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Marianne Faithfull

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Marianne Faithfull’s long and distinguished career has seen her emerge as one of the most original female singer/songwriters this country has produced. Utterly unsentimental yet somehow affectionate, Marianne possesses that rare ability to transform any lyric into something compelling and utterly personal; and not just on her own songs, for she has become a master of the art of finding herself in the words and music of others. Of course, Marianne Faithfull’s story has been well documented, not least in her entertaining and insightful autobiography Faithfull (1994).

Born in Hampstead in December 1946 Faithfull’s career as the crown princess of swinging London was launched with “As Tears Go By”; the first song ever written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, five albums followed whilst Marianne also embarked on a parallel career as an actress, both on film in Girl on a Motorcycle (1968) and on stage in Chekhov’s Three Sisters (1967) and Hamlet (1969) By the end of the Sixties personal problems halted Marianne’s career and her drug addiction took over. Faithfull emerged tentatively in the mid-Seventies with a country album called Dreamin’ My Dreams (1976) but it was her furious re-surfacing on Broken English in 1979 that definitively brought her back. Further new wave explorations followed with Dangerous Acquaintances (1981) and A Child’s Adventure (1983). But despite her new creative vigor, Marianne was not entirely free of the chemicals that had ravaged her in the sixties. Displaying a sadness tempered by optimism, and a despair rescued by humor Marianne returned, finally clean with a collection of classic pop, blues and art songs on the critically lauded Strange Weather (1987). A live retrospective followed on Blazing Away (CD&VHS 1990), which ably displayed why Faithfull has become one of the most sought after concert artists of the last 30 years.

New directions were taken on A Secret Life (1995) co-written with the Italian composer Angelo Badalementi, and in her exploration of the music of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht; Beginning in 1991 with her performance in the Threepenny Opera, at the Gate Theatre in Dublin and continuing with 20th Century Blues (1996). This journey concluded with her important recording of the opera The Seven Deadly Sins (1998). Marianne returned to her mainstream musical career with the release of one of her most admired albums, Vagabond Ways in 1999. The millennium ushered in a period of renewed creative vigor that saw Marianne return to her acting career in Intimacy (2001), Marie Antoinette (2006), and her acclaimed starring role in Irinia Palm (2006) for which she was nominated at the EFA for best actress. Two acclaimed albums followed based around collaborations with other artists that put her firmly back in the rock idiom – Kissin’ Time (2002) with Billy Corgan, Beck, Pulp and Blur and more successfully with PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, Damon Albarn and Jon Brion on Before the Poison (2004). Marianne also returned to the stage in The Black Rider (2004), a Faustian musical written by old friends Tom Waits and the late William Burroughs. Health scares put Marianne out of action for much of 2005 and 2006 but in 2007 Marianne toured the world and released a second volume of memoirs detailing a more personal side of her life called Memories Dreams and Reflections (2007).

Almost all Marianne’s live broadcasts from the sixties had survived. In a return to the label that made her name, Decca classics released a 20-track collection, Marianne Faithfull Live at the BBC, in the summer of 2008. The collection includes all her early hits and many less well known recordings. Marianne is backed throughout by the Mike Leander Orchestra with guitarist Jon Mark and delivers strong confident performances that in several cases go beyond the interpretations she put down on record.

Easy Come, Easy Go is the 22nd album from Marianne Faithfull and was recorded in December 2007 in NYC at the famous Sear Sound recording studio. Easy Come, Easy Go is the third album of Marianne s to be produced by Hal Willner (the others being Strange Weather and Blazing Away). Marianne and Hal have been close friends since they’ve met back in 1982, and have worked together on a variety of projects over the years, (most recently on three songs from Marianne s acclaimed last album, Before the Poison) but Easy Come, Easy Go is their first complete studio album since Strange Weather, more than 20 years ago. Like that earlier album, Easy Come Easy Go is a collection of songs written by others and interpreted by Marianne. When Strange Weather was released in 1987, it was quickly hailed as one of Marianne s finest recordings, so this time around the challenge was really high: Marianne and Hal had to make an album that was at least as good. Both artists have risen to the challenge beautifully: they achieve a timeless recording, a masterpiece. All the songs have been chosen by Marianne and Hal, and range from Billie Holiday’s “Solitude” to The Crane Wife” by current band The Decemberists. Other tracks are “Sing Me Back Home” by Merle Haggard, “Children of Stone” by Espers, the title track “ Easy Come, Easy Go Blues” by Bessie Smith, Morrissey s “Dear God Please Help Me”, Dolly Parton s “Down from Dover “ and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's “Salvation”. Easy Come, Easy Go also includes some interesting guest vocalists; Keith Richards appears on the aforementioned “Sing Me Back Home” Antony Hegarty on “Ooh Baby Baby” and Jarvis Cocker on Sondheim s “Somewhere”. Other guest appearances on the album come from Rufus Wainwright who contributes vocals to the powerful “Children of Stone” while his aunt and mother Kate and Anna McGarrigle enchant on the “The Flandycke Shore”. Warren Ellis plays his magic violin on three songs, and Nick Cave lends some vocals to “The Crane Wife”. Sean Lennon and Teddy Thompson play guitar on a couple of the tracks, and Cat Power harmonizes on “Hold On, Hold On”. The arrangements are by Cohen Bernstein and Weinberg Goldstein and were done specifically for Marianne. The String and Horn sections were led by L. Picket, and the band includes Marc Ribot, Greg Cohen, Rob Burger, Barry Reynolds and Jim White. Very few takes were needed in fact some of the songs were done in a single take (London sound engineers in the ‘60s used to call her Marianne one-take Faithfull ). In fact, there are very few overdubs on this recording.

Recorded in New Orleans with a core of exceptional local musicians, Horses and High Heels (2011) the album features eight cover versions and four original new songs co-written by Marianne, four songs which feature the virtuoso guitar playing of John Porter, a musician/producer friend most noted for his work with Roxy Music, Eric Clapton and The Smiths. The album also includes one song with lyrics specially written for her by Irish playwright Frank McGuiness (the evocative “The Old House”), two cameo appearances on guitar from another old friend, Lou Reed, plus further cameos from Dr. John and MC5’s Wayne Kramer. It’s all exquisitely produced by long-term collaborator Hal Willner, the soundscape alchemist behind the critically-lauded Easy Come, Easy Go (2009), her astonishing collection of covers and duets featuring more of the kind of people Marianne calls friends, from Keith Richards and Jarvis Cocker to Rufus Wainwright and Nick Cave. There’s the brooding, spectral guitar-rock of Greg Dulli & Mark Lanegan’s “The Stations”, the swooning, country-rock tinge of R.B Morris’ “That’s How Every Empire Falls” and the bar-room blues and ‘70s soul revue thrills of Jackie Lomax’s “No Reason”.

“We chose some soul material this time which I was very unsure of at first,” muses Marianne. “No Reason”, “Back in Baby’s Arms”, “Gee Baby”, these songs are more vocally demanding and it was quite frightening. But I think we managed it.”

Elsewhere are glimmering ‘70s soul classics, from the gorgeous, steel-guitar-layered “Love Song” (originally written by 70s song-writer Lesley Duncan and made famous by Elton John), the bewitching piano reverie of Carol King’s “Goin’ Back” (definitively recorded in ‘66 by Dusty Springfield) and her positively Shakespearian rendition of the Shangri-Las’ masterpiece, “Past Present and Future”.

Her four original new songs are a revelation:  the folky and unfeasibly rousing “Why Did We Have to Part?”, an elegy to the end of a long relationship ‘I just couldn’t resist a break-up song - and the pain is over’, to the rollicking, Hammond swirl of “Prussian Blue” (a paean to her life in Paris), the rhythmically compelling, Celtic-folk-tinged “Horses And High Heels” and the joyous “Eternity”, featuring a sampled Arabian-jazz flourish from Brian Jones’ recording in Morocco with the Master Musicians of Jajouka (1968’s ‘Brian Jones Presents: The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka).

“It’s all a very different style for me,” notes Marianne, “much more rhythmic. And a very modern record, it’s not looking back to the past at all. All the songs are about now, you know?” Marianne is, they say, the Godmother of Goth, both doomed romantic and ultimate bohemian survivor - a teenage pop star, rock star’s girlfriend and iconic beauty in the 1960s.

While the defining statements of many artists are made during their early years, Marianne Faithfull continues to develop her own voice: She sets herself aside from her contemporaries in her continuing quest to explore new creative areas in a career that has always been a positive process of self-assertion.


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