Marianne Faithfull

Rich Kid Blues

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In early 1971, Marianne Faithfull -- whose personal life was not in the best shape and whose commercial prospects were idle as she had released just one single since early 1967 -- recorded an album's worth of material with producer Mike Leander, who had worked with Faithfull in the 1960s. Leander hoped to place the album with Bell Records, but despite some initial positive feedback, Bell rejected the record after it was completed. The 12 songs on this CD were cut at these 1971 sessions and eventually released in the mid-'80s on the Castle compilation Rich Kid Blues, which added most of the material from her 1978 album Faithless. Now isolated on a disc of their own, these early-'70s performances turn out to be surprisingly worthwhile, even if they're not among her very best work. Faithfull's voice had now lowered about a full octave (actually it had already done so by her 1969 single "Sister Morphine"), and she gave dignified, knowing interpretations to songs with a folk-rock and country-rock bent, with suitably understated, low-key arrangements. Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, James Taylor, Tim Hardin, and Cat Stevens were among the composers covered, and pure country ("Long Black Veil") and folk ("Corinne, Corinna") tunes were also part of the program. This is best when the arrangements are stripped down to little more than guitar and Faithfull's sensually low voice, as on "Sad Lisa," "Southern Butterfly," and "Visions of Johanna." When a fuller electric band backing's employed, there's a more dated early-'70s mellow-rock sluggishness. Still, at its best this is actually very good stuff, and even at less than its best, it has its good points. A worthy transition from her '60s pop days into more serious material, it's worth finding (and has often been overlooked) by Faithfull fans.

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