Marianne Faithfull

Negative Capability

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Marianne Faithfull was just 18 years old when she scored a hit in England and America with "As Tears Go By" in 1964. In 2018, a 71-year-old Faithfull re-recorded the song for her album Negative Capability, and the differences between the two versions speak volumes about the artist she is in the 2010s. The performance on Negative Capability comes from a vocalist who has learned a lot more about love, heartache, and the good and bad places that fate can take you than the 18-year-old ever imagined she could know. It's more than a little rueful, but also full of hard-won wisdom, and the rough edges of her voice only add to the resonance of the performance. Faithfull doubles down on the impact of "As Tears Go By" with "In My Own Particular Way," as she speaks plainly of her need for love and acceptance, both because of and in spite of the experiences of seven decades. Aging and loss aren't necessarily the themes of Negative Capability, but they lurk somewhere in the shadows of nearly every tune here, and the cracks in the surface of Faithfull's instrument generally add more than they take away from her vocals, while her phrasing and dramatic sense are as keen as they've ever been. Warren Ellis of the Dirty Three and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds produced Negative Capability in tandem with Head and Rob Ellis, as well as performing on most of the tracks, and the weary but insistent cry of his violin is an ideal match for Faithfull's voice, at once complementing the singing and lending it empathetic support. The originals are full of thoughtful observation and emotions that balance somewhere between hope and disappointment, and she puts a spin on classics by Bob Dylan ("It's All Over Now, Baby Blue") and the Pretty Things ("The Loneliest Person," included on the deluxe edition) that makes them an ideal fit for this album. In 1964, Marianne Faithfull was a budding talent with genuine promise, and in the decades since, she's matured into a strikingly effective performer and a songwriter with a clear, brave voice. Negative Capability is a testament to her journey and what it has taught her, and it reminds us she's still a talent capable of drawing our attention.

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