Léonie – En Alabama / Wahala Manitou (1971)
France. Unlike our last entry, Léonie has a slightly extensive career based on singles, film themes and also as an actress/model in the 70’s. Nevertheless, it remains a little-known singer outside its country; to our surprise, she is backed by a top-notch team of composers (Cristophe, Jean Claude Vannier), lyricists (Étienne Roda–Gil) and arrangers (Karl Heinz Schäfer, Jean Claude Vannier).
This first single count on the participation of mythical Vannier only in A side, the arrangements here are from another great maestro: Karl Heinz Schäfer a German settled in France. In future entries, we will see other works (with or without Léonie) that I consider the greatest French pop arranger from all time!
Let’s know a little more about him.
A vitally important figure on the French music scene, Jean Claude Vannier is best known for the work he’s done with other people, but his list of collaborators is stellar, and includes Serge Gainsbourg, Michel Legrand, Johnny Hallyday, Jane Birkin, Mort Shuman, Françoise Hardy, Sylvie Vartan, and many more!
Vannier was born in 1943 in Courbevoie. A self-taught musician, he began playing the piano when he was 18, and learned the basics of arranging and orchestration from reading a book in the Que Sais-Je? (What Do I Know?) series of instruction manuals (!). A meeting with flutist Roger Bourdin led to a job working at the Pathé Marconi recording studio, where he was an assistant/session musician, and soon put his skills to work writing and arranging material for pop singers Alice Dona / Michel Magne.
By the early ’70s, Vannier was one of the top arrangers and studio players in French pop music, composing and orchestrating Serge Gainsbourg’s La Histoire de Melody Nelson, Jane Birkin’s Di Doo Dah, Françoise Hardy’s Message Personnel, and dozens of other recordings of note. Vannier also enjoyed a successful career writing music for films, movie scores, television, theatre, and conductor projects.
In 1972, he recorded his first solo album, an eccentric avant-garde instrumental song cycle titled L’Enfant Assassin des Mouches, the album went unreleased for years but became an underground legend thanks to the distribution of a handful of promo copies, and finally received an official release in 2003. Vannier continued to record in a more traditional singer/songwriter fashion through the ’70s and ’80s, and as French pop gained a new audience among record collectors and tastemakers, Vannier’s work slowly began to find an appreciative audience in the United States.
Lately, he released two albums stateside: Electro Rapide, a collection of unreleased recordings from the ’60s and ’70s, and Roses Rouge Sang, his first studio recording of new material since 1990! Check out an interview with the master in 2011.
Let’s go to our album:
Léonie Lousseau (Martine Collet), was born on 8 May 1947, Saint-Malo. She went to high school in Vitry, where her parents lived, and then studied Arts and Music at Sèvres University. We must emphasize the work that our friend from Hero Culte already made, trying to track down every scarce info about Léonie, little of what was written here about her was done by them, ok?!
Besides the two songs, we will add a beautiful extra track present on ‘Les Gants Blancs du Diable’ OST (1973), composed and conducted once more by Karl Heinz Schäfer.
Let’s embark once again in the b-side world of chanson française, dáccord?
A En Alabama (J.C. Vannier, S. Poitrenaud)
B Wahala Manitou (Cristophe, E. Roda-Gil)
Bonus Track: Couleurs (K.H. Schäfer)
- Arranged by: K.H. Schäfer and Cristophe (B)
- Design: Studio Beaugendre/Lassemblée
- Photography: Tony Frank
- Producer: Christophe, T. Vincent
- Recorded: J.C. Charvier
- Distributed: Discodis
- Made in France
Released: 30 September 1971
Les Disques Motors – MT 4014