To be honest, going into this review I did not know much of Marianne Faithfull‘s life or career. However if even half of the things on her Wikipedia page are true, Marianne Faithfull is one of the most interesting people alive. Even glossing over her high profile relationships with rock stars she has co-written a Rolling Stones song, played Pink‘s mother in Roger Waters’ stage version of The Wall, and is a descendent of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch who had the term Masochism coined from his name. I had even seen Marianne Faithfull star in the memorable film Irina Palm several years ago, but did not make the connection until I looked up her bio. It is fitting that a woman of the world like Marianne has a number of notable guest-writers and collaborators on her newest album, Give My Love to London. Roger Waters, Steve Earle, and Nick Cave are all credited for adding their songwriting prowess to Marianne’s ensemble.
“Give My Love to London” is the first and titular song of the album, it opens with a strong drum beat accompanied by a swirling string section. Faithfull’s lyrics elude to the many years she has spent in the city from the high-minded 60’s, to the rise of punk and Thatcherism, to the modern day incarnation of the city filled with immigrants and inequality. As she says in the song she’s been from “Paradise to Hell” within a single city. The next track is the brilliant “Sparrows Will Sing,” Roger Waters’ signature cynical lyrics add to squealing guitar feedback and reverb soaked chords reminiscent of early Velvet Underground. Faithfull’s sure sounding voice and soulful delivery come together with Waters’ writing to make what is in my opinion the album’s best song.
“True Lies” is a take on a relationship gone wrong, the backing piano mixes with an ominous chorus and clashing rhythm to drive the song to a strong conclusion despite the overdone premise. “Love More or Less” is a great low key acoustic song that ruminates on love lost through years and places that have passed by. “Late Victorian Holocaust” penned by Nick Cave is an ethereal minimalistic song with a slight gothic bent. “Mother Wolf” is another standout song with dark lyrical content and a sinister string ensemble. “Going Home”0 uses Faithfull’s matronly persona to sell to the excellent storytelling, poetry, and dark humor in her cover of Leonard Cohen.
Give My Love to London is a strong album, however it does have some weak spots. The cover of the Everly Brothers’ “The Price of Love” feels out of place with the album and doesn’t add much with a rather generic blues-rock sound. “Sparrows Will Sing” more than makes up for several small missteps though. Marianne Faithfull has managed to put together just the right group to add another chapter to her already notable life (and her Wikipedia page).