Thursday, March 22, 2018

Marianne Faithfull - Broken English

Obviously, I was aware of Marianne from her time as a pop diva in the 60's, so when this album was released in late 1979, I picked it up to see what she was up to in this era. With a considerably rougher voice due to a bout of severe laryngitis and years of abuse, her material matched this new sound, with edgey songs that came out of the punk scene but with a new-wave-y, keyboard sound (done by Steve Winwood, which I hadn't realized or had forgotten). Normally, this would be a bit off-putting, but somehow it all works in context.

Opening with the title track and its pulsating rhythms'n'keys, this wouldn't sound completely out of place on Iggy's records from the time - The Idiot or Lust For Life. "Witches' Song" is a melodic, catchy ballad with a great chorus, "Brain Drain" is equally, darkly catchy, with a nice groove, and side one closes with a defiant Marianne alternating between refusing to feel "Guilt" and being consumed by it.

One of my faves, and many others, apparently (as it has been used in numerous movies and TV shows), is her cover of Shel Silverstein's "Ballad of Lucy Jordan", a emotional tale of a wasted life that either ends in suicide or madness, depending on your interpretation. There have been a number of versions of this tune, but none as powerful as Marianne's. Appropriately, "What's the Hurry" is the most fast-paced song of the album and even with the new-wave production, it's pretty darn rockin'. Her take on John Lennon's "Working Class Hero" is fierce and gripping - possibly surpassing the original with her terrific rendering and the accenting guitars. Of course, one of her most famous/infamous number is the vicious "Why D'Ya Do It", a vitriolic, venomous diatribe at her cheating lover, done with Television-like guitars, a pseudo-reggae beat and some of the harshest lyrics'n'delivery ever conceived.

While the production sounds a bit dated today, this is still probably Faithfull's best work - in fact, she has called it her masterpiece. Highly recommended!