Context can be everything or nothing. Listening to 69 Annee Erotique with no background will spark recognition of well-preserved lounge music of the 1960s/'70s, performed with modern sonics imitating those of the period: A bit of psychedelia wisping into the edges of post-war Western society right before the Summer of Love and the sexual revolution. The music is all well played and entertaining. Portland Oregon drummer Todd Bishop creates a themed recording as well integrated as Bob Sneider's and Joe Locke's Film Noir Project, Nocturne for Ava (2008, Origin), but that theme has no story.
Given the context of who Serge Gainsbourg was, both artistically and culturally, and particularly after having listened to some of Gainsbourg's music in situ, 69 Annee Erotique takes on a greater artistic gravity. Todd Bishop has done something special here, respectfully presenting Gainsbourg's music with his own (Bishop's) American flair. Bishop readily captures the international sexiness of Gainsbourg's tunes while buffing them to a 21st Century shine.
Combine Tom Jones, Phil Spector, and Prince and that talent assembly might begin to approach Serge Gainsbourg in popularity and cultural impact in France. A comparison with Frank Sinatra would be in order had Sinatra not been rendered quaintly provincial by America's anemic puritanism. Gainsbourg had no such cultural governor on his behavior, living la belle vie celebrated in his songs. Watching the many online video's of Gainsbourg reveals an artist both way ahead of this time musically, but confined by the technology of his time. Gainsbourg's spoken delivery in many of his songs anticipates Barry White's a decade later with infinitely greater class and authenticity.
Bishop opens the disc with the title piece, "69 Annee Erotique" ("69 Erotic Year") over the undulating electric bass line of Geoff Harper, faithful to the original but digitally crisp. A swirl of synthesized strings mix with electric piano and Richard Cole's tenor sings Gainsbourg's low notes before ascending to lover Jane Birken's sensuous response. That is only the beginning. Gainsbourg's homage to lover Bridgette Bardot, "The Initials BB" contains Dan Duval's guitar doubling the chorus, channeling Steve Cropper playing "Hang 'Em High." The pop sexiness of "Je T'Aime...Moi Non Plus," sung by Casey Scott, preserves much of the controversial character introduced by Gainsbourg, beautiful decadence, brilliant and bright.