Marianne Faithfull, ‘Give My Love to London’ – Album Review
There are still a precious clutch of artists who, despite their age, continue to do magnificent new work. Leonard Cohen, Ian Hunter, Neil Young and Peter Hammill all come to mind as artists who are constantly looking at the road ahead to create new work that sits comfortably alongside their earlier classics. Without blinking, we can add Marianne Faithfull to that list as well.
At age 67, she has just released her 20th album, 'Give My Love to London' -- and it's a stunning piece of work. Her first album in three years finds the legendary Miss Faithfull in top form as she collaborates with the likes of Nick Cave, Steve Earle, and Roger Waters with a little help from Brian Eno, Ed Harcourt and members of the Bad Seeds.
Last year, Faithfull fell and broke her sacrum bone in four places. During her time recovering, she started thinking about things that would result in the new record. "I ended up flat on my back for seven months, and when you're in a sort of deep, dark recovery period like that, I believe it's quite normal to go right inside and start to think about big things," she said in a press release for the album. "I thought I was gonna die -- drama queen -- and I thought before I die, I'm going to make a record that expresses who I am."
Faithfull does just that, and more. She sounds as contemporary as she does worldly on the opening title track. Co-written with Earle, she sings in her own distinct gravel voice over a bouncy pop song that masks the somewhat dark lyrics at hand. 'Sparrows Will Sing' was written by Waters and is a perfect fit for Faithfull. With its very Velvet Underground-like feel, the song surges along with a strong, dark undercurrent that simply envelopes the listener. The fact that guitarist Adrian Utley is recalling the guitar sounds of Robert Fripp circa Bowie's 'Heroes' doesn't hurt one bit either. Faithfull spits out the words with a sweet venom that only she is capable of producing.
'Love, More or Less' is a haunting ballad co-written with Irish singer-songwriter Tom McRae, with only guitar and keyboard as accompaniment to that engaging voice. Its stark quality provides apropos bedding for the lyrics. Cave contributes three songs here, 'Late Victorian Holocaust,' 'Falling Back' and 'Deep Water,' the latter of which Faithfull co-wrote. Having previously teamed up together on 2005's 'Before the Poison,' she wears his songs like a perfectly tailored suit. 'Late Victorian Holocaust' is a suitably dark number Cave wrote specifically for Faithfull, while her co-write on 'Deep Water' provides another highlight, this time backed only by piano, strings and flute.
We also are treated to the nice surprise of Faithfull covering the Everly Brothers classic, 'The Price of Love.' Owing a bit to the arrangement of the Bryan Ferry version, she goes back to the original to cast her own mold of the song to great effect. The moment of brevity is sent into tailspin with the haunting and venomous 'Mother Wolf,' a commanding tune she wrote with Patrick Leonard who also paired up with Cohen on 'Going Home,' which originally appeared as the lead track on his 'Old Ideas' album. Though written for Cohen, Faithfull stakes a claim to the song as her own here, selling it more than convincingly. (Eno supplies backing vocals on this one by the way.)
The record ends with a Hoagy Carmichael song, 'I Get Along Without You Very Well.' Written in 1939, the song has been covered by everyone from Billie Holiday to Frank Sinatra to Carly Simon. Faithfull digs her claws in and slathers it in her own paint, making it the perfect album closer. Though she has worked with other star-studded casts in the past, this assemblage is one for the books.
The entire record seems to come from a deeply personal place. The songs she's written, coupled with her own unique interpretations of the others, come together in one perfect storm to make 'Give My Love to London' one of the finest, and most definitive releases of her long and storied career.