Throughout her elegantly infamous career, Marianne Faithfull has lived her life through songs with this creed: “Music is best when it’s sexual…and if it’s not there’s something wrong.” This is why I have adored her for so long. In my ears, Faithfull today is sexier than she has ever been. To me it starts with the voice. Nothing is sultrier than the voice of a chanteuse, and Faithfull is one of the originals. Since the ’60s she’s been taking on cover songs like “As Tears Go By” so fluidly, like slipping on the sexiest dress, she inhabits these songs and eventually takes them over, making them her own.
She hasn’t stopped since her comeback with 2002’s Kissin’ Time, and its fabulous follow up, Before the Poison. Faithfull has become Bowie-esque by surrounding herself with modern day collaborators like Beck, Polly Jean Harvey and Jarvis Cocker. With her latest Easy Come Easy Go Faithfull has shown that she is a timeless siren, seducing us with her memorable vocal prowess that continues to excite and astound us with her unique style that oozes sensuality.
Easy Come Easy Go is Faithfull’s collaboration with legendary composer, curator and producer Hal Willner. Willner orchestrated Marianne’s first major sonic return with 1987’s Strange Weather. More than 20 years later, Willner and Faithfull have teamed up to tackle a new set of songs, modern and classic alike to give them an everlasting feel with Marianne’s alluring voice as our sensual guide.
With Willner’s assistance, Faithfull set out to capture the feel of a collection of songs from her past and some post-modern selections to inhabit with her passionate presence. Easy Come Easy Go starts off with Marianne’s very eloquent interpretation of Dolly Parton’s “Down from Dover,” but Faithfull’s version becomes more than a country cover. With the help of Willner and his magnificent backing band it’s more of a jazz-filled glory, with shades of bluesy guitar riffs that fuel Faithfull’s vocal of luscious longing.
From the outset you will hear that Easy Come is quite the eclectic endeavor with Willner’s decision to use an all star selection of session musicians to back up Faithfull with the grace and desire that her voice deserves. It’s this dynamic combination that makes Easy Come a climactic success.
Not only did Willner pull together the best band, but he also assembled a collection of heavyweight vocalists. You may recognize the backing vocals of one Ms. Chan Marshall on Marianne’s splendid cover of Neko Case’s “Hold On, Hold On.” Although I would have loved a straight and proper duet between Chan and Faithfull, just like she did on Beck’s Modern Guilt album, Marshall’s voice fuses perfectly with Marianne’s throughout this organ-filled cover. It’s incredible the way Marianne becomes the protagonist in “Hold On.” Listen as Faithfull sings,
“In the end I was the mean girl
Or somebody’s in-between girl
Now it’s the devil I love
And that’s as funny as real love.”
You’d swear she’s singing about her own life. But that’s the power in her performance, the way she inhabits Case’s words and reflects them with her own personal world. If you get the feeling that the arrangement has a Bad Seeds, end of the world vibe, you’re right, thanks to the explosive electric violin solo by Cave’s right hand man Warren Ellis.
Faithfull goes the classic route with her very voluptuous cover of Duke Ellington’s “Solitude.” Guitarist Marc Ribot’s wailing guitar riffs match Marianne’s tempting torch song vocal that’s perfect for a late night candle-lit dinner for two. Put this song on, start a little slow dancing and you will feel the inspiration.
With help from Nick Cave, Marianne takes on The Decemberists’ “The Crane Wife 3.” Marianne’s captures the emotional resonance of the songs theme when she sings “I will hang my head low.” No offense to Colin Meloy, but her vocal delivery makes her the perfect candidate to sing this song. She makes this character come alive. She becomes real; you feel all of her vulnerabilities throughout Marianne’s aching vocal. Just like Johnny Cash did with Trent Reznor’s “Hurt,” Faithfull’s version is the definitive one.
Cash and his late creative resurrection with Rick Rubin is the perfect foil for Faithfull’s current resurgence with Willner. Both singers took words from modern day troubadours and gave them their distinctive touch. Even songs that should be somehow out of their vocal reach became effortlessly flawless under their unique vocal direction. Cash did it with Danzig’s “Thirteen,” Faithfull does it with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s “Salvation.” Sean Lennon’s guitar and vocal escort Marianne on this exceptional cover. When Faithfull sings, “Do you feel alive?” this becomes more than a cover, it’s a personal anthem and a symbol for her creative rebirth.
Unfortunately if you purchase the American version of Easy Come Easy Go you will not be hearing this cover and a plethora of others. The release on Decca U.S. only gives you half the story. I recommend you dishing out for the three-disc import version (2 CDs and one DVD documentary on the making of the album). My fiancée gave me this for Navidad. Eighteen songs from my favorite chanteuse reflect the best gift I got last year. Not only is “Salvation” missing but so is Faithfull’s cover of Sarah Vaughan’s “Black Coffee” and her incredible duet of “Somewhere (A Place for Us)” with Jarvis Cocker. Invest in the super deluxe edition, think of this as a directors cut, more Marianne for your money.
If you’re on a budget like the rest of us, the American version of Easy Go does include covers of Morrissey’s “Dear God Please Help Me” and her awe-inspiring duet with Antony Hegarty on Smokey Robinson’s “Ooh Baby Baby.” I can’t forget her collaboration with Rufus Wainwright on “Children of Stone” and the countrified cover of Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home” with Keith Richards. “Home” sounds like two friends crooning this classic at an empty dive bar, ready to call it a night. It’s a very intimate performance between two friends with who were closely connected professionally in the swinging ’60s.
How do I love Marianne’s voice, let me count the ways? The 18 songs on Faithfull’s Easy Come Easy Go easily place it up there as one of the front runners for album of the year. Are ready to feel her sensual vocal touch? Dim the lights, pour a glass a wine and light a cigarette. She will ravish you from beginning to end of this spectacular album.