It notably features some exotic eastern string instruments which are prominent in the mixand which Denis as a multi-instrumentalist, has nailed the execution and tone of.‘The Oldest Trade’ (Trk 10) opens with beautiful pianofrom keyboard wizard Brian Torres… its motto‘drink dance and make love’…Set just before WW2, It neatly develops into a slow Jazzy swing and proclaims that the oldest trade still survives ‘somewhere in a sweat bed.’ ‘The Final Bow’(Trk 3) is thestory of a dance legend who gives upthe stageand the lyric harks at days of decadence in a bombed out Berlin amiddestroyed cabarets and shattered dreams, while a bluesey guitar wailsin reply aftersome of the lines are sung. A beautifully structured andcompelling song.
‘La Chanson des Vieux Amants’ (Trk 4)as the French title suggestsis romantic and is alsocompelling in musical format. Beautiful cascading chords, a piano and violin help evoke a love song that is perhaps far too sophisticated for a Parisian tavern and also far from being a ‘naked song’ as it competes very keenly with the othersongs in this album.Denis puts on his best schoolboy French for this vocal.
If you know Denis and his music you know that you want this in your collection.He has told me that he has a backlog of songs which he wants to release soon…enough for five albums, but that is a story for another day. The proceeds of this album will be entirely devoted to the localCat Welfare Society as we all know Denis Valerga is a well-known cat lover.Contact Denis via his Facebook for more details and a copy of this fine album of (not) ‘Naked Songs’. I love the album title though.