Album Review: She Walks in Beauty by Marianne Faithfull
Excellent, Based on 4 Critics
musicOMH.com - 90 Based on rating 4.5
When the news struck early last year that Marianne Faithfull had contracted COVID-19, the music world gasped in horror. Would the Grande Dame Du Rock & Roll leave us? Surely not? Thankfully anyone who knows anything about the 74-year-old singer can tell you that she has always been a staunch and fearless survivor, so it was going to take a lot more than a pesky global pandemic to truly keep her down. And so, with a large sigh of relief, here we have a superlative album of new material by Faithfull, reciting some of her favourite childhood poetry, skilfully accompanied by longtime collaborator Warren Ellis and a few close friends.
John Keats was at the tail end of a very short life when he coined the term "Negative Capability." The best artists, wrote the 22-year-old Romantic poet, don't concern themselves with logical arguments or scientific proof. They pursue something far more uncertain: beauty. The originality of Keats' 1817 idea feels dulled in the 21st century, considering it influenced the next 200 years of literature, and provided a precedent for such shameless pleasure-seekers and starry-eyed psychedelics as the Rolling Stones and the Beatles--as probably too many scholarly articles have pointed out.
Has it really been three years since Marianne Faithfull released 21st album 'Negative Capability'? Yes, it has. Since then, the world imploded, lockdown has become the norm and Faithfull contracted COVID. Thankfully, she beat the virus and has now released her 22nd album 'She Walks In Beauty'. Instead of re-imagined versions from her back catalogue this time Faithfull and frequent collaborator Warren Ellis put Lord Byron, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Wordsworth, Thomas Hood and Alfred Lord Tennyson's poems to music.
Marianne Faithfull's passion for poetry has been evident in her recording work since the landmark 1979 "comeback" album Broken English included Heathcote Williams' Why'd Ya Do It? set to a bluesy rock groove. It surfaced again when the words of her friend Frank McGuinness informed much of 1995's A Secret Life and on the Bertolt Brecht hues of 1998's Seven Deadly Sins, but this compendium celebrating the English Romantic poets is the album she was perhaps always destined to make.
The project was in jeopardy, however, when she was hospitalised with Covid in 2020, but thankfully the final few tracks were completed in lockdown while she recovered at home.