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Sunday, Oct. 17, 2004

LISTENING POST

RECORDED

Marianne Faithfull: "Before the Poison"


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On her last album, "Kissin' Time," the Swinging '60s most elegant demimonde survivor was feted by a coterie of younger admirers -- Beck, Billy Corgan, Jarvis Cocker -- who fell all over themselves trying to do justice to her delicious rasp of a voice. The results were interesting but had more to do with the songwriters' awe of their idol than Faithfull's strengths as an interpreter.

On her new album, only Damon Albarn is on board again. Otherwise, she's aided by people who seem to have a better idea of what they're working with. PJ Harvey contributes five original compositions that effectively stir up the singer's darker waters. Nick Cave, who obviously loves the Faithfull who sang "As Tears Go By," gives her two simple, beautiful piano compositions to which she supplies her own heartbreaking lyrics, as well as a dissonant soul rave-up to which she supplies a sotto voce rap.

In the spirit of her late '70s masterpiece, "Broken English," the arrangements are spare and airy, which means the rockers are as punchy as the ballads are haunting. There's nothing to get in the way of that rasp or the emotions it conveys so effortlessly.



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