By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Over the phone from her apartment in Paris, Marianne Faithfull’s famous gravelly languidity comes dripping through the wires. She sounds happy, at peace with things, and eager to talk about her new album, Easy Come Easy Go, just out in the States on Decca.
Easy Come is another in a long line of Faithfull’s projects in partnership with producer Hal Willner, a collaboration that began in 1985 with Willner’s Kurt Weill tribute album, Lost in the Stars. A remarkably well-selected and idiosyncratically arranged set of tunes culled from the best of this and last century’s popular faves, Easy Come boasts clever and somehow appropriate help from a slew of young and old crooners and players, including Keith Richards, Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright, Antony, Chan Marshall (a.k.a. Cat Power) and Sean Lennon.
As for its title, Easy Come Easy Go feels loaded with significance. Shouldn’t any reasonable person look in the general direction of Faithfull’s past life as Mick Jagger’s girlfriend and infamous junkie party girl and etc., etc. ... ?
“Well, it means sex,” she says with a hoarse chuckle. “But it has a lot of meanings. I suppose it means I’m easing up, in lots of ways. I’m not angry anymore, I got over a lot. And it’s really like that now.
“But the other reason I liked [the title] was because it does mean money. And I thought it was a good title for this time.”
Faithfull had no concept in mind when she began this project, other than to find the very best songs to sing. She figured that with Willner’s help, it would, as always, work out for the best, or at least be an adventure. “We took enormous risk,” she says, “and we worked without a net. Hal came over in October 2007; I’d already chosen some songs. I’d found ‘Down From Dover,’ ‘Sing Me Back Home,’ [songs that] I’d always wanted to do, and ‘Black Coffee.’ And I wanted to do ‘Ooo Baby Baby’ very much. So I told Hal about it, and then he had lots of other songs.”
Armed with their list of favored tunes, the pair commenced the recording process.
“It helps me to do a lot of preproduction,” she says, “so I really worked on the songs and the text, and then I went to New York in December, just in the days leading up to Christmas, and we worked very fast.”
They had to work fast, because of the upcoming holiday, sure, but mainly because of budget. They simply couldn’t afford an extended stay in the recording studio. “I’d never done anything like that before,” Faithfull says. “I’m not sure I want to do it again.” She laughs. “There was no time to mix tracks down, even just rough mixes, so I couldn’t take any that I’d done that day and listen to it by myself, which was hard, actually. I really didn’t know what I was doing; I was jumping into space.”
That sort of half-confident, half-shaky nature is something to admire in Faithfull, whose intriguing sound she injects into these new songs, adding to their depth and variation. She does a touchingly unaffected version of Dolly Parton’s “Down From Dover” to start the album, followed by a supertuff take on Neko Case’s “Hold On Hold On,” which then cedes to the ghostly strains of Duke Ellington/Billie Holiday’s “Solitude,” nearly overwhelming in its odd mix of tension and quietude. The Espers’ “Children of Stone,” a duet with Wainwright, sort of peels away the rough-hewn layers of the original to reveal a beautiful marvel of simplicity.
Faithfull’s meeting with Willner seems fortuitous, for the way her sandpaper vocal cords and complex delivery match so resonantly with his unusual arrangement ideas.
“We’d both been wanting to do another studio record like this, but I didn’t want to do it so near to [their last collaboration] Strange Weather. I wanted a lot of time to go by, because I really don’t want it to be compared to that album. It’s very, very different — though, of course, I have this tendency to sing beautiful tragic songs. I can’t help that.”
This time, Willner and Faithfull worked as an ongoing gambit the idea of bringing out unexpected nuances in familiar songs by pairing her voice and persona with those of several singers known as much for their quirky personas as for their vocal styles. A cover of the Decemberists’ “The Crane Wife” features a black-humored yet touchingly sincere Nick Cave; a brave stab at Smokey Robinson’s “Ooo Baby Baby” features the amazing Antony Hegarty, whose acrobatic vocalese work on this track sounds like, well, like he really likes a challenge.
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