by / March 14th, 2011 /

Marianne Faithfull – Horses & High Heels

 1/5 Rating

(Dramatico)

Marianne. Ah yes, symbol of womanhood to our Gallic friends, but stick ‘Faithfull’ on the end and you conjure up different images; ’60s icon, legend, Stones WAG, fashion inspiration for Kate Moss, smack and breast cancer survivor, oh and subject of the infamous mars bar tale from Rock Babylon. Now on her 23rd record, Marianne Faithfull’s discography is nothing to balk at even if it isn’t always synonymous with her legendary name. First off is the voice – a schizophrenic clash of 40-a-day harshness and sultry depth, Faithfull’s vocal has developed a more regal, authoritative quality. As a lady with a permanent pass on life’s rollercoaster, there’s something omniscient about her rustling vocals warning “I hear the rapture’s coming.”

Meanwhile – your ears do not deceive you – the title track pays homage to her time in Dublin (“I lived in a flat in Ballsbridge”) and the song itself is a wistful, well-spun tale. The mix of covers and self-penned numbers is seamless and for the most part conveys her experience perfectly. On the flipside, ‘Gee Baby’ sits on the wrong side of cheesy and the only thing tying it to the rest of the record is the distinctive voice cooing the cheesecake lyrics.

There’s no ‘Sister Morphine’ here, but this really is no bad thing. With Lou Reed, Brother Wayne Kramer from The MC5 and Dr John in supporting roles, Faithfull has pulled off her best album in years. Although the covers are touching, beautiful and given the Marianne makeover, the only minor complaint is we could do with more originals like ‘Why Did We Have to Part’. If you’re tempted to sing ‘So Long Marianne’, zip it. She might admit “I can’t go on forever” on ‘No Reasons’ but Faithfull ain’t finished with us yet and, judging from this record, her sublime swansong is yet to come.

Listen: Spotify | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Youtube

  • godfrey

    The album is much better even than this review might suggest, and certinly there is nothing “cheesy” going on, indeed I think Ms Highes doesn’t know a touch of pop-culture irony when she encounters it.
    Worst of all though is the opening salvo – for god’s sake, Marianne’s name does not “conjure up different images” of tabloid capering. Her time in a fur rug in the headlines of (long-defunct) rags like the London Evening News (pah!) was FORTY-FOUR years ago, and since then La Faithfull has won the International Women’s Day Award for Lifetime Achievement, been nominated in the same category as Dame Helen Mirren for European Actress of the Year (losing to Mirren’s ‘The Queen’ is hardly something to bemoan), has recorded a bevy of albums the sweep of which, covering multiple genres, is breathtaking, and has positioned herself, without fuss, as a National Treasure (in a number of nations). For Ms Hughes to witter on about a “60s icon” is lazy writing; I suspect she wasn’t alive in the years Marianne began recording, performing, and acting; in between the irrelevant escapades dredged up by idle writers, Marianne was appearing as Ophelia in Tony Richardson’s Hamlet, appearing as Irina in Three Sisters at the Royal Court Theatre, in Edward Bond’s Early Morning at the same venue, making movies with Derek Jarman and Kenneth Anger (a much more interesting artist than the “scribe” of Rock Babylon, who stole his title and idea from Dr Anger’s groundbreaking Hollywood Babylon) not to mention playing Pirate Jenny in Threepenny Opera at the Gate Theatre in Dublin itself – the list of achievements and artistry goes on and on, but reviews that vaguely try and conjure “an image” from a yellowing stack of cuttings in a press library, even an electronic one, do no service to artist or audience. As Patti Smith once said to me (clunk, excuse me, I just dropped something) in an interview I did with her in my journalistic days, before I found something more interesting to do, it’s the press person’s job to be a pipeline to the public. Well now, that takes thought, consideration, time and creativity.

  • Lisa Hughes

    Hi Godfrey, thanks for the comment. The fact is Marianne’s name is rarely used in pop culture in reference to her musical career – a sad point in my opinion which I tried to convey by listing the rather trivial connotations her name has for many before describing how great this album is, by way of dismissing these tags.

    Also, reviews are not written solely for die-hard fans but rather to introduce fans and newcomers alike to the album at hand. Consider this point next time you get so wound up that a review does not reflect your own standpoint and experience of the artist.

    And you’re correct, I’m 26 and was not alive when Marianne started making music – but what’s your point? If you are a true fan, shouldn’t you be pleased that she’s attracting younger people? I don’t know her personally but based on interviews I’d bet my savings that Marianne herself would be pleased a younger generation appreciates her music for what it is now and not who she is perceived to be or used to go out with. Glad you liked the album!