Rich Kid Blues
REVIEW BY: Mark Millan
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/15/2009
Rich Kid Blues is the album that was never supposed to be released. It was only during the recording of her follow-up to A Child’s Adventure that Island didn’t fancy the demos too much and canned the project. A few songs from those sessions would later turn up on Marianne’s first live LP, Blazing Away (released in 1990). With no current product to release, Marianne again sunk into a downer that would last until she almost died from another overdose in 1986. Ever the opportunists, her old label NEMS/Immediate finally swung a deal that would see the belated release of Rich Kid Blues, thirteen years after it was recorded.
The album was produced by Mike Leander and again is an acoustic affair that fortunately bettered their previous acoustic covers album Loveinamist by a long way. With that release, Faithfull and Leander had missed the mark completely, and the failure of the record ended Decca’s interest in Faithfull’s career for good. This album was recorded in the early part of 1971 when Marianne was virtually homeless and horribly depressed at having lost custody of her son. The project, however, was shelved and left to collect dust until its belated release following Marianne’s recent success that began in 1979 with Broken English.
Early editions of the record featured two discs, the original studio album and a compilation of earlier recordings. Secondary editions (including a 2002 CD released by Demon Music) scrapped the second disc and offered the original album on its own merits. This is one of Faithfull’s most accessible albums simply due to the material, comprised of covers of mostly well-known folk-rock songs by the likes of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and Cat Stevens. Leander’s production is expertly controlled for most of the tracks, and despite her personal hell, Marianne offers beautiful readings of these songs, evoking every emotion when the material demands it.
The album open with the lines “Havin’ bad times, now I’m paying dues / Got shoes and money, good friends too” from the title-track, and truer words have never been spoken. Marianne’s haunting voice sucks you in straightaway for what is a heartbreaking lament of a life gone wrong. “Long Black Veil” tells the tale from a wrongly accused man’s point of view who refuses to give an alibi because he was with his best friend’s missus. Faithfull’s dreary delivery is exactly what the song requires, and it’s one of the album’s most memorable moments as a result.
Cat Steven’s “Sad Lisa” is given a tender reading by Faithfull and is followed by a curious cover of Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue.” Marianne’s phrasing really makes this one work, and thankfully, the arrangement is for the most part faithful to the original. Tim Hardin, who wrote several songs for Marianne during her ‘60s heyday, contributes the most folky of all the songs here, “Southern Butterfly.” By this stage, Faithfull had covered so many folk songs that it really wasn’t her thing anymore, and not only does she sound bored, but the track is rather flat as well.
“Chords Of Fame” deals with an alcoholic troubadour who battles with the trappings of fame, with Marianne advising him, “the more that you will find success, the more that you will fail.” That sentiment captures exactly what the ‘60s had done for Marianne, who delivers the lyric with conviction. Two more Dylan covers follow with “Visions Of Johanna” and “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry.” The former comes off a little daft, but Faithfull nails the latter backed by a great arrangement and some fantastic guitar work.
George Harrison’s “Beware Of Darkness” is another standout. It’s a great interpretation both by Faithfull and by her band. It’s easily one of her best covers from her early period and still sounds fresh today. Faithfull then tackles the blues with a stunning cover of “Corrina, Corrina.” Few women can get away singing songs by men about women from the male’s point of view, and Marianne is one of them. Her pining is convincing, and she breathes new life into the old classic.
A spooky cover of James Taylor’s “Mud Slide Slim” finds the mark, and once again it’s due to another superb interpretive reading by Marianne. I don’t mean to harp on the issue, but the woman is a genius, plain and simple. Folk legend Sandy Denny’s “Crazy Lady Blues” closes out the album with a country-influenced swagger that is so good but frustratingly far too short. This is also the only song on the record written by a woman, which probably means nothing but it’s worth noting just the same.
Just why Rich Kid Blues was shelved no one really knows, but it would have definitely performed better than its flimsy predecessor This isn’t one of Marianne’s great achievements, but as far as cover albums go, it’s very good, and serves as proof that this woman can sing just about anything she pleases. This would certainly be the truth with her next release and several more throughout the last twenty years.