Marianne Faithfull announces new solo album

Marianne Faithfull
Photograph by Yann Orhan

Negative Capability is the 21st album by Marianne Faithfull and the most emotionally powerful of her 54-year recording career. Facing down arthritis and bolstered by collaborators including Warren Ellis, Nick Cave, Rob Ellis, Ed Harcourt and Mark Lanegan, Negative Capability is charged with brutal honesty and autobiographical reflection as she addresses losing old friends, her loneliness living in her adopted city of Paris, and love.

Driven by her supernatural reinterpretative skills, florid lyricism, battle against the pain she lives with, and realised with her stellar group of musicians, Negative Capability is Marianne’s unflinchingly honest and relentlessly beautiful late-life masterpiece. The stark emotional heft, exquisitely framed by ornately sensitive musical backdrops can only be likened to the late-life works by Johnny Cash or Leonard Cohen.

“It’s the most honest album I’ve ever made,” she says. “I’ve always tried not to reveal myself. There’s nothing like real hardship to give you some depth. I’ve had terrible accidents and I’m really damaged. It’s changed my life forever. I’m in a lot of pain and worked really hard to get strong so I can do my work. The great miracle is I was able to make this beautiful record. I really had no idea how it would turn out. I just jumped in and hoped I would be able to do it. This is all what’s happened to me since my life changed but obviously if I do something I must do it really well.

The record emphasises her unique place as a force of nature in the beating heart of modern music that started opening up after ‘Sister Morphine’ ignited her muse and was recorded by the Rolling Stones nearly fifty years ago. At that time she had enjoyed her pop career with hits such as ‘Come And Stay With Me’ and ‘This Little Bird’, before becoming the crown princess of the UK counterculture before grasping her artistic reins with the landmark Broken English in 1979.

Recorded at La Frette studio on the outskirts of Paris, Negative Capability is inexorably overshadowed by grief at losing close friends from the ‘60s such as Anita Pallenberg, Martin Stone and Cream album designer Martin Sharp. It’s produced by both Rob Ellis – the PJ Harvey producer who’s been Marianne’s collaborator for five years -and Warren Ellis from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Warren’s violin blesses songs such as ‘Misunderstanding’ and ‘Born To Live’ – her intensely moving eulogy to departed lifelong friend Anita – with the stark but lustrous autumnal beauty that makes the album.

The first single ‘The Gypsy Faerie Queen’ – inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ – was co-written with Nick Cave and features his vocals and piano playing.

“It’s a little miracle,” says Marianne. “I asked Nick if he would put music to it and he wrote back saying, ‘I’m so busy.’ I said, ‘I understand, sorry to bother you.’ Then he just wrote back, ‘Thank you so much for understanding; here’s the song.’ It’s just gorgeous.”

Artist’s website: http://www.mariannefaithfull.org.uk/

‘The Gypsy Faerie Queen’:

TOM PETTY AND BOB DYLAN – New York 1986 (Rox Vox RV2CD2128)

New York 1986In the mid-80s and in the midst of his own musical wasteland, Bob Dylan went down a number of different angles in a bid to rejuvenate his career. While some of these efforts were more successful than others, one of the more favourable endeavours from this time was his work with the late Tom Petty. Prior to their work with The Travelling Wilburys super group, Dylan and Petty took to the road, with the extensive True Confessions tour, beginning in February 1986. This double disc, New York 1986, released on the ‘Rox Vox’ label presents an entire concert recording, from a rainy night in Saratoga Springs, New York, from July of that year.

Opening with Dylan’s onstage entrance, it is immediately clear that this is not a recording, originally intended for release, and indeed there are several, similar cuts throughout the duration of the 32 song double album. With the backing of Petty’s Heartbreakers, the lion’s share of the set comes from Dylan, who draws from his own extensive catalogue; fusing solid gold classics, with some of his lesser remembered 1980s works.

Decent live versions of ‘I’ll Remember You’ and ‘When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky’ from 1985’s ‘Empire Burlesque’ are worth a listen, as are Tom Petty’s contributions; particularly ‘Straight Into The Darkness’, ‘Even The Losers’, ‘Spike’ and ‘Waiting’ – even if on-stage sound issues detract from the audio quality of this particular version. From the Dylan camp, there are re-workings of 60s classics; including a punchy version of ‘Positively 4th Street’, an enjoyable guitar and harmonica led rendition of ‘Mr Tambourine Man’, a rock n roll styled ‘Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35’ as well as alternative, electric delivery of ‘House Of The Rising Sun’. Some songs don’t translate as well however, ‘Masters Of War’, for example, doesn’t need a minute long guitar solo. What makes the recording most interesting, however, is the handful of covers, performed and confined by Dylan to his 1980s tours. ‘Unchain My Heart’ which opens the album is a good example of this, as is ‘Lonesome Town’ by Ricky Nelson which kicks off disc two – although it does take so long to start you may find yourself double checking that you actually pressed ‘play’. Renditions of Ry Cooder’s ‘Across The Borderline’ and ‘We Had It All’ (by Donny Fritts and Troy Seals) are also worthwhile inclusions.

While I do like Tom Petty, I’m generally really not a fan of mid-80s Bob, but overlooking some of this recording’s audio inconsistencies, this is actually a very enjoyable album. It is a live document of a curious partnership which failed to produce an official studio album. The song selection is relatively unusual and true to Dylan form, for better or worse, the live versions of the live standards are unique to their own time and place.

Christopher James Sheridan

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Don’t bother asking about a website.

‘Positively 4th Street’ live from 1986:

KITTY MACFARLANE – Namer Of Clouds (Navigator Records, NAVIGATOR104)

Namer Of CloudsGiven the praise heaped on Kitty Macfarlane’s 2016 EP, Tide & Time, expectations are understandably high for her first full-length album release, Namer Of Clouds.

Macfarlane’s light soprano, paired with an equally light-fingered plucky guitar, nonetheless contains a filament of controlled determination. Softness and steel are never far apart, even in the delightful gentle lullaby of ‘Dawn And Dark’.

Macfarlane’s strong poetic sensibility is evident from the CD booklet: song lyrics rarely read well but here they hold their own, even against Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, ‘Inversnaid’. Her songs often pull focus in a graceful shift from particular to abstract, like ‘Namer Of Clouds’ where Luke Howard’s original cloud identification system forms the starting point for contemplating the human need to name – and thus own – the world. Jacob Stoney’s riffling keyboard and the dense, layered swell of the arrangement underscore the narrative movement.

‘Seventeen’ is a rites of passage song with an underlying chill, much like ‘Frozen Charlotte’, an Appalachian cautionary tale of the perils of not wearing your big coat. Its finale, stripping away the instrumentation, allows an intense intimacy to the vocal, an idea also used effectively in ‘Morgan’s Pantry’, whose softly pounding drum, gull calls and water sounds add atmosphere to Macfarlane’s softly rasping vocal.

‘Sea Silk’ tells of Chiara Vigo, keeper of an almost fairytale tradition of the spinning of brownish clam silk into a golden thread by the womenfolk of Sant’Antioco island, off Sardinia. There’s a real sense of joy and wonder in chronicling this disappearing skill, and a slightly manic glee at accomplishing the feat.

As mentioned before in these pages, there’s a real vogue at present for adding ambient natural recordings and Macfarlane’s no exception, right from opener ‘Starling Song’, loaded with birdsong over a lean, steely slick of guitars and percussion to the closing ‘Inversnaid’ with its celebration of ‘the weeds and the wilderness’.

Studio wizardry is generally skilfully and subtly deployed and arrangements are convincing, although a folk rock re-working of ‘Wrecking Days’ doesn’t feel entirely comfortable. A handful of Lost Boys lend their creative talents, with Graham Coe’s tender cello fleshing out the softly-spoken defiance of ‘Man, Friendship’ and Jamie Francis’s lithe, writhing guitar under the migrationary musings of ‘Glass Eel’.

Macfarlane’s debut certainly doesn’t disappoint: it’s an assured and confident album that delivers all that the EP promised, and more.

Su O’Brien

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist website: www.kittymacfarlane.com

‘Man, Friendship’ – official video:

 

 

LONGSTAY – Calling Me Home (Goldrush Records, GOLDCD017)

Calling Me HomeCalling Me Home is the debut album from Longstay, a precocious Perth quintet, still with an average age of only 17 – and with four years’ experience already behind them. These super-confident players are firmly rooted in Country and Americana, with more than a hint of the ‘70s thrown in. Yet there’s an unmistakable Scottishness woven through it all, adding a distinct tang to their rocking sound.

From the off, the poppy ‘Mariah’ sets the tone for a slew of songs that show a strong instinct for a killer hook. Band songwriter Callum Campbell shows an easy ear for melody and some mature storytelling in the eight original tracks featured here. Campbell and Malcolm Swan together create an interesting vocal balance with impressive harmonisation, such as on the loping ‘Forever’ with its late-60s organ fills.

Where ‘Too Long’ is a full-on growling rockout (shades of Pearl Jam about the vocal), ‘My Turn’ is a swaggering bar-room strut. ‘Thoughts I Can’t Help’ and ‘Summerton’ are both slow-burners that flesh out as they go. There’s more vulnerability in the gentle keyboard refrain that starts ‘Remember’, a decidedly Scottish lament, brushed across with lap steel and telling a dark tale.

Of the covers, the train-like shuffle of ‘A Ring Of Fire’ (Munro/McElligott, not Carter Cash/Kilgore) features some hot fiddling from Dave Macfarlane. A driving version of John Fogerty’s ‘Lodi’ contains rhythmic hints of ‘Proud Mary’ – not surprising in a band much influenced by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Chris Stapleton’s more recent song, ‘Fire Away’ gets a swaying ‘lighters-aloft’ anthemic treatment which rather suits it.

The album ends with the uptempo, early-90s sounding ‘Leaving’ with its bright brass section that calls to mind bands like The Rembrandts, Deep Blue Something and their ilk. It’s another insanely catchy song rousing to an abrupt finish. You may well find your imagination filling in the ensuing silence with a crowd’s uproarious applause.

Longstay’s brand of Scottish-American contemporary country rock proves to be joyous, infectious and energetic. If this is the standard of where they are at now, let’s hope they will be in for the long stay: we should be in for a treat.

Su O’Brien

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: www.longstayband.com

‘Mariah’ – live:

ANNE MARIE ALMEDAL – Lightshadow (VMP 18/012 CD)

LightshadowAnne Marie Almedal is a Norwegian singer and composer whose album, Lightshadow, is now on release. Almedal, was the lead singer of the band Velvet Belly from 1989 – 2003 and has released a number of solo albums since then, a little more folk oriented than those I’ve listened to by the band.

Lightshadow has a classy sound to it, at times almost orchestral, occasionally almost ambient in its accompaniment. Her vocals are precise – sometimes breathy, sometimes with the vocal flourishes of a show singer. To give a mixed analogy to singers better known in in the U.K., the vocals and arrangements remind me of something somewhere between Judy Collins and Kate Bush.

All but one of the songs are written by Almedal and her partner Nicholas Sillitoe. Perhaps the most easily accessible is the single, ‘Sheltering Sky’ which you can hear in the video link below, which is quite lovely – folk-pop perhaps? I also like ‘Hard Times’ with a predominantly soaring vocal against the piano and strings which then finishes quietly, strings stilled, and the lyrics “I wish I was unbreakable/ That every wound would heal/ How strong it would make me/ feel”.

Lightshadow, I suspect, will speak to those who are already fans. I’ve enjoyed listening to the album but found it a little too stylized in places. However, that probably says as much about my preference for music which is a bit more raw than this as it does about Lightshadow, because the album is well played, well produced and beautifully sung.

Mike Wistow

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: http://www.annemariealmedal.com

‘Sheltering Sky’:

BOB DYLAN AND THE BAND – 1974 Tour Live (Rox Vox RV3CD2137)

1974 Tour Live1974 Tour Live is a pretty self-explanatory title, but if you’re still curious for anything else other than the obvious, it is a three disc set, covering two shows from January ’74 (Boston and New York) from Bob Dylan and The Band, recorded during their mid-70s comeback tour. The first thing that is worth noting about the set is that the sound is excellent, particularly on the Boston show. The second thing, is that at first glance, the track list looks remarkably similar to the officially-released document of this tour, recorded in Los Angeles, Before The Flood…the operative part of that being “at first glance”.

While there are Band-styled arrangements of Dylan standards which are common to both releases, (‘Like A Rolling Stone’, ‘Lay Lady Lay’, ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’, All Along the Watchtower’ etc.) there are a good number of equally worthy selections, which did not appear on the Flood record. An almost honkytonk styled ‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’ and Hammond organ soaked version of ‘I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)’ are among the openers of the Boston disc. The same rock’n’roll, tour de force makes its presence felt on the New York recordings, with a hard-hitting version of Dylan’s 1963 ‘protest-era’ number ‘The Ballad Of Hollis Brown’ and in an amped up rendition of ‘Forever Young’. The Band themselves contribute some unused gems; ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’ and the effortlessly cool ‘King Harvest (Has Surely Come)’. However, it is not just electric numbers to behold on this recording; acoustic guitar and harmonica-racked versions of ‘The Times They Are A-Changing’ (where Dylan alternates between jangling guitar patterns and solo vocal) and an energetic performance of ‘Gates Of Eden’, in which his voice sounds remarkably good.

Of course, the deciding factor regarding the appeal of this album is basically a case of what you want to get out of it. For Dylan completists, it will, I’m sure, have its own appeal. For those familiar with the aforementioned Before The Flood this may feel like an extension of that record, and in a lot of ways it should; but with the added incentive of omitted tracks and alternative performances of the Flood recording.

In the current climate of the Dylan vaults being continually raided to comprise impressive, but impossibly overpriced Columbia-issued box sets (next installment earmarked for November 2018) this smaller set fits right in with the trend, a huge difference being, however, that this one won’t break the bank.

Christopher James Sheridan

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

No useful website but 1974 Tour Live is available from all the usual outlets.

‘Ballad Of Hollis Brown’: