x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Marianne Faithfull casts an elegant backward glance

With her album Horses and High Heels, rock's grand dame delivers unmistakable poignancy.

Horses and High Heels
(Dramatico)
***

Cancer, mental illness, substance abuse - Marianne Faithfull has weathered these and countless other storms. Her voice has been impaired in the process, but she's certainly not lacking in gravitas. Now 64, rock's grand dame here presents an elegant if somewhat patchy set, but her take on the Shangri-La's Past Present and Future has unmistakable poignancy. "At the moment it doesn't look good", she intones as a backing-track pastiching Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata plays out. "I don't think [love] will ever happen again."

The album is Faithfull's 23rd and comprises eight cover-versions and four originals. Recorded in the French Quarter of New Orleans, it also features Lou Reed, Doctor John, Wayne Kramer of the MC5, and a lyric penned by the Irish playwright Frank McGuiness (see the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds-like The Old House.)

Naturally, ageing and the backward glance are key themes, and most effective on the stately Goin' Back, where references to childhood games are juxtaposed with images of an elderly woman playing hide and seek with her fears. That Eternity features snippets of recordings made by Brian Jones in Morocco in 1968 is another neat, resonant touch, but Faithfull's Thespian, oh-so-English tones jar on the album's R&B-flavoured tracks.