Edith Piaf (1915-1963) was an unexpected artist, the child of a part-time prostitute and a circus acrobat, raised in a brothel, singing on street corners for pennies in Paris--until 1935, when her success at the famous Paris nightspot Gernys launched her to what would become international stardom. Notorious for her many ill-starred love affairs, attacked as a Nazi sympathizer during the French occupation, belatedly defended as a member of the French Resistance, self-destructing through alcohol and drugs, she proved as unexpected in her personal life as in her talents--but whatever the lady's personal failings, no one can fault her talents. She is, quite simply, the sound of the soul of France.
Unless you speak French you may find the idea of purchasing songs sung in French a little off-putting. I myself speak what you might call "hotel French"--which is to say handful of standard phrases that would get me through in a pinch. When I listen to Piaf I occasionally understand a term here and there, but the specific meaning of the words escape me. But this no hindrance at all. Piaf has a passion that truly transcends the limits of language. No one need tell you that her tone is ironic; no one need tell you that the song is about poverty, lost love, a plea to God; it is there, it is inescapable. Her voice has the delicacy and strength of a steel wire, alternating sharp and flat tones in a uniquely French style, setting forth a meticulously rolled "r" in such a way as to give you chills and flying into a series of electrifying vibratos that are unique in all of music.
Although it would take a box set to do this artist justice, THE VOICE OF THE SPARROW is a very nice introduction to eighteen of Piaf's most famous songs. In a general sense, Piaf typically sang love songs--and had an uncanny ability to shift from bright to dark tones, allowing the listener to feel a dozen different shades of each emotion that colors any single selection. Be it the internationally celebrated "La Vie en Rose," the intense "Mon Dieu," the defiant "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rein" or the super-sophisticated "T'es Beau, Tu Sais," once Piaf adopted a song it became hers alone; every other rendition seems pale in comparison. Sadly, the recordings on this CD have not been remastered--but it doesn't really matter. For one who could escape the limitations of language it is hardly difficult to leap the boundaries of recording technology with the sound of the heart.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
on December 27, 2000
"The Voice of the Sparrow" is an excellent compilation of Edith Piaf songs. This French torch singer from the 1940's who sang of prostitutes, love and the Paris slums has a strong, powerful voice as is evident in such songs as "Milord", "Comme Moi", "Hymne à L'Amour" and "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien." Each song is clear as a bell and makes one appreciate the richness of the French language. Though many may not understand the lyrics, the emotion Piaf projects more than makes up for it. It may even prompt you to learn this romantic language. Every Edith Piaf fan has their favorite song. My favorite is "L'Accordeoniste", a song about a prostitute who loses her lover, an accordionist, in the Second World War. However, each song on this CD is unique and wonderful in its own way. Perhaps the most famous song in this compilation is "Milord", which is about a prostitute who comforts a brokenhearted rich Englishman. I highly recommended this collection.
on September 29, 2006
I have had this as a CD about 10 years, and had tapes previously, and lps previous. This and most other Piaf recordings I have owned is so good that it is sometimes hard to play. You are afraid you will never get it out of the CD player or hear anything else because it is so wonderful. This is a good introduction to Piaf's large body of work and to French songs of the middle of the 20th Century.
Piaf nowadays tends to suffer from what became of Billy Holiday in her last ten years. Many people view her as a personal tragedy,, while discounting her artistry. More people make the error of saying Piaf is important because she epitomizes French culture or song to them. Such persons have never heard even of Mistinguet, let alone the other great caberet singers preceding her and following her.
Piaf who began singing in the streets was one of the last great examples of singers whose technique and development came before the era of the microphone and whose strength was their ability to project their voice with power without the microphone, but later were able to manage the microphone. She needs to be listened to as art or as drama not as nostalgia or atmosphere. Similarly, there is an overexaggeration of Piaf's connection with prostitution, even assumptions that she practiced this professions which are simply untrue. Moreover, while uneducated formally, once she had the means, she became interested in the most advanced poetry and fiction being written in France. Indeed, when she discovered Yves Montand during WWII, Piaf thought he was too vulgar and got him to read literature and to follow high culture!
Piaf sings strong, but sings with discipline and touch. Her voice cuts into you in ways that stay with you if you are listening to them personally. "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien," will always ring in my mind,always give me the idea of the strength and stubborness of character and how she led her life. People who knew Piaf, particularly after the war, admit that she was not necessarily a nice person, and sometimes was not a good person to her friends and colleagues, but no one who has heard any version of this song can doubt that Piaf was a strong person who was not afraid to throw every inch of her interior life into her music.
My only regret about this particular collection is that it includes too many songs that were French pop hits that crossed over into the US market in the 1950s that are neither identified with Piaf in France or the US when they crossed over, and not her strength. I am not saying they are bad music because I imagine there would be enough music in hearing Piaf belch or hiccup to satisfy a listener! I am just saying replacing them with songs less famous in the English-speaking world, but more of the strong "torch songs" that are Piaf's forte. Think of this album having one more song like "L'Accordeoniste" or "Hymne A L'Amour."
Finally, I hope that this "Best of" CD does not become your token Piaf CD or your token CD for French music of these times, but an entry port to discover the large body of recorded work available for both.
on January 15, 1999
This cd features some of the greatest songs by one of the greatest voices of our time. Among my favorite songs are "T'es Beau, Tu Sais", "Comme Moi", and "La vie en rose". This album is a must for anyone who loves Piaf and is a good collection for beginners who are unfamiliar with her songs. One need not understand French to enjoy this wonderful music. I must give this cd 5 stars, as there is no other voice like the voice of Edith Piaf.
on February 1, 2005
Marcel Cerdan, the French middleweight boxer and one of Piaf's many lovers, wrote in his autobiography about the first time he saw her perform in a cellar cafe in Paris. This short,ordinary-appearing woman in her trademark long black dress and pale makeup was mesmerizing.
She used no microphone, her strong voice with that remarkable plaintive , quivering sound echoed off the walls of the dingy
During one of her songs, Cerdan wrote, he began to look at the other members of her audience. He realized ,at that moment, every male watching her had fallen in love with Edith Piaf.
Had I been there I would have loved her too.
on December 12, 1999
I have been fascinated with Edith Piaf ever since I learned about her in my French class. "Milord" and "L'amore, la vie" are two of my favorites; they're such uplifting songs to sing! The only thing missing from this CD, IMO, was "Mon legionnaire." Like another reviewer said, you don't have to know French to enjoy this CD-- her message of life and love spans languages. Piaf is a wonderful facet of the French culture.
on November 18, 2001
For anyone that has perused my web site here on Amazon they are probably more than aware of my love for French culture. I'm a closeted Francophile...and proud of it! The films,wine,fashion and most of all the music of France is something I have always dearly loved. While being Irish (in origin only) I dearly love the French culture! That being said reviewing a disc by the amazing Edith Piaf is simply a "labor of love".
Now, to be completely honest I did not exactly warm up to this cd upon first hearing it. The sound is rather dated and I thought Ms. Piaf's voice, while indeed strong, was not exactly what I was used to when listening to female vocalists. I thought it sounded rather shrill and, at times, even off key. Mon Dieu!! What was I to do...my expectations were so high that I truly expected "magic" to come pouring out of my speakers! Well, as with anything else that is truly worthwhile, I decided to stay with Ms. Piaf and give her, at least, the respect she deserves by listening a few more times. Obviously, my patience has more than paid off....if only because I can now appreciate the immense talent that she possessed.While sounding unlike any other vocalist that I had previously known she is able to contain more "raw emotion" in one song than most vocalist can emote in an entire cd!
Now although I consider myself a Francophile my command of the French language is, how to say,just slightly appropriate enough to order a bottle of wine, ask for directions to the Louvre and watch "Jean DeFlorette" with out English subtitles. Fortunately though knowing French will not deter you from enjoying this wonderful disc. While Edith Piaf tends to tackle most songs in a similar fashion, full-throttle, the tunes themseleves are awe inspiring if only becausre she is such total command of each selection. Hightlights, for me, are "La Vie En Rose", "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien", "Hymne A L'Amour" and "L'Accordeoniste". Again, while the sound may be slightly dated that does add a certain charm to these pieces. Plus,other than Billie Holiday, no one makes a "broken heart" feel so good!
Overall, having a cd by Edith Piaf is another of those discs that one will always have in their collection. She simply exudes France (where are you Catherine Denueve?) and all that is right when an artist is in true command of her talents. So pick up your copy of Edith Piaf "The Voice Of The Sparrow", a bottle of wine, a copy of "A Year In Provence" by Peter Mayle with a few fresh baguettes and make your way
home. Paris is waiting....just inside your front door.
This is a collection of some of Edith Piaf's greatest hits. My French has deteriorated to the point where I cannot translate the French to English very well. But I can appreciate a genuine talent.
Piaf caught the spirit of those not in the elite. Her songs touch one's heart and spirit, even if one cannot understand the words themselves. She has an evocative voice that captures the spirit of these songs.
Take, for example, "Non, je ne regrette rien" ("No, I regret nothing," if my understanding of French suffices). This song really catches one's attention. Her rather small voice (voice of the sparrow??) catches an emotion, a fragment of our feelings. One of my Piaf favorites.
Or the lively, inspiriting song, "La vie, l'amour" ("Life and love," if my memory of French is accurate). This livelies one up.
Another of her signature songs: "La vie en rose." Listen to this and you understand her hold on the French who listened to her songs.
"Poor People of Paris" ("La goualante de pauvre Jean") is delightful, filled with energy and excitement.
One could only wish that there were liner notes to this excellent CD that provided some context for the listener. That is a disappointment. Still and all, this is a wonderful introduction to the talent of Edith Piaf. !
on December 22, 2003
this is definitely a must-have for edith piaf fans. it covers all her most famous songs, and for anyone who either grew up in a french-speaking country [like i did], or even in europe, it is hard NOT to know who she is... "la vie en rose" and "non je ne regrette rien" are her true classics... i dont think anyone can hear "non je ne regrette rien" without knowing immediately who the singer is. it is simply her signature song, or at least one of them for sure. her voice is amazing and unique, and many try to cover some of her songs and they simply offer edith no justice watsoever. [patricia kaas being an eception-- their voices are interestingly similar].
whether you understand french or not, this is a great record, with many ballads and a few uptempo songs to make you happy to be in love, or contrastingly, feel the pain of a broken heart. but all i gotta say is she makes a broken heart sound SOOO good... :)
allez milord, souriez moi milord!
Edith Piaf was a tragic figure with a talent of singing often painful and sometimes happy songs. In this compact disc, there are her classics like Ma Vie en Rose, Milord, Non Je Ne Regrette Rien, and others listed here. Of course, Edith Piaf is not for everybody. She is an acquired taste that unless you are fan of French music or Edith Piaf that you may not like. Piaf's life was as tragic as some of her songs but she left in indelible legacy of her recorded music that comforted and soothed the French during World War II. Piaf's singing has to be appreciated as well. maybe you don't know French, you don't need too. You do know pain, agony, heartbreak, falling in love, loss, death, happiness, sadness, etc. then you will appreciate and love Edith Piaf.