Des de Moor
Press Cuttings: Water of Europe

Morning Star 30 October 1999
Water of Europe

Stressing the Primacy of Text

DES DE MOOR is a pioneer of English "chanson"--that largely French style of songwriting and performance which stresses the primacy of the text and whose guardian angel is the ghost of Jacques Brel.

For the last five years, he has presided over Pirate Jenny's, a monthly musical cabaret at the Vortex, a mainly jazz venue.

This partly explains why it has escaped the notice of many people who don't habitually scour the jazz listings in Time Out.

Unfortunately, after the December gig, Pirate Jenny's will be abeyance for some months as The Vortex is being revamped.

But if you don't get a chance to visit, you could always seek out this superb CD instead.

De Moor has a fine, powerful chansonnier's voice and he writes some mean chansons too, most infused with a sharp political intelligence.

The opening number, Dirty Pictures, is an angry attack on the media's avoidance of images of real suffering--"Open the door, I'll show you really filthy pictures I can't ignore, Soldiers on desert roads left to die, Hunched shapes in subways begging as their youth grinds by, Pot-bellied children rooting in rubbish as food mountains rot."

The title track takes on fortress Europe, "the total exclusion zone...Each brick made of law and order, to build an impassable border, a moat and a keep where the ignorant sleep till they die."

And Margins dissects complicity in the Balkans conflict--"corpulent men at glass tables meet to draw a thick line. They're beating the bounds on the civilised West in the interests of guarding their rich treasure chest."

Musically less successful, but emotionally affecting, is Grandmother Was A Hero, in which de Moor pays tribute to a woman about whose failings he is frank, but who nonetheless risked her life to save Jews in wartime Holland.

Apart from his own songs, de Moor gives fine performances of Brel's My Father Said and Kurt Weill's [sic -- actually Hanns Eisler's] setting of two Brecht poems, To Those Born After I and II.

Altogether, Water of Europe is a first class CD--beautifully performed by de Moor and with excellent support from his backing musicians.

Sadly, though, there's no recording here of Brecht and Weill's Surabaya Johnny, which de Moor performs live with tremendous emotional power.

At a recent gig in Brighton, he told me that there were so many recorded versions that he didn't think another one was really justified.

That's a pity, as he knocks most of the others into the proverbial cocked hat, but it at least provides an excuse to go and see him live. Believe me, it's worth it.

Mike Parker

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