You know you're in for something different from what you'd expect from Iggy right from the start as the album opens with him singing the French standard, "Les Feuilles Mortes (Automn Leaves), made famous by Edith Piaf and Yves Montand. While there's something initially disconcerting about hearing Iggy Pop singing in French, once you recover from the shock what's really amazing is how right it sounds, how much his voice suits this style of singing. For unlike what we consider ballads in North America — where the singer is expected to croon the lyrics in dulcet tones that display little or no real emotion — songs like "Les Feuilles Mortes" were written for voices with character; voices that might be a little rough around the edges but still capable of expressing emotion.
However, Iggy doesn't just stick to ballads over the course of Preliminaires, as there's the New Orleans jazz sounds of "King Of The Dogs" and even a throwback to his more familiar sound with "Nice To Be Dead." Yet that's the anomaly on this disc and its immediately followed by a cover of "Insensatez" ("How Insensitive") by Calos Jobim — an old bossa nova standard. It's a testimony to Iggy's capabilities as a singer, and the sincerity of his voice, that a tune which originally must have been more than a little saccharine sounds so genuine when he interprets it. It's hard not to think of bad lounge singers when you hear a song like this, but no one will ever be able to accuse Iggy Pop of sounding like he's working a piano bar.
Iggy Pop has always had a very distinctive and powerful voice, developed over years of having to make himself heard above the guitars and drums of the hard rock he and the Stooges used to record and perform. Yet there was also always the suggestion of an expressive voice, which would occasionally show itself when the band played slower numbers. On Preliminaires, though, he's finally able to show off the full extent of his vocal prowess. What impressed me the most was the amount of character in his voice and just how expressive it is.