Forever Faithfull

By Tom Von Malder | Mar 16, 2019
Photo by: Panta Rei/BMG Records The cover of the new Marianne Faithfull album.

Owls Head — Marianne Faithfull: Negative Capability deluxe edition (Panta Rei/BMG CD, 52:34). Faithfull, who turned 72 in December, continues her string of strong albums with this reflective work, recorded in her adoptive city of Paris. It is her 21st album in 54 years of recording and, at times, her voice sounds deeper than ever. Faithfull recorded a handful of pop/folk albums in the mid-Sixties (see below), then basically disappeared after 1967, until 1979's brilliant "Broken English" album, which set her on a new course, one that she continues today.

Her new album revisits the past twice. The first is her 1964 hit, "As Tears Go By," written by Andrew Loog Oldham and Rolling Stones Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and released when she was dating Jagger. On the original, her voice was very high and very thin -- almost too thin -- but 45 years later, her voice has deepened considerably and is full of world-weariness, almost giving the song a new interpretation. Faithfull also revisits "Witches' Song" from the "Broken English" album, with Warren Ellis on alto flute, Rob Ellis on bass synthesizer and Ed Harcourt on piano and Wurlitzer. Faithfull also revisits her love for Bob Dylan's songs by covering his "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue."

That is the only cover song. Faithfull writes the lyrics to the rest with various musical collaborators. Strong standouts are "Misunderstanding," which shows vulnerability (as does the love song, "In My Own Particular Way," which features Warren Ellis on violin), and "They Come at Night," an angry reaction to the Nov. 13, 2015 attacks in Paris, including outside the Bataclan concert hall. It has an insistent rock beat and lyrics about the traumatized survivors. One of the deluxe edition's three bonus tracks is an alternate version of "They Come at Night," which has a dirtier rock sound.

Nick Cave wrote the music to "The Gypsy Faerie Queen" and co-sings on the track, Faithfull's riff on "Midsummer Night's Dream." And Faithfull can still do melancholy. Take the prayer for a good death in "Born To Live" or her aloneness living in Paris that fills "No Moon in Paris." The latter does offer a bit of hope towards its end. Another of the deluxe edition extras is a shorter, edited version of this song and the third bonus is the thematically aligned "Loneliest Person," a cover of a song by The Pretty Things. The deluxe edition comes in a CD-size hardcover book that includes all the lyrics and thematic photos.. Grade: A

Marianne Faithfull: Come and Stay With Me, The UK 45s 1964-1969 (ABKCO CD, 64:41). This collection, put together by Mick Patrick, with excellent career-spanning notes by Kris Needs in the 24-page booklet, presents the A- and B-sides of Faithfull's UK Decca singles, plus her four-song "Go Away From My World" EP.

The disc, of course, starts out with her breakout hit, "As Tears Go By," written be Rolling Stones Mick Jagger, whom she had been dating, and Keith Richards, and also credited to Andrew Look Oldham here. The 22-song collection closes with her rare B-side version of "Sister Morphine," with lyrics by her and music by Jagger and Richards, and used by the Stones on their 1971 album, "Sticky Fingers." Several of the tracks fall into the folk genre, including her angelic-sounding version of "Greensleeves," a version  Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" (which later Faithfull termed a "total disaster," according to Needs), and "The Most of What Is Least," the first of several Donovan songs she covered. Faithfuull  herself wrote the folkish waltz, "Oh Look Around You."

More dynamic are Jackie DeShannon's "Come Stay With Me" (one of several songs, including the B-side "What Have I Done Wrong," included here, that featured future Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, then a hot session musician) and a cover of the minor Ronettes' hit, "Is This What I Get For Loving You?" The latter is appropriately Phil Spectorish, until a Dixieland brass band comes in briefly midway. There is light pop, French style to the pleasing "Summer Nights," while she sings "What Now My Love?" in French, as "Et Maintenant." "Tomorrow's Calling" is baroque pop, while "That's Right Baby" has a heavier arrangement with brass and a late-night vibe. The latter never appeared on an album. Grade: CD B+; album notes A

Brett Young: Ticket to L.A. (Big Machine Label Group CD, 47:10). The rising country star, who is not afraid to mix in pop sounds and sensibilities, had this, his sophomore album, debut atop the Billboard Country Albums chart, following his platinum self-titled debut, which dominated the Top 20 on the Country Albums chart for 37 weeks. The ACM New Male Vocalist of the Year delivered four consecutive No. 1 platinum-certified hits and was named ASCAP’s 2018 Country Songwriter-Artist of the Year. The former college pitcher, whose baseball career was derailed by an elbow injury, is known for his songs of heartbreak.

Young co-wrote 10 of the 13 songs here, including the charming title track that kicks off the album. It is about meeting sweet with a woman while their flights from JFK were both delayed. The upbeat rocker has lots of nice guitar. Next up is "Here Tonight," a ballad that turns full throttle. There is more of a singer-songwriter vibe to the single, "Catch." The album turns more towards traditional country with "1, 2, 3 Mississippi" and the softer "Let It Be Mine," in which he offers a woman support.

The expected heartbreak comes through on the soulful "When You Want Me" (the lyric goes: "You got me where you want me, but baby you don't want me no more"), "Used To Missin' You" (a slight taste of funk to the very beginning and lots of lyric details) and "Don't Wanna Write This Song," in which death, not cheating or lying, have separated the lovers. The stripped-down "Change Your Name" had me briefly thinking Otis Redding and the chorus vocal is full of wanting. Gavin DeGaw co-wrote and sings on "Chapters," a very nice slice of pop-rock. Grade: A

Cyrille Aimée: Move On, A Sondheim Adventure (Mack Avenue CD, 49:45). I am not crazy about Aimée's approach to all these Stephen Sondheim songs, as she has completely changed the arrangements, but several are very nice. There is a lot of scat singing. The project began as a celebration of the legendary Broadway composer  -- in 2013 she was invited to participate in a Sondheim tribute concert at New York's City Center -- but soon became a work of cathartic autobiography, as one song after another captured Aimée's personal feelings.

"I get goosebumps just thinking about it,” Aimée said in a press release. “At the moment that I was working on this album I was going through a lot of life changes. The more I listened to the songs, the more I realized they were really connected to what I was going through. At a very rough time, these songs were saving me."

While its narrative arc is a self-contained story, the album is the beginning of a new chapter in Aimée’s journey. It is the French-born singer’s first release since disbanding the acclaimed band she has led for the last several years, to which she bid a fond adieu on her last album, "Cyrille Aimée Live." It is also her first studio album since moving from Brooklyn to New Orleans.

A break-up meant that she unexpectedly had to make the move alone. The course of that relationship provided the through line for the songs on this album, which traces the course of a romance from dreaming together ("Take Me To The World") through vulnerable commitment ("Marry Me A Little") to heartbreaking assurances ("No One Is Alone") and finally the uncertain future ("With So Little To Be Sure Of").

The intro ""When I Get Famous" is sung a cappella, then there is New Orleans flavor to "Take Me To the World," the first song with scatting. "Marry Me a Little" is simple, with strings and guitar, then "Being Alive" picks up the pace and uses both a string quartet and a salsa feel. There is a bass groove on "Not While I'm Around" and more scatting on "They Ask Why I Believe in You." Perhaps the best known song, "No One Is Alone," is given a bluesy tinge and a bit of drama." "One More Kiss" is sung in French, with a new, Sondheim-approved translation. "I Remember" is very pretty. Grade: B

Peter Rogan: Still Tryin' to Believe (Melt Shop CD, 52:49). Rogan is an electrician by trade and still clocks in five-plus days a week at a Pennsylvania steel mill, but the 57-year-old worked nearly every day for 18 months on this debut album. The effort has proved well worth it, as the album is a strong  mix of modern Americana, vintage rock and blues. The basic tracks were recorded in Nashville, with vocals and overdubs added in Pennsylvania and Baltimore.

Rogan is a two-time finalist and one-time winner in the Great American Song Contest. He wrote or co-wrote all the songs here, including the instrumental jazz ballad, "Song For Keith," written for a late friend and a Top 5 winner in the 2017 Great American Song Contest instrumental category. The piece features a flugel. His collaborators here include Phil Madeira, the Nashville songwriter and session musician whose credits include Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller and the Civil Wars, and Will Kimbrough, who has written songs for Jimmy Buffet and most recently produced Shemekia Copeland's latest album, "America's Child." Musically, Rogan was supported by 17 musicians and backup singers.

The title track, which opens the album, features country-rock rhythm guitar and a nice instrumental extension. There is a psychedelic swirl to the chorus, a flavor that also surfaces during the instrumental end of "River Man." "The Only One," a duet with Allison Dietz of Baltimore, is the album's most country song. "Kickin' the Can," a song about procrastination, starts off with more of a talk vocal. It has an infectious groove and a big pop-rock chorus. On a couple of songs, "The Rolling Mill Blues" and "Big Green Rambler," Rogan sings with the vocal mannerisms of Mick Jagger. The former talks about the daily grind of the steel mill, while the tongue-in-cheek latter is actual about a car, not a wandering soul.

The dark "Mercy," co-written with Nashville poet Kenneth Robinson, features a scorching guitar solo, while "The Start of Something Easy" is uplifting and breezy. There is a bit of a stutter feel to the beat of the bluesy "Sweet Baby Blues" that reminded me of The Who's "Magic Bus." Then, the song actually uses a "deaf, dumb and blind" lyric. Hello "Tommy." The album uses backing vocals very well throughout. "Beautiful Honey" is a tender love song. Grade: A-

Eagles: Legacy (Warner Music Group, 12 CDs + DVD + Blu-ray). This collection presents all of the Eagles' output in one box. Included are all seven of the band's studio albums, three live albums and a compilation of singles and B-sides. The two concert videos are the "Hell Freezes Over" DVD and the Blu-ray version of "Farewell Tour: Live From Melbourne."

The Eagles created an indelible musical legacy over an extraordinary career that spans more than 40 years and includes six number one albums, more than a dozen Top 40 hits and six Grammy Awards. A vinyl version of the box set also is available and contains all the music from the CD version on 15 LPs, but does not include the two videos. Both sets are housed in handsome slipcases and accompanied by a 54-page hardbound book that's filled with rare and unseen photos, memorabilia and artwork that covers the band's entire career.

Grammy-winning mastering engineer Bob Ludwig remastered "Hell Freezes Over" and "Millennium Concert" CDs especially for the box set. Both albums -- along with several tracks from the "Singles and B-Sides compilation" -- are being released on vinyl for the first time ever as part of this collection, save for a small European vinyl pressing of "Hell Freezes Over" around its original release in 1994. In addition, the double-album "Eagles Live" makes its long-awaited return to vinyl after being out-of-print for decades.

The box set follows the Eagles through the different stage of the band's storied career, from the country-rock of early albums like "Desperado" and the superstar success of "Hotel California" to the band's 1994 reunion "Hell Freezes Over" and its most-recent studio album, 2005's "Long Road Out of Eden." All of the band's hits, deep cuts and fan favorites are here, including "Take It Easy," "Already Gone," "Hotel California," "Please Come Home For Christmas," "Heartbreak Tonight" "No More Cloudy Days," and "Get Over It."

The complete album listing is: "Eagles" (1972), "Desperado" (1973), "On The Border" (1974), "One of These Nights" (1975), "Hotel California" (1976), "The Long Run" (1979), "Eagles Live" (1980), "Hell Freezes Over" (1994), "Millennium Concert" (2000) and "Long Road Out of Eden" (2007). The Singles and B-Sides includes: "Take It Easy" (single version), "Get You In The Mood" (non-LP B-side),  "Outlaw Man" (single version),  "Best Of My Love" (single version), "One Of These Nights" (single edit), "Lyin' Eyes" (single edit),  "Take It To The Limit" (single edit), "Please Come Home For Christmas," "Funky New Year" and "Hole In The World." Grade: box set A+

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