In 1990, through Polygram Records, Express released a compilation cassette, called Musique D’Express. The album is rich with the energetic stylings of sophisiti-pop at the ’80s-’90s cusp. Even today its tracks are a lush selection of fresh sounds and artists that most American ears are unfamiliar with. I was six-years-old at the time. I remember the display for the tape next to the register, and I remember my mom buying it. It must seem strange that I have such vivid memories of a clothing store. However, something profound and subconscious was at work. I grew up without MTV, there wasn't a hip older relative bringing the mainstream world to me, and I was too young to pay much mind to the pop culture surrounding me. The tape's attractive harmonies and mysterious, moody lyrics. were a first taste of what I'd been missing. New wave, pop, modern rock and all the other music of the time was trapped in the background as melodies I was effected by but could never capture. I distinctly remember overhearing Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise” and Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way it is” in a grocery store around this same time and being bewitched by them. It was many years later before I ever figured out what the songs were and who was behind them. Musique D’Express was a crystallization of many musical sensations I was only beginning to understand.
Niagra’s “Soleil d’Hiver” glistens like sunlight through glass bricks, Claudia Phillips’ “Picasso” and Luna Parker’s “Fric Frack” are collages of splashy synths and summertime fun, and Pauline Ester’s “Oui, Je l’adore” is a big band twirl through night rhythms and soft focus lenses. Meanwhile, on the opposite spectrum, legendary French singer, Serge Gainsbourg, re-renders the French classic “Mon Légionnaire” into a grungy, grinding funk set to a sexy bass line. The video for the song is a gem of conceptual excess, featuring a smokey factory setting with muscly urban dancers. François Feldman’s “J’ai Peur” shares “Mon Légionnaire”’s dark beat but with a faster, more danceable, tempo. Feldman’s other track on the album, “Joue Pas“, is a duet with the soulful-voiced Joniece Jamison where pop and R&B meet at a compelling middle ground. From the jaunty stroll of Lio’s “Tu Es Formidable” to the dreamy saxophone-lit melodies of Vanessa Paradis‘ “Soldat” and “Joe le Taxi“, Musique D’Express is perfect for any kind of cool you want to be.
I listened to the album all through my childhood, but at some point in my adolescence it got swept by the wayside. When I wanted to find it again, I couldn’t remember the name of the album, the titles of the songs, or any of the artists - I hadn’t paid attention to any of that as a kid. I only remembered the tape itself. With the nagging memory in mind, I spent a good deal of time fretting over finding the tape, or at least figuring out what it was called. I searched online, I scoured thrift stores, I even e-mailed Express and asked about it, but they didn’t know who to go to with a question about a promotion that old. Finally, I managed to type the right combination of words and Google delivered to me an Amazon page where used copies were being sold.I now present to you Musique D’Express ten succulent tracks (plus the weird little tones that play before the side changes). It is one of the finest compilations of its time, personifying a specific moment in music that is frequently overlooked - a virtual time travel transport to the harmonics of 1990s France, or perhaps a shopping mall somewhere in the past.
FILE: Musique D'Express (1990)
BUY IT: Amazon.com