At her best, Marianne Faithfull can cut a tune so good it's as though it were always hers. And there's no talk of 'As Tears Go By' to be found here. It took some re-invention as a jazz and blues singer on her landmark 1989 album 'Strange Weather' with production from Hal Willmer to recognise the native talent, and the 20 years hence have brought about a similar re-acquaintance. 'Strange Weather' traipsed over the 20th century songbook with inspirations drawn wide, yet there was a chilly autumnal feeling to the covers that despite it's strung out tones was packed aplenty with Faithfull's phoenix-like spirit.
Best known for 'Broken English' with an uncanny following from our German cousins, Faithfull's voice has been like a clapped out motor refusing to give up its' last legs, bearing all the marks of abuse from various addictions and a life spent on the edge resulted in a cracked, rasping holt. Stub your fags elsewhere though, it's honey and ginger tea nowadays. 'Easy Come Easy Go' has a rhythm band full of spunk and tatters which is what you'd expect from Tom Waits's band members Marc Ribot and Greg Cohen, while Jim White, Warren Ellis on violin, Lenny Pickett with his string and horn sections, and countless guest vocalists add to a friends party feel. 'Dolly Parton's 'Down From Dover' gets a cool sexy make-over from standing bass, brass and Hammond organ, while the stunning 'Hold On Hold On' is nought less than shit hot and gives Neko Case's cover a run for her money - the band showboating, Marc Ribot wrangs it up on guitar and Faithfull's voice fits snug tight sidled with Chan Marshall's harmonies.
A take on The Decemberists 'The Crane Wife 3' shows Faithful is abreast of a good tune and of what's de rigeur (even Nick Cave sounds superfluous as though popping in for a cuppa), while Espers torch-song 'Children Of Stone' captures a more sombre mien as Faithful delivers with a valium-like drawl to the songs trawl with assistance from Rufus Wainwright - "...you couldn't open up your vehhhaaayyns tonight...all that blossoms, all that blooms, lies fallow in the night...", and Brian Eno's 'How Many World's' has a sweet touch that reminds of Strange Weather's 'Sign Of Judgement' where Ribot gets all showy. See, 'Easy Come Easy Go' has a climate that doesn't like to get too temperate and comfy, as Faithful seems just as at home with sanguine songs as for melancholic ones.
Old jazz standards, though, are Faithfull's calling card as on Bessie Smith's 'Easy Come Easy Go', and a soothing version of the Billie Holiday popularised sunday afternoon ruminative 'Solitude' is replete with doleful brass and shimmering organ that goes down as cool as a Hendrick's & tonic, while Faithfull's love of Weimar-era German songs is expressed on a timeless and tender version of Randy Newman's 'In Germany Before The War' that's like floating downstream on history's tides. Smokey Robinson's 'Ooh Baby Baby', however,' ends up so much minced burger meat thanks to the phantom, warbling jello presence of Captain Androgynous, Antony Hegarty, while Faithful just swoons and gets on with the job. Far better is a pitch perfect version of Merle Haggard's 'Sing Me Back Home' bearing an alt-country stamp where Keith Richards can be found propping the bar.
The best parts appear on on the 10 track disc 1 of a possible expanded double disc, while exceptions on disc 2 come from Ribot's syncopated wah wah guitar shining on the dizzying Black Rebel Motorcycle penned 'Salvation', while the mellow jazz club fave 'Black Coffee' is like a Morphine delivery from standing bass and sax, and Morrissey's 'Dear God Please Help Me' is full of desperation and tragedy. Elsewhere, there's just that touch of The Muppets to be found on Sondheim's 'Somewhere' where the beloved Jarvis Cocker gets all schmaltzy like a wind up for Statler & Waldorf. A broader timeline than 'Strange Weather' then, and further confirmation that Marianne Faithfull is one of the best interpreters of song at work today.