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Marianne Faithfull Horse And High Heels [album]

Marianne Faithfull: Horses And High Heels “For forty-seven years Marianne
  Faithfull has been, and remains, one
  of the most unique, bewitching and
  unconventional musical artistes
  Britain has produced; and the result
  of her experience of a creative public
  life is reflected in the release of her
  2011 album Horses And High Heels

THE NAME MARIANNE FAITHFULL conjures up an alluring, sweet-voiced Sixties icon with impeccable rock star connections and a talent all of her own. That is, to the initiated loyal fans who have followed her career over the years.

Marianne is now just as appealing to the youth of today, while staying faithful both to herself and to her fans from the early days. Her new album, Horses And High Heels, is due for release early in the Spring of 2011. Her beautifully gravelly voice oozes sensuality and has evolved from the sweet, quivering tones on her debut single in 1964 As Tears Go By — the first song ever written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Today she is established in her peerless position as a profoundly distinctive scorched-earth torch-singer and richly emotive songwriter.

Horses And High Heels is her twenty-third solo album, which is described as "sonically stunning". Recorded in New Orleans with a core of exceptional local musicians, the album features eight cover versions and four original new songs co-written by Marianne; four songs featuring the virtuoso guitar playing of her musician/producer friend John Porter, most noted for his work with Roxy Music, Eric Clapton and The Smiths.

Also included is the evocative Old House. The lyrics were specially written for her by Irish playwright Frank McGuiness and there are two cameo appearances on guitar from another old friend, Lou Reed, plus further cameos from Dr John and MC5's Wayne Kramer.

The album is 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.

Two years on and Horses And High Heels shimmers with creative life, made by a woman in her sixties who is clearly more vibrantly-inspired than ever. "I never stop working these days," Marianne admits in her velvety, throaty timbre. "Because I can do it. I'm healthy. And I love working. I think it's good for me. I'm very happy and I'm having a very good time. I think the worst is over. And it's about time, really, isn't it!?"

Known as the Godmother of Goth, emblem of the night, both doomed romantic and yet ultimate bohemian survivor, Marianne's future looks good. I have always thought of her as a Celtic noblewoman, perhaps The Lady Of Shallot in John Waterhouse's dramatic painting of the theme of the poem but for whom, like the Phoenix, there is a rising from the ashes.

Marianne has lived her life, certainly, on the scenic route. A teenaged pop star, rock star's girlfriend and iconic beauty in the 1960s; film star and theatre actress in Chekhov's Three Sisters (1967), Girl On A Motorcycle (1968) and Hamlet (1969); vulnerable drug addict lost in the shadows during the 1970s.

Yet in 1979 that lost young woman resurrected herself as a rock star with the classic album Broken English. Two decades of steady creativity followed throughout her thirties and forties, from Dangerous Acquaintances (1981) to her critically-acclaimed post-heroin album Strange Weather (1987, produced by Hal Willner), to the Angelo Badalementi collaboration A Secret Life (1995) and to her operatic recording The Seven Deadly Sins (1998).

A flourishing acting career in her fifties and beyond saw Intimacy (2001), Marie Antoinette (2006) and a well-deserved Best Actress nomination for her starring role in Irina Palm (2006) as a woman who would do absolutely anything to help her sick grandchild. A collaborative magnet across the generations, she's worked with Billy Corgan, Beck, Blur, Pulp (2002's Kissin' Time) and PJ Harvey & Nick Cave (2004's Before The Poison), sung with David Bowie and Metallica and interpreted the songs of Kurt Weill (1995, 20th Century Blues), Tom Waits and Morrissey.

A mythologically-addictive personality, she's been teetotal since 2004, survived both a cancer scare in 2005 and clinical depression in 2008 and written two volumes of autobiography, Faithfull (1994) and Memories, Dreams And Reflections (2007).

Horses And High Heels, recorded in the New Orleans French quarter over September/October 2010, features a spectrum of astonishing musicianship from the city's exceptional music pool. Marianne is always refreshingly honest: "I don't really do conventional," she admits. "We wanted to have fun, find great musicians — and, of course, New Orleans is cheaper than New York!"

The album spans the spectrum of soul, blues, folk, country, jazz-pop perkiness and beguiling guitar-rock, all underpinned by her striking vocals and hauntingly influenced by the perhaps unlikely musical combination of jazz, classical music and Nick Cave's malevolent Grinderman.

The cover versions see Marianne and Hal once again reprising their uncanny gift for finding beautiful, unexpected and often scandalously overlooked songs. Songs that are as dramatic as they're coolly diverse. "We just do find great songs," Marianne remarks. "But there's no theme… well, the only theme is me."

There's the brooding, spectral guitar-rock of Greg Dulli & Mark Lanegan's The Stations, a fine start to the album and a track that suits Marianne's voice; the swooning, country-rock tinge of R B Morris's That's How Every Empire Falls which is a terrific track infused with pathos. The bar-room blues and Seventies soul revue thrills of Jackie Lomax's No Reason reeks of merriment. "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." Indeed they did.

Elsewhere are glimmering Seventies soul classics from the gorgeous, steel-guitar-layered Love Song (written by Seventies songwriter Lesley Duncan and made famous by Elton John) on which you can detect some of the reverence and poignancy from Marianne's early years; the bewitching piano reverie of Carol King's Goin' Back (recorded in 1966 by Dusty Springfield), an old favourite sung beautifully by Marianne; and her positively Shakespearian rendition of the Shangri-La masterpiece Past, Present And Future, which has a kind of mystical style with a coquettish feel that seems delightfully theatrical.

Her four original new songs, meanwhile, are a revelation: the folky and unfeasibly rousing Why Did We Have To Part?, which is an elegy to the end of a long relationship and is an enticing poem to music. Marianne comments: "I just couldn't resist a break-up song — and the pain is over."

The rollicking, Hammond swirl of Prussian Blue is a paean to her life in Paris. You just know it's great from the first musical notes. Marianne sings it with a smile in her voice and then manages sheer enjoyment with the title track, the rhythmically-compelling, Celtic-folk-tinged Horses And High Heels, that casts its magic wide. A fabulous song, eerily captivating and explained by Marianne as "just me watching from my windows in Paris and Ireland".

The joyous and evocative Eternity features 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," says 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." Mature and sophisticated with a different style maybe, but you can still detect a little of the young Marianne in her voice.

It's a now filled with even more possibilities. In 2011, Marianne tours the world, says she may "slip in" some spoken-word performances of her beloved Shakespearian Sonnets and has recently completed filming on Belle du Seigneur, due in 2012, the English-language adaptation of Albert Cohen's epic French love story, in which she plays housekeeper Mariette alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Natalia Vodianova. No wonder, at the heart of Horses And High Heels, is the sound of a worldly, sophisticated joy — an album as colourful, dramatic and artistically liberated as her own extraordinary life.

"Conventional happiness isn't my way, you know," states the irresistibly unconventional Marianne. "But this is a very happy record. I'm not depressed any more. And I think it's all been well worth it. I did have a bit of a bad time in the Seventies but I think things have been wonderful. So I suppose this album is a bit of a breakthrough. I'm incredibly lucky; don't think I don't know it. I'm so grateful to be able to still write songs and express my emotion in music. And the best thing of all is working with such great people. It's inspirational."

Marianne Faithful is ethereal, powerful and yet vulnerable. The young Marianne was very much a child of the Sixties, with her long golden tresses and rock star connections. And that sweetly drawling seductive voice. On Horses And High Heels, Marianne has got It and she flaunts it beautifully.

A mature Marianne brings the allure of that flower child who pouted innocently yet provocatively to a modern audience with the terrific Horses And High Heels, to be released on Dramatico Records on 7 March 2011.

: 1 The Stations | 2 Why Did We Have To Part | 3 That's How Every Empire Falls | 4 No Reason | 5 Prussian Blue | 6 Love Song | 7 Goin' Back | 8 Past Present And Future | 9 Horses And High Heels | 10 Back In Baby's Arms | 11 Eternity | 12 The Old House

"On Horses And High Heels, Marianne has got It — and she flaunts it beautifully"
Maggie Woods

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