Barb Jungr – ‘Bob, Brel and Me’ reviewed

❉ This album evokes the true essence of ‘La Chanson’, writes We Are Cult’s Ange Chan.

“The album is all about the union of Barb’s voice with the song, and her unique interpretation of them.  The songs themselves, which may be familiar titles, are presented in a completely new and refreshing style which highlight the rawness of passion in all of its emotional forms.”

Barb Jungr is pure show business, having worked like a Trojan from the early ’80s as a singer on the alternative comedy scene alongside the likes of Alexei Sayle, Jo Brand and Julian Clary, to her position now as one of the best living Chanson ‘interprets’ of standards; Barb has devoted her life to music and entertainment.  Her new album, Bob, Brel and Me, is a collection of songs by lyrical giants Bob Dylan and Jacques Brel and her own compositions, which she considers the best she’s ever recorded, that she feels it cannot be surpassed.  Indeed, she has gone as far as to declare that, “I may not make another.”

On this new release, you can hear Jungr’s personality shine through, and the comparisons with Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone are not unfounded; she is breathing their spirit and the influences can easily be detected in songs on Bob, Brel and Me, especially in The Tender Hearts and No-one Else Could Ever Take Your Place.  Close your eyes and listen, and you could almost be fooled into thinking that Ms Fitzgerald is singing from beyond the grave, through Jungr.

Barb has an unchallenged track record in delivering other people’s songs and presenting them in her own style, for decades.  Bob, Brel and Me is a collection which comprises of songs from Bob Dylan, to whose work she has been drawn throughout her career and also Belgian Chanson-extraordinaire, Jacques Brel with brand new translations by Robb Johnson which reveals some lyrical interpretations that should carry a ‘Parental Warning’ sticker!  Case in point is the fresh interpretation of Jacky, a song that has a long and varied career of its own, from Brel who co-wrote it with Gerard Jouannest and released the song in 1966 on his Ces Gens-La album, to Scott Walker who recorded and released the song in 1967 where his version reached number 22 in January 1968, to Peter Straker in 1977 (and again on his 2012 album with the associated stage show, Brel), to Marc Almond who scored a UK chart position of number 17 with the song in 1991, among an array of other numerous lesser-known recordings over the years.  Not bad for a song that was banned by the BBC for its references to drug use, and the lyrics ‘authentic queers and phony virgins’.   However, Jungr singing “to be beautiful and such a twat again” instead of “cute, in a stupid-assed way” has to be one of the more startling moments on this album!

With brand-new translations of Jacques Brel’s lyrics by Robb Johnson which are fully approved by both Brel’s daughter and The Brel Foundation, Barb’s readings of some of the great man’s most well-loved songs have been given a fresh new angle in their presentation on this album.  The Cathedral is a bittersweet song in which the lyrical interpretation becomes one of Barb’s most heart-wrenching performances; If We Only had Love is presented in a choral style and is backed by The Fourth Choir, London’s celebrated LGBTQ+ ensemble.

Barb’s treatment of Dylan’s songs has punctuated her career throughout, and her ability to imbue her own brand of pathos and poignance to his songs, is startling.  She mournfully dances around the angst-loaded horns on Tambourine Man; whilst This Wheel’s on Fire bristles with a playfulness not heard since Siouxsie and the Banshees covered this Dylan classic on their Twice Upon a Time album back in 1992. Buckets of Rain becomes a towering prayer to love and the sense of longing is carried through the song by Barb’s husky vocals, whilst A Simple Twist of Fate evokes the quintessential jazz chanteuse, in a smoky basement nightclub.

Jungr’s own tracks on the album are no less astonishing than her interpretations, including the introspective Incurable Romantic and the forthcoming g lead track, Rise and Shine, offer a glimpse at Barb’s irresistible sense of mischief and true ‘up and at ‘em’ pizzazz.  The track No-one Could Ever Wear your Shoes, has particular poignance, it’s an older track co-written with her much-missed musical partner, Michael Parker.

This album is essentially a collection of love songs which evoke the true essence of ‘La Chanson’ presented in Jungr’s jazz style, touching on the breadth of its emotion; from scorned love, to the love shared between friends, to lust, loss and all touchpoints in between.

The album is all about the union of Barb’s voice with the song, and her unique interpretation of them.  The songs themselves, which may be familiar titles, are presented in a completely new and refreshing style which highlight the rawness of passion in all of its emotional forms.

The album Bob, Brel and Me is due to be released on Friday 6 September, with the single Rise and Shine having been released on 12 July, followed by Jacky and A Simple Twist of Fate.

You can catch Barb Jungr on her UK Tour starting on 27th September at The Cinnamon Club, Bowden (Altrincham) and ending on 27 November at The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.  All dates can be found on

❉ Barb Jungr: Bob, Brel and Me (Kristalyn Records) is released 6th September 2019.

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Ange Chan is a poet, novelist and regularly writes for We Are Cult.  Her current novel is her third, Champagne Flutes and Pixie Boots and is currently an on-going work in progress, which she hopes to see published in 2020.


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