ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

British pop singer Marianne Faithfull was best known for her connection to The Rolling Stones. In the '60s, she was part of their notorious entourage and had a hit covering one of their songs, "As Tears Go By."

(Soundbite of song, "As Tears Go By")

Ms. MARIANNE FAITHFULL (Singer): (Singing) It is the evening of the day. I sit and watch the children play.

SIEGEL: After many years struggling with addiction, Faithfull has come into her own as a raw and powerful singer. And as her new album of covers proves, she still has a way with other people's songs. Critic Will Hermes has this review.

(Soundbite of music)

WILL HERMES: Despite the constant flood of new music, people still like to insist it was all better in the '60s, or the '80s or whenever. But Marianne Faithfull, who survived a bunch of musical decades, recognizes that right now is a golden era of its own. Her new record, "Easy Come, Easy Go," is all covers, but alongside old standards are what might be some new ones. My favorite song from Neko Case's last record is called "Hold On, Hold On." Faithfull's version here, with her signature scorched earth vocals, may even be more poignant than the original.

(Soundbite of song, "Hold On, Hold On")

Ms. FAITHFULL: (Singing) That echo chorus lied to me with its hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on. In the end I was the mean girl or somebody's in-between girl. Now it's the devil I love, and that's as funny as real love. I leave the party at 3 AM alone, thank God.

HERMES: The song selection here, like any good covers collection, plays to the singer's personality and history. It wasn't until I heard Faithfull's cover of "The Crane Wife 3" by the young Anglophile American rock band, The Decemberists, that I realized the group's entire songbook would probably sound great sung by a British woman of a certain age, especially with harmonies by goth rock veteran Nick Cave, who joins in here.

(Soundbite of song, "The Crane Wife 3")

Ms. FAITHFULL: (Singing) Each feather, it fell from skin 'til thread bare, and she grew thin. How were my eyes so blinded? Each feather, it fell from skin.

Mr. NICK CAVE (Musician): (Singing) Each feather, it fell from skin.

Ms. FAITHFULL: (Singing) And I will hang my head, hang my head low. And I will hang my head, hang my head low.

Mr. CAVE: (Singing) And I will hang my head, hang my head low.

HERMES: The material on "Easy Come, Easy Go" isn't all so recent. Besides songs by Morrissey and the experimental folk group Espers, there's a haunting reading of Duke Ellington's "Solitude" and a dreamy version of Smokey Robinson's "Ooh Baby Baby."

But my favorite of the older standards is the version of Merle Haggard's "Sing Me Back Home." It's set in a prison's death row, and Faithfull's ravaged vocals get even more ravaged backup from Keith Richards, her Rolling Stone partner-in-crime so many years ago. It's a perfect example of how a great interpreter can make the song's truth their own no matter when the song was written or what its literal meaning is.

(Soundbite of song, "Sing Me Back Home")

Ms. FAITHFULL: (Singing) Oh, please take me away and turn back the years.

Mr. KEITH RICHARDS (Musician): (Singing) Oh, please take me away and turn back the years.

SIEGEL: Critic Will Hermes reviewed Marianne Faithfull's new album, "Easy Come, Easy Go." You can hear songs from the album at nprmusic.org.

(Soundbite of song, "Sing Me Back Home")

Ms. FAITHFULL: (Singing) Before I die. I remember Sunday morning…

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.