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Cat Power’s ‘You Are Free’ – A Look Back at an Indie-Rock Classic

Cat Power You Are Free
Matador Records

Chan Marshall, better known as indie-rock goddess Cat Power, took a break after her career-defining 1998 album ‘Moon Pix’ with 2000’s ‘The Covers Record.’ The 12-song collection, which includes her takes on songs by Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, among others, was an excuse for Marshall – who’s had a few mental breakdowns since launching her career in 1995 – to clear her head.

When she returned three years later with ‘You Are Free,’ she had a whole new bag of musical tricks to show off. Shades of punk, funk and folk share space with some of her gutsiest rockers and softest ballads. It’s her most concentrated record and, in ways, her most expansive.

Marshall worked on 2003’s ‘You Are Free’ for a year. She recorded more than three-dozen songs during the sessions in Seattle, calling in high-profile friends like Dave Grohl and Eddie Vedder for help. A handful of songs sound like fragments of bigger, bolder ideas, but the best tracks – the opening ‘I Don’t Blame You,’ the riff-powered single ‘He War’ — rank among her most durable.

The attention to detail, along with some of Marshall’s most gorgeous songs, sent ‘You Are Free’ to No. 105 on the chart, her first appearance there. (She finally hit the Top 10 last year with her ninth album, ‘Sun.’) The LP serves as the bridge between ‘Moon Pix,’ a singer-songwriter milestone in oversharing and fragility, and 2006’s soulful ‘The Greatest,’ which features strings, horns and a terrific Memphis-based backing band. ‘You Are Free’ indeed gave Marshall the liberty to roam outside of her musical and emotional confines.

Watch Cat Power’s Video for ‘He War’

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Next: Cat Power's Covers Album

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