Singer Marianne Faithfull delights in pointing out that she can trace her lineage back to Baron Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, from whose name masochism is derived. Yet it's unlikely that Faithfull purposely set out on the tortured path her life has taken. More than twenty-five years after "As Tears Go By" made Faithfull the ingénue of the British Invasion, her artistic ups and downs and her protracted battle with heroin and alcohol have transformed her from the waif on the cover of her debut album into the scarred grande dame whose weather-beaten... Read More
voice and acidic delivery are capable of remarkable emotion.
Blazing Away is largely a summation of Faithfull's career. The album live except for the title track leans heavily on material Faithfull has recorded since her 1979 comeback, Broken English. Producer Hal Willner has assembled a crack band: Barty Reynolds, Faithfull's long-standing guitarist and collaborator, is joined by drummer Dougie Bowne, guitarist Marc Ribot, bassist Fernando Saunders, keyboardist Dr. John and Garth Hudson and trumpeter Lew Soloff.
Yet Faithfull's performance is very much the center of Blazing Away. Since her reemergence, Faithfull has been carving a niche as rock's answer to the traditional cabaret singer. Making that parallel too explicit is the album's major flaw: Blazing Away's opening track, a cover of Edith Piaf's "Les Prisons du Roy," renders Faithfull more a caricature than a chanteuse, while a somber reworking of "Strange Weather" is overly dramatic.
Not until Blazing Away's third track, the Reynolds-penned "Guilt," does Faithfull emerge in all her power. The track's pungent imagery ("I feel blood/I feel blood/Though it's streaming through my veins it's not enough") is perfectly suited to Faithfull's gravelly voice. Along with the next three selections "Sister Morphine," "As Tears Go By" and John Lennon's "Working Class Hero" "Guilt" provides the album with a core of performances that are almost frightening.
All of which makes Faithfull one of rock's most moving vocalists. Blazing Away is a fine retrospective proof that we can still expect great things from this graying, jaded contessa. (RS 578)