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You can ring my Brel

Dead Belgian play the Kazimier Garden this weekend

Written by . Published on August 31st 2012.

You can ring my Brel

FOR a band who make big name play out of the back catalogue of a deceased chanteur, Dead Belgian are more alive than ever

For a couple of years now, the Liverpool group has had a dedicated local following for its arrangements of the Belgian-born singer-songwriter Jacques Brel. But with a studio-recorded CD earning rave reviews and out-of-town engagements pulling in the crowds, Dead Belgian are poised to move on to a new level. 

It's been a long journey for the group, inspired by veteran Liverpool musicians Andy Delamere and Simon James (Wizards of Twiddly etc). But Brel can get people like that: even though he never tackled the English-speaking market his influence can be heard in a whole generation of performers from Leonard Cohen through David Bowie to, well, you name the serious songwriter and Brel will be there is the background. 

The albumThe album

Trouble is, he gave up live performing at the end of the 1960s and died only a decade later. His own performances are intense - have a search on YouTube - but to modern ears the lush string accompaniments just don't sound right. 

Cue Dead Belgian. Gone are the strings, replaced by a four-piece band that seems born for the word ramshackle, despite their obvious professionalism. It's a street band sound, earthy and vital and reconnecting the words of Brel with a modern audience. 

Floating over it all is the voice of Fionnuala Dorrity, switching from French to English with ease as she covers all the favourites. Favourites that is for those who know their Brel - and for those who don't this is the perfect introduction. 

Brel could be witty and amusing, especially in the early years, but as time went by he could become savage and sardonic, often to the jauntiest of melodies. 

Here is a selection of the best, from Madeleine - anyone hear distant echoes of George Formby Leaning on a Lamppost? - to the late and dark masterpiece of Amsterdam, and the band's signature piece, Le Moribond - a far cry from the sanitised and saccharine version by Terry Jacks, Seasons in the Sun,  that gave Brel an English language hit in the mid-1970s. 

* Dead Belgian are playing at the Kazimier Garden in Liverpool on Sunday September 2 from 4pm to 7pm, supported by Nouveau Django. Admission £6.

* Love and Death, the Songs of Jacques Brel, is on the Limefield label, LFCD010

* The band's website is here. www.deadbelgian.com, and their FaceBook page is at www.facebook.com/deadbelgian.

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Darth FormbyAugust 31st 2012.

I have always wanted to hear Leaning on a Lamp Post in the style of Brel. Terry Jacks should have been shot.

I wish there was someone better than Dead Belgian doing Brel songs.

Georges RemiSeptember 1st 2012.

"Belgian-born"? He was Belgian then?

The Kingston TrioSeptember 1st 2012.

HA! Terry Jacks? His record was but a rubbish copy of our 1964 version!

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