By Noah Kotlarek
Forty-six years ago, Italian-born French singer, Nino Ferrer, the “Don Quixote of French Show Business” released Nino and Radiah et Led Sud. In this album, Ferrer, along with Radiah Frye, who accompanies him on the tracks, explores an idealized American South. Fitting with the album’s theme, Ferrer, for the first time on an album, exchanges his French for English vocals. And like the romanticized South Ferrer describes in “South,” the album in its entirety is slow but not somniferous. “Relaxing” and “jazzy” are better descriptors. Nino and Radiah isn’t slow; rather, it takes its time.
Of the two tracks named after cocktails popular in the American South, “Hot Toddy” is the more seductive. It’s got this oh-so elegant downward-spiraling noise much like that found in Piero Umiliani’s “Crepuscolo del mare”— both songs are worth a listen.
“Vomitation,” towards the middle of the work, seems like a sonical regurgitation of “Moses,” but narratively makes sense after the artist, or perhaps the listener, has enjoyed “Mint Julep” and “Hot Toddy.”
The most brilliant gems of the album are kept in the last three tracks of the album. “The Garden” is blissful, and if the Botanical Gardens should aspire to be anything, it’s this song. “Looking for You,” with its dynamic instrumentation and sweeping engine sound effects, is cinematic. The song will make you feel sophisticated, like a secret agent roaring through some European backroad in a classic grand touring car.
At the album’s denouement and end of this beautiful journey, Ferrer returns us back to New York with “New York.” In this album, Ferrer proves his talent for describing and setting a scene and inviting us, the listeners, in. Enjoy.