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"Partnership" with Light in The Attic

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By the time poet, singer-songwriter, and artist Lizzy Mercier Descloux recorded 1984’s Zulu Rock, she’d marked herself out as both a globe trotter with more passport stamps than Tintin and a musical innovator whose loose, arty spirit could be applied to styles as varied as no wave, Bavarian oompa and Soweto jive. She’d also established a tight-knit threesome with muse/former lover Michel Esteban and producer/on-off lover Adam Kidron, who all reunited to follow Zulu Rock – a surprise hit in her native France – with something that, once again, represented a complete about-turn.

The location, this time, was Rio De Janeiro, a suitably exotic location to follow their sojourn in Soweto given that Brazil had recently emerged from twenty years of dictatorship. But unlike Zulu Rock‘s broad appropriation of the local sound, One For The Soul borrows very liberally from Brazilian culture. The aim, says Kidron, was to “reimagine the blues”, but Lizzy’s musical essence was in flux. “A Word Is A Wah" meshes reggae with her beloved accordion, “Women Don’t Like Me” is wild, new wave pop, and she even wanders into soul territory, with whispery lounge versions of Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful”. Most notable is the album’s foray into jazz, and the fact that Chet Baker, the master jazz trumpeter, blew his last on 5 tracks including  “Fog Horn Blues” and the sensuous “Off Off Pleasure”.

Rio was to be the last great hurrah of Lizzy and Michel’s global recording adventures, and although work proceeded apace, the experience was often quite tense. "The sessions were tough work,” says Kidron, in the new liner notes by Vivien Goldman accompanying this deluxe reissue. “Lizzy never quite got singing, no matter how much she drank, and no matter how hard she tried. Chet was very much at the drug-ravaged end of his life and had very little stamina or dexterity left… but there is a deep, sad, lyrical tone to his performances on the album.”

So fraught were the sessions, it’s a miracle that such a cohesive, sparky record emerged. The record-buying public did not agree, and as the album crashed and burned, so did the relationship between its three heroes. Lizzy was, for the first time, about to take on the world alone – and there was but one album left in her.

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01 • One For The Soul • 3:53
Written by Lizzy Mercier Descloux / James Reyne

02 • Simply Beautiful • 4:00
Written by Al Green

03 • Fog Horn Blues • 4:15
Written by Lizzy Mercier Descloux / James Reyne

04 • Women Don’t Like Me • 3:07
Written by Lizzy Mercier Descloux / James Reyne

05 • My Funny Valentine • 3:57
Written by Hart / Rogers

06 • Sound of Leblon Beach / Garden of Alas • 3:58
Written by Lizzy Mercier Descloux / James Reyne

07 • God Spell Me Wrong • 3:13
Written by Lizzy Mercier Descloux / James Reyne

08 • Off off Pleasure • 2:59
Written by Lizzy Mercier Descloux / James Reyne

09 • Long Voodoo Ago • 4:36
Written by Lizzy Mercier Descloux / James Reyne

10 • Queen Of Overdub Kisses • 3:46 
Written by Lizzy Mercier Descloux 

11 • A Word is a Wah • 3:09
Written by Lizzy Mercier Descloux / James Reyne

12 • Scala Saga Samba • 4:03
Written by Lizzy Mercier Descloux 

13 • Love Streams • 2:26
Written by Lizzy Mercier Descloux / James Reyne


4 • Let's Get it On • 5:14
Written by Marvin Gaye / Ed Townsend

15 • Bravado • 2:16
Written by Lizzy Mercier Descloux 
All songs published by ZE Multimedia Music
Excep : 2 by Burlington Music, 5 by Chapell, 14 by Jobete Music.


Lizzy Mercier Descloux • Lead vocals    
Drums • Billy Perry & Paulo Braga 
Bass • Jamil Jones Dos Santos / Jorge Degas / Harry Bruce 
Cavaquinho • Alceu Maia 
Accoustic Guitar • Doudeth "Neco" de Azevedo
Electric Guitar • Vitor Biglione & Zeppa 
Percussions • Djalma Correa / Marcelo Salazar 
/ Paulo « chacal » Périra / Alceu Maia 
Saxophones • Leonardo Gandelman 
Bass Clarinette • Moacyr Marques da Silva 
Trumpet • Chet Baker 
Accordéon • Sivuca 
Piano • Luiz Femando M. Lima 
Keyboards • Vincent Bouvot 
Violin • Michel Cron 
Backing Vocals • Jose Luiz Mazziotti / Chet Baker / Alcieu Maia /
Adam Kidron / Slim Batteux / Lorenza Tohnson / Lizzy 


Recorded at Polygram studios  Rio de Janeiro, Brasil July / August 1985
Engineer Marcio Gama.
Oringinaly Mixed at Marcadet studio, Paris Sept./Oct.1985
Engineer Olivier de Bosson 
Tracks 4/5/8/10/12/13 remixed by Dominique Blanc-Francard
Project co-ordinator, Associate Producer & Executive producer Michel Esteban
Produced by Adam Kidron

Remixed & Remastered by Charlus de la Salle 2008, South Factory Studio
Original Sound Recording Made by Polydor © 1985 
Licenced to ZE records © 2004

This compilation Selected and Produced by Michel Esteban
(p) & © 2009 ZE Records Mundo Ltda


Art direction & Design Michel Esteban
Photos Credits • Front cover Andy Earl inside cover Michel Esteban
Booklet Design & Photos Michel Esteban


Baby even though I’m here, I’m sailing, Far away from the coast, Off off pleasure…(“Off Off Pleasure.)

Locating to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to record her fourth and penultimate album, may seem a typically quixotic choice for the French poet, singer-songwriter and artist Lizzy Mercier-Descloux. Possessed of a restless, firefly creativity, she was a free spirit and wanderer, who saw herself as a citizen of the world, alighting on sounds that inspired her. Before she split for Rio with Michel Esteban, her longtime manager, ex-boyfriend; and her current passion and producer, Londoner Adam Kidron, her unconventional singing style had already adorned a variety of rhythms. Her trademark growls, yelps and squeals first featured in a frenetic art-punk duo, Rosa Yemen, for one E.P; then came “Press Color,” recorded in No-Wave era New York with disco/underground producer Bob Blank, for Mutant disco pioneers, ZE Records. Back then, Lizzy was hanging with Patti Smith, Jean-Michel Basquiat and  dating Richard Hell. Like a fever dream, “Press Color” is a flurry of brittle, kaleidoscopic fragments, invoking the then new Herpes terror and anarchist anti-heroes.

Splitting the New York scene as they had their native France,  Michel and Lizzy then recorded at Compass Point Studios,  a curious cultural bubble of glossy but earthy international dance music in Nassau, Bahamas made famous by the Tom-Tom Club and Grace Jones. Guided by synthesizer innovator Wally Badarou and resident producer Steve Stanley, Lizzy’s quirky offbeat sound was  burnished  and made  more accessible than the New York sessions. It built her underground reputation with dance tracks like “Lady O K’Pele.”

Then Lizzy had her first and only encounter with mainstream success., recorded in apartheid South Africa, the scene of the next leg of Lizzy’s restless musical voyages, Kidron was at the controls, In a moment of glorious synchronicity, Lizzy’s “Mais où sont passées les Gazelles” a version of a Shangaan Disco hit by Obed Ngobeni and the Kurhula Sisters, went to the top 5 in France and was so beloved that in 1984 , her nation voted it Rock Record of the Year.

Buoyed by this novel commercial affirmation, Lizzy, Michel and Adam’s next project was to be an experimental fusion between South African and Louisiana Cajun music, with their glorious shred heritage of fiddles and accordions, to be recorded in New Orleans. After months of meetings, the project sadly foundered when the South African government refused to issue visas for the musicians.

“We were so disappointed,” Michel recalls.  They found themselves with more commercial clout than ever before, but, Michel says somberly, “We were dry of ideas. “

Their recording structure also changed, with the departure of their chief champion at Polygram, Alain Levy. Lizzy was now signed to a new label within the multinational, without the same long-time solid rapport. . “We had no functioning structure,” says Michel. “Nothing seemed to work. We had to start everything over again.” This time, Lizzy was signed to Polydor within Universal.

Brazil, then, arose as a recording location quite randomly, because a Brazilian musician approached them with some tunes that Michel deems “pas mal,” not bad.; and Adam connected Lizzy with an Australian songwriter, James Rayne, who was to help her craft songs in English.

Used to being deracinated, Lizzy had immersed herself profoundly in South African pop. Now, in Brazil, she gave just a couple of musical nods to her surroundings. “We didn’t intend to make Brazilian music,” recalls Michel. “We just added a touch for color – berimbau, accordion..”

One song recalling the earlier, wilder Lizzy of downtown New York is the cheeky “Women Don’t Like Me.” Lizzy had some devoted women friends, including Seth Tillett’s sister, Linnaea; but all her work was done with men, (other than a song on which Bill Laswell twinned her with her friend Patti Smith. – Hashishi, which is re-issued on “Press Color” in this series.) Unsurprisingly, her personal and professional life would often overlap, in the intimacy of shared creation. In Brazil, as so often, Lizzy achieved a ménage that arguably many a woman might envy or wonder at  – living happily together in an apartment in front of Leblon Beach with her current producer lover, Adam Kidron, and her still devoted ex, Michel, --  and an old friend from Brazil via New York, avant-garde guitarist Arto Lindsay, part of Lizzy’s old downtown crowd that included members of the downtown group, MARS, Connie “China” Burg and Mark Cunningham (who would go on to produce Lizzy’s last record, “Suspense,” in London. ) Lindsay and Mercier-Descloux were used to crashing in each other’s pads, between France and New York, so joining the crew in Rio was natural.

 “They invited me to stay in their large rental apartment, maybe five bedrooms. Leblon was the poor relation of Rio’s three beaches, it’s where military guys would retire.  Now the beach is very developed, but back then it was a nice area of Rio, but not ultra posh,” Lindsay recalls.

Every morning, the household would wander to the beach where, as Lindsay recalls, the Europeans would cultivate their tans while the pallid downtown New Yorker hid from the rays.

Though busy elsewhere, Arto, who had recorded experimentally with Lizzy in New York, often dropped in to the sessions. “Adam had contacts in Brazil, and he had gathered a good group of musicians.  He was a confident producer and she knew what she liked. They were into each other and they were happy,” he remembers.

Lizzy and Adam were on a personal and creative high. “We recorded the album at Polygram Studios in Rio because we thought that Chet and Lizzy riding on Alceu Maia, Djalma Correa, Marcelo Salazar, and Paulo Perira’s percussion would reimagine the blues, and because spending a few weeks in Rio in Rio was a compelling idea in itself.”  

The brio and abandon she displays in her South Africa recordings is replaced on “One For The Soul,” by a more tentative, hesitant Lizzy, as she situates herself in a variety of landscapes and textures.  Lizzy’s musical essence is in flux.  “A Word Is A Wah” meshes reggae (shades of the Compass Point sessions,) with her beloved accordion.  She even wanders into soul territory with whispery lounge versions of Al Green and Marvin Gaye (on a bonus track) and standards, with her sincere take on “My Funny Valentine.”

Writes Adam Kidron, “”Fog Horn Blues” is my favorite of Lizzy’s lyrics and a great song (let down by her weak vocal.) From “Fog Horn Blues” came the idea of working with Chet Baker, and no one has had a foggier horn!”

In this less boisterous, sensuously shifting backdrop Lizzy meshes well with the album’s surprising bonus – the last recordings of jazz legend, Chet Baker.  

They were all Chet Baker fans, and Michel recalls that hearing the maestro was playing at a nearby Jazz Festival, “We had the cheek to go and see him play, and just ask him if he would play on the record.”

So the jazz great drifts soothingly through the dreamy “Foghorn Blues,” framing Lizzy delicately, along with a keening accordion and plangent guitar; and in the sensuous “Off Off Pleasure,” Lizzy drifts cheek-to-cheek with Chet’s haunting horn, infused with a splash of samba.

On one track, Lizzy pulls the references of her career together: “Long Voodoo Ago.” Here Lizzy sounds vulnerable but determined, riding a gentle rhythm lilting guitar and subtle accordions, utilizing the freewheeling cries of her earliest work with the greater control she was fighting for, and tinged with the Africa that fascinated her. She invokes the spirit of enslaved queens and secret rituals,  calling down the ambiance of New Orleans and its own voodoo. Its blend of textures seems like a tribute to the aborted mbaqanga/Cajun fusion idea that had preceded this Brazilian excursion.

Rio was to be the last great hurrah of Lizzy and Michel’s global recording adventures, and although work proceeded apace, the sessions were often quite fraught.

Adam Kidron’s tempestuous passion with Lizzy tended to follow the pattern of their recording. Having helped to transform other “marginal” acts such as Scritti Pollitti, into pop stars, Kidron had his own direction for Lizzy, and his usual confidence was confirmed by the success of their South African work.

“In recording the second album, I was determined not to revisit the first, the golden rule being that we only live once and that we should not waste away our time in repetition (a principle I wish I had lived by). So this time I insisted Lizzy confront her greatest demon and sing,” he writes.

And Lizzy was getting it from all directions. Michel, too, was keen that Lizzy’s vocals  be more polished. “We were fighting during this recording,” he says. “I got more professional and demanding than at the start. I wanted her to sing more, work more. But Lizzy was very instinctive. She didn’t want to sing things ten times -- even when I knew she could do better.”

“The sessions were tough work,” reports Kidron. “Lizzy never quite got singing, no matter how much she drank, and no matter how hard she tried. Chet was very much at the drug ravaged end of his life and had very little stamina or dexterity left… but there is a deep, sad, lyrical tone to his performances on the album”.

Esteban disliked the completed record’s sound, anyway, and spirited the masters to Paris to re-mix. Things fell apart. “It got complicated,” Michel says. Raised by Lizzy’s recent surprise chart breakthrough, commercial hopes were pinned onto “Fog Horn Blues,” the song that had inspired them to seek out Chet Baker.  But it did not catch on.

“Though I like “One For The Soul” more than “Zulu Rock,” it didn’t create the same impression,” Kidron reflects.  “Lizzy and I didn’t speak for a few years after that.”

The comparatively poor reception of “One for the Soul,” then, brought great changes to Lizzy, personally. It was a split not only with Adam, but also with Michel Esteban, the man who had been at her side not just as a boyfriend, at first, but through every lover since. 

“I had done five albums with Lizzy,” he says. “Bon!  It’s better that she goes on her own. I had nothing to do with her next record, “Suspense.””

So the next adventure of Lizzy Mercier-Descloux would be her first solo flight. But as she herself says, on “Scala Scala Samba,” Life lies casually satiric
Dive in drastically,
But there’s absolutely no end to my own end...”

Would “Suspense” bring yet another re-birth for  Lizzy Mercier-Descloux?

Track List
  • 1
    One For The Soul
  • 2
    Simply Beautiful
  • 3
    Fog Horn Blues
  • 4
    Women Don't Like Me
  • 5
    My Funny Valentine
  • 6
    Sound of Leblond Beach / Garden of Alas
  • 7
    God Spell Me Wrong
  • 8
    Off Off Pleasure
  • 9
    Long Voodoo Ago
  • 10
    Queen of Overdub Kisses
  • 11
    A Word Is A Whah
  • 12
    Scala Saga Samba
  • 13
    Love Streams
Bonus Tracks
  • 1
  • 2
    Let's Get it On