The monumental songwriting prowess of Jacques Brel has traditionally been far too clever for the non-French-speaking masses to care. Even in English. According to the sophisticated French-speaking masses, the translations are a travesty. Not always so. In the devoted, talented hands of Elvis lyricist Mort Shuman, adaptor of the bulk of the songs on this compilation, they pack a heavyweight lyrical punch rarely experienced in the comparatively feeble 'rock' lexicon.
This belated sequel to 2002's triple-album retrospective Love God Murder features 18 songs that might easily have fitted under one or another of that set's individual headings. Not, perhaps, "Murder"—the only death here is that of the Native American hero of Peter LaFarge's "Ballad Of Ira Hayes", a war hero allowed to fall into alcoholism and ignominy after he'd helped raise that iconic flag at Iwo Jima—but certainly "Love" and "God".
It's a neat concept, seeing how a particular culture regurgitated Los Beatles. Portugal emerges as a tryer: chap singing through his forehead on "I'll Follow The Sun", "When I'm 64" played on a wasp, a total botch made of "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" (which is bollocks anyway, to be fair) and a surprisingly loose grasp of rhythm all round. But, occasionally, Portugal triumphs: an atmospheric "Blackbird", a surfing "I'll Get You" and a delightful fado reading of "Hey Jude" taken at a canter on the pretty Portuguese guitarra.