Give Me Love To London
Naïve/Dramatico Entertainment Ltd
Here is Marianne Faithfull’s 20th solo album – it also sees her celebrating 50 years in music and entertainment, though of course – far more entertainment at times have been her hijinks and the published versions (her books are wonderful, must-read rock memoirs). That particular energy and those angles – and the return to acting, now with a grit and gravitas – has always threatened to take away from her music, but over the last two decades she has, deservedly, received strong notices for her albums. They’ve been good – all of them – even if she seemed to fall into the role of cracked-chanteuse, trading a little too heavily on jazz/noir-ish arrangements and the “surprise” of her attempting standards and interesting covers.
All of that said hers is a catalogue worth exploring – Broken English is held aloft as the triumph – everything that’s followed has been okay. That’s not the true story and with Give My Love To London she’s made something, with a little help from her friends as always, that runs closest to Broken English, that stands head and shoulders with it in fact. And that also encompasses the best moments of those other albums across the last decade and a half.
This time around the big names helping out include Nick Cave, Brian Eno, Anna Calvi, Ed Harcourt, Tom McRae and Steve Earle. Faithfull is in on the co-writing for most of this material – and she’s received strong songs from Cave in particular (Deep Water is an album highlight) and once again her old chum Roger Waters turns out a really wonderful tune for her (Sparrows Will Sing). He seems to write better songs for her than he does for himself.
There’s a version of Leonard Cohen’s Going Home from his second-most-recent album and the final track returns Faithfull to that role of the after-hours gin-soaked cabaret closer, a spooky – almost Lynch-ian – version of Hoagy Carmichael’s I Get Along Without You Very Well.
But it’s the jubilation of Sparrows Will Sing, the jangled revelry of the opening title track, the sea-shanty lurch and passion behind True Lies and the perfect performance – acting out every notion in the words – of Love More Or Less that really sell this album. Those four songs in a row that open the album are among the best performances Faithfull has ever offered.
Somewhere along the way the drug stories, the famous boyfriends, the madness of a night out that started one fine day in one city and ended up a month later in another country…well all of that might have helped the legend in some sense, but it’s taken some shine off the music. Hers is a back catalogue of intriguing and often wonderful performances. Most importantly, right now, she shows no signs of weakening, or phoning it in. She’s made an album that could deservedly be called the best of her career. Extraordinary.