Marianne Faithfull, "Horses and High Heels" (Naive)
Marianne Faithfull has survived a roller-coaster-like ride through life to reach the age of 64 that her friends, the Beatles, once celebrated in song. On her new CD, Faithfull still rocks but acts her age, unlike some of her contemporaries who vainly chase after their lost youth.
On "Horses and High Heels," which reunites her with producer Hal Willner, Faithfull shows her mastery at finding familiar and obscure songs to cover that she can relate to personally and transform. On the Carole King pop ballad "Goin' Back," a 1960s hit for Dusty Springfield, she poignantly recasts it to reflect the viewpoint of an older woman looking back on her past. Her distinctive world-weary, gravelly voice and acting skills add gravitas to the melancholic, fatalistic "Past, Present and Future," a quirky song by the Shangri-Las, spoken rather than sung to an accompanying theme based on Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata."
After overcoming writer's block following recent bouts with cancer and depression, Faithfull includes four originals among the 13 tracks that draw on recent life experiences. The guitar-driven "Why Did We Have to Part?" expresses regrets over a romantic breakup. The Celtic folk-inspired title track creates haunting late-night images of horses' hooves and women's high heels clattering on the streets of Dublin and Paris — the two cities the British expat now calls home.
This album, recorded in New Orleans, has some songs that almost seem out of character for a singer long associated with the dark side of life. The rollicking blues-rock "No Reason," by British songwriter Jackie Lomax, sounds like a Rolling Stones song, while Allen Toussaint's "Back in Baby's Arms," with guest appearances by Dr. John and Lou Reed, finds Faithfull singing soul with a funky groove. Dare we say that Faithfull has finally arrived at a happier place?
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: On her original "Eternity," Faithfull samples the late Rolling Stone guitarist Brian Jones' 1968 recording in Morocco with the Master Musicians of Jajouka in an uptempo, and surprisingly optimistic, folk-rock song.