Easy Come Easy Go
REVIEW BY: Mark Millan
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/30/2009
Following three vastly different albums of original material, Marianne Faithfull decided that it was time for something new by doing something old. Throughout her career, she had had wonderful success by covering the songs of others and felt the time was right for another tribute to her favorite songwriters and singers spanning the last fifty or so years. So last year, Marianne and producer Hal Willner got together and begun working on another covers album with which they were hoping to recreate the magic they made with Strange Weather (their last complete record together).
The mood of this one, however, is much lighter and the cast of musicians and guest performers assembled to bring these songs to life is impressive, to say the least. Marianne’s voice is still in fine form and she certainly hasn’t lost the hunger for her craft, nor the joy of performing. Willner’s production is perfect as always, and his skill at guiding Marianne through these quite often challenging arrangements cannot be underestimated. The pair has forged a great rapport and work ethic in the studio that is clearly evident throughout the eighteen songs on this two-disc edition of Easy Come, Easy Go.
This is a wildly eclectic collection of tunes that originate from an array of such diverse artists as Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, Randy Newman, and Brian Eno. Willner, however, can take all the credit he wants for blending them into a cohesive and focused album that finds Marianne once again rising to the challenge and delivering some of her most inspired performances in years. Throughout this album, she revisits some of her past incarnations like the Weimar Cabaret singer (of 20th Century Blues) for Newman’s “In Germany Before The War” and the bluesy crooner (of Strange Weather) for a beguiling performance of the classic standard “Solitude.”
With Parton’s “Down From Dover,” Faithfull delivers a commanding reading backed by a very alt-rock, horn-soaked arrangement that is anything but country. Marianne’s good pal and sometime collaborator Nick Cave makes his presence felt on a slightly haunting version of “The Crane Wife 3,” on which Willner softens the mood by adding a string quartet. The downtrodden blues of the title track and the old-school jazz of “Black Coffee” are perfect foils for Faithfull’s modern-day, nicotine-laced crooning.
Kudos for the darkest track on the record goes to Faithfull’s duet with Rufus Wainwright, the morbid ballad “Children Of Stone.” Still, it is challenged for that title by Marianne’s bleak reading of Morrissey’s “Dear God Please Help Me,” which for me is the only dud on this superb disc. This is the only occasion where Marianne seems to be forcing herself to find the sentiment within the soul-searching lyrics, and in doing so, she delivers a rather unconvincing performance, a rarity for her.
Sean Lennon helps out with the poppy “Hold On, Hold On,” which Faithfull handles with a ridiculous ease, and the slow-burning rocker “Salvation.” The latter (a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club original) could’ve been the most surprising addition here if it weren’t for the inclusion of Brian Eno’s “How Many Worlds.” Marianne transforms Eno’s social commentary into an eerily sweet, alt-rock ballad of sorts that is very modern day Bowie – in a good way, of course.
One of my all-time favourite singer/songwriters Smokey Robinson is honored here with a glorious eight-minute transformation of “Ooh Baby Baby.” Normally, I would be horrified at hearing a Motown classic reworked in such a dramatic way, but along with Antony Hegarty, Marianne has delivered a soulful funk inspired version that works so well it’s almost unbelievable. Faithfull’s old chum Keith Richards turns up for a fantastically smooth waltz through Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home,” on which the pair’s battle weary voices blend superbly. These two should seriously consider working together on a record of their own – what a treat that would be.
With “Flandyke Shore,” Marianne channels the folk singer of her youth for a mesmerizing performance that is both passionate and defiant when she declares, “Never to return to England no more.” A resident of Dublin and Paris these days, Faithfull still has a hard time returning to her homeland after the troublesome 1970’s, during which she was hung out to dry by an assortment of vicious tabloids (not to mention the treatment she received from an overzealous drug squad, who literally ran her out of town on numerous occasions for sometimes possessing nothing more than a single joint).
Easy Come, Easy Go is an almost perfect album of covers by a masterful interpreter, guided by an equally masterful producer. When Faithfull and Willner hook up, wonderful things happen, and this album is more proof of that. This is the kind of record that would receive a swag of Grammy Awards in the good old days when they were actually handed out based on merit. Anyway, Marianne Faithfull is in a good place these days, and unlike so many of her contemporaries, she continues to make challenging and vital music that always offers a new perspective. Faithfull is one of the all-time greats and Easy Come, Easy Go finds her still at the peak of her powers.