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Marianne Faithfull Horses and High Heels Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

A stellar cast aids Faithfull through a set of striking originals and strong covers.

John Doran 2011

Many so-called UK blues or folk singers would die for the authentic, lived-in singing voice of Marianne Faithfull. Or, to put it more succinctly, many so-called UK blues or folk singers would literally die if they tried to follow in the footsteps of this iconic survivor. For many of her contemporaries, the end of the 60s meant little more than a hangover and a change of haircut, but for the author of Sister Morphine it meant the entire, catastrophic collapse of her life. By the end of 1970 she was a homeless heroin and cocaine addict living rough on the streets of Soho after losing custody of her child and having suffered the awful accusation of being the primary cause of her own mother’s suicide attempt.

When she finally starting piecing her life back together, some snide reviews claimed that she had "permanently vulgarized" her voice. But really she had the equipment she needed to make her grand statement, 1979’s jaw dropping Broken English – a truly astonishing album, despite the terrible cost she paid in order to be able to make it.

Horses and High Heels is her first record since covers collection Easy Come, Easy Go in 2009, and its mix of originals and standards shows that the 64-year-old singer has at least partially dealt with her writer’s block of recent years. There are few men or women of any age who could convincingly cover The Twilight Singers’ drug-ravaged hymn The Stations, but Ms Faithfull does without even stretching herself. Again her voice is ideal to cope with the rueful Carole King classic, Goin’ Back. To be honest though, this reviewer could have done with more of her own songs, such as the killer title-track and Why Did We Have to Part, instead of the pointless, cabaret-style schmaltz of Past, Present and Future.

As always, she has a stellar cast of friends helping out including Lou Reed, Brother Wayne Kramer from the MC5 and Dr John to name but a few. If there is a fault with this record however, it isn’t Faithfull’s but her band’s, as the playing is perhaps just too polite and polished. For a woman of such talent, who has lived so much and seen so much, one can’t help but hope she gets the same chance Johnny Cash did with Rick Rubin before the end of her career because as good as this record is, she deserves slightly more.

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