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Marianne Faithfull: No Exit *

Album Notes

Marianne Faithfull celebrated her 50th anniversary in popular music with 2014's Give My Love to London. That recording, among her best, revealed a career and life fraught with achievement, tragedy, addiction, illness, and redemption. No Exit documents that album's supporting tour. Issued in various formats, the standard edition contains an audio disc and a DVD. The audio portion contains performances taken from throughout a European tour, backed by a band that included Ed Harcourt on piano and backing vocals, guitarist Rob McVey, musical director and drummer Rob Ellis, and bassist Jonny Ridgewood. Most tracks come from Give My Love to London, but Faithfull delivers them as part and parcel of her catalog. Her now-ravaged, grainy voice continues to possess a power and expressivity that commands lyrics authoritatively and experientially. She can be laconic, as on the Everly Brothers "The Price of Love," where her articulation balances wry humor with brokenness, but that's the exception rather than the rule. By contrast, "Mother Wolf," co-written with Patrick Leonard, is chock-full of fierce, theatrical drama. She introduces her classic Jagger- Richards co-write, "Sister Morphine," with the deadpan introduction: "Now we come to what I call 'the junkie's corner.'" The performance is anything but. Over seven minutes, it commences slowly, deliberately, adding menace and chaos as McVey and Harcourt add excellent solos until the track explodes in a wail of grief and pain. It's followed by the melancholy reverie of Nick Cave's "Late Victorian Holocaust," written especially for her, that comes into being as a near processional. The band builds it -- albeit briefly -- into a moody, brooding swell, before Faithfull reclaims its center. The audio set closes with a gorgeous reading of "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan," where Anglo-Celtic balladry meets anthemic folk-rock in an inevitable cataclysm of Kurt Weill-esque tragedy -- though the audience is almost giddy as they clap along with the increasing tempo. The DVD is taken from the Bela Bartok National Concert House in Budapest. The 16 performances go deeper into her catalog and include fine renditions of "Broken English," "Last Song," and "Come and Stay with Me." Four bonus selections come from a concert at London's Roundhouse; the highlight is a startling version of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." For fans, this is the other side of the coin that Blazing Away presented in 1990. It sounds as if it were being sung into a dusty mirror. No Exit is immediate; even raw in places. It's committed to the truths inside the songs, not an iconic performance (as 1990's Blazing Away was). For that reason, it belongs on every Faithfull fan's shelf. ~ Thom Jurek


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