Marianne Faithfull, Horses and High Heels

Posted on November 15, 2011 by

Artist: Marianne Faithfull
Title: Horses And High Heels
Label: Naïve 822861
Release Date: June 28, 2011

In a short documentary about the making of Horses and High Heels, producer Hal Willner said of Marianne Faithfull, “…This is a voice of a life. A life. A difficult life with a lot of happiness in it and a lot tragedy in it.” Willner ‘s association with Faithfull dates back to 1985 when she contributed to his project, Lost In The Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill. Her life in music before the Weill compilation is well documented; from her association with the Rolling Stones, to an attempted suicide, to failed rehabilitations, to a series of comebacks. Faithfull has walked the hard road.

She and Willner claimed this was to be her “happy” album. It was recorded in New Orleans with a rhythm section anchored by the former Meters bassist, George Porter Jr. Even with the inclusion of a cover of Joe & Ann’s, “Gee Baby,” Allen Toussaint’s “Back In Baby’s Arms” Dr. John’s piano and the Bobby Charles’ bonus track, “I Don’t Wanna Know” this is still not a New Orleans album. Willner professed it was the place to record such an album because of the wealth and depth of musical talent available.

The album is an experience. Between Faithfull’s personal drug-stained voice, the cross-hybridization of the songs, the pedigree of the musicians and songwriters, this is one of the rare projects where the sum of the contents is not lesser than the whole. Faithfull co-wrote four of the tracks. “Why Did We Have To Part” was a collaboration with French pop star, Laurent Voulzy. The song draws upon broken relationships, something that Faithfull knows of its familiarity. But because of her conversance with the topic, she delivers the song feeling regret, but yet there’s a sense of triumph when she sings in the bridge, “We are very good friends my love/ We have passed the wall of hate/But you know I’ll never come back again.”

Faithfull delivers Jackie Lomax’s “No Reason” like it was a Stones cover. Her near straight reading of Lesley Duncan’s “Love Song” comes off more ethereal with Carol Winton’s lap steel hanging in the air, like a soundtrack to a dream sequence.

What was once a teen opera – Jerry Leiber, Artie Butler and Shadow Morton’s “Past Present & Future” – now sounds like a trip through an adult psychosis. Faithfull has that flair for German theatre music so this rendition comes across like Bertolt Brecht meets the Shangri-La’s while confessing to Dr. Freud. “A (woman) should not strive to eliminate (her) complexes, but to get in accord with them: they are legitimately what direct (her) conduct in the world,” so Sigmund said. And it does apply on Horse and High Heels.

Toussaint’s “Back In Baby’s Arms” comes off like it was lifted from Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour. Like Cocker in his prime, Faithfull is a great interpreter. She’s a squatter, claiming what she lands on and taking ownership.

In 1987, working with Willner, they recorded the album, Strange Weather which featured a cove of “As Tears Go By.” In a Vogue magazine interview Faithfull commented on the song, “Forty is the age to sing it, not seventeen.” In 2011, teetering on the age of 65, Faithfull interpreted Carole Kings, “Goin’ Back,” a reflective song made most famous by Dusty Springfield. It is also a song of resolution. At 65, maybe this is the time for Marianne Faithfull to sing it. “But thinking young and growing older is no sin / And I can play the game of life to win.”

One Response to “Marianne Faithfull, Horses and High Heels”

  1. Mike Elias says:

    Possibly the best album of the year with the worst cover art.

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