A Child's Adventure

Marianne Faithfull

Island, 1983

http://www.mariannefaithfull.org.uk/

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/14/2009

Marianne Faithfull had started the 1980s with a bang on the back of her surprise masterpiece, Broken English released in October of 1979. She unfortunately let her guard down rather quickly with the flat, uninspired follow-up, Dangerous Acquaintances

The Island label, which initially threw her the lifeline that reignited her career, were now desperate for a hit, and although I have always loved A Child‘s Adventure, it wasn’t a hit (only cracking the Top 20 in Sweden and Australia), and all involved were left pondering their next move. It’s possibly the reason why this remained Marianne’s last album of original material until 1995. 

Two things that I believe made this album great were fairly minor changes but turned out to be quite rewarding. A change in production staff saw Marianne’s right-hand man Barry Reynolds taking over on producing the tracks with Harvey Goldberg and Wally Badarou. 

The second change was to cut the array of session players assembled for the last album and just go into the studio with Faithfull’s road band, which by now included Fernando Saunders on bass and Terry Stannard on drums. In making these changes, the crew produced a much more focused and convincing collection of songs. It also propelled Marianne’s writing to higher ground and this record still contains some of her finest lyrics.

The album kicks off with Barry Reynolds’ masterpiece “Times Square.” It has become a staple of Marianne’s shows ever since and has grown in stature over the last twenty-six years. Themes explored by Reynolds and Faithfull on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Broken English are again evident in his lyrics here: the seedy underbelly of New York, angst-ridden addiction, and the sheer hatred of religion are the most prevalent.

“The Blue Millionaire” is a reggae-driven electronic track that was possibly inspired by Reynolds’ work with Grace Jones at the time. Marianne delivers her vocal in much the same style as Jones’ sing/speak vocals of the day, a style not foreign to Faithfull anyway. 

“Falling From Grace” is one of Marianne’s most poignant lyrics, and although she has stated that she never saw herself as a tragic figure, it’s hard not to draw a parallel between this song (“It’s looking bad I know, I’m an outlaw / Don’t pity me, I never felt like this before”) and her personal slide from the London aristocracy of the swinging ‘60s. “Morning Come” is an enchanting ditty that closely resembles her roots while telling of her ongoing search for happiness.

“Ashes In My Hand” is a caustic Faithfull poem set to a haunting Reynolds arrangement; it is one of their best collaborations to date. This is where Marianne’s modern day voice does so much damage, delivering lines of fear, loathing, and despair with such effortless conviction.

“Running For Our Lives” would not have sounded out of place on Broken English; it’s that good.  Faithfull had expressed on that album her hatred and resentment of her Catholic education; I'd hazard a guess that it again serves as the inspiration here. It’s another highlight on this underrated gem. 

“Ireland” was written as a thank you to the fans and people of Eire who took Marianne to their hearts and awarded her with her only hit of the ‘70s when “Dreamin’ My Dreams” topped the charts there in 1976. A simple but heartfelt lyric (“There is a land that I can go to / When I have time to rest / All the people I love are there / And those who love me best”) is given life by Reynolds’ wonderfully majestic tune.

The album closes with a dark and honest statement of failed love affairs and the horrible addiction that Faithfull continued to battle. The aptly titled “She’s Got A Problem” leaves no stone unturned and gives Marianne a chance to really lose herself in the track. It’s heartbreaking stuff, this one. 

Just why this album didn’t become the hit Marianne needed, I’ll never know. Maybe everyone gave up hope after the debacle of Dangerous Acquaintances. Or maybe Marianne didn’t quite fit the new MTV scene that exploded the same year this was released and took absolutely no prisoners. Who knows, but the fact remains that this is a really strong album both lyrically and musically, and it still stands up well today where so many others don’t.

Rating: B+

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© 2009 Mark Millan and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Island, and is used for informational purposes only.