You Are Free

You Are Free

4.6 6
by Cat Power
     
 

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There's a little bit of irony -- at least -- in the title of the latest album from Chan Marshall, the artist better known as Cat Power. As she's proven over years of painfully direct releases and sometimes harrowing live performances, she's hardly free; she's practically possessed by the music that pours from her. She makes that clear from the first notes of the album

Overview

There's a little bit of irony -- at least -- in the title of the latest album from Chan Marshall, the artist better known as Cat Power. As she's proven over years of painfully direct releases and sometimes harrowing live performances, she's hardly free; she's practically possessed by the music that pours from her. She makes that clear from the first notes of the album-opening "I Don't Blame You," a measured, piano-laced dissertation on being trapped -- whether by a love, a muse, or the world as a whole. She revisits the notion on a song that carries the album's title in its chorus -- one of the disc's more mournful numbers, it's tellingly titled "Maybe Not." Even with all the dark clouds, however, You Are Free is Marshall's most rock-oriented statement in some time. In part due to the presence of Foo Fighter Dave Grohl -- who mans the drum kit for three tunes, including the likeably skittish "Shaking Paper" -- the disc's electric songs resonate with a knowing power. Eddie Vedder also turns in a cameo, providing counterpoint vocals on the poignant "Evolution" (no relation to Pearl Jam's "Do the Evolution"), but even Ed can't draw attention away from Marshall. Reluctantly cast as it may be, Chan Marshall's aura shines brighter with each release.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Heather Phares
You Are Free arrives nearly five years from her last album of original material, and everything, yet nothing, has changed about Chan Marshall's music. The album's title is as much a statement as it is a challenge, a command to free one's self from the hurt and pain of the past, or to at least find a way of making peace with it. Marshall seems to do both on You Are Free, a collection of songs about finding freedom and peace wherever she can. Initially, the album seems more diffuse than Moon Pix, as it spans tense rockers, blues, folk, and singer/songwritery piano ballads, but it gradually reveals itself as Marshall's most mature and thematically focused work yet. You Are Free opens with a stunning trio of songs that encompass most of the moods and sounds she explores later in the album. On "I Don't Blame You," the first of You Are Free's many spare, piano-driven moments, Marshall paints a portrait of a tormented musician, her voice so full of sympathy that she may well be singing a reconciliation to a previous incarnation of herself. The brisk, buzzing intensity of "Free," however, offers liberation in the form of rock & roll's immediate, poetic nonsense: "Don't be in love with the autograph/Just be in love when you love that song all night long." You Are Free's first two songs address musicians and making music directly; Marshall is a famously willful, volatile artist, and the increasing gaps between her albums (not to mention her unpredictable live performances) suggest that being a musician isn't the easiest thing for her to do, even if it's a necessary one. She addresses the struggle to do the right, but difficult, thing on "Good Woman," a near-spiritual breakup song where, backed by a children's choir and fiddles, Marshall explains that she needs to be a good woman with -- or more likely, without -- her bad man. Aside from being a lovely song, it's also a departure; earlier in her career the song might have just focused on the conflict instead of Marshall's gently strong resolution to it. This gentle but resolute strength runs through most of You Are Free's best moments, such as "He War" and especially "Names," a terrifyingly matter-of-fact recollection of child abuse and lost friends that says more in its resigned sorrow than a histrionic tirade would. As the album progresses, it moves toward the spare, affecting ballads that give her later work a strange timelessness; listening to You Are Free gives the impression of stripping away layers to get to the essence of Marshall's music. In some ways, the quiet last half of this album is more demanding than the angsty noise of Dear Sir or Myra Lee, but hearing her find continually creative interpretations of minor keys, plaintive pianos, and folky guitars is well worth the attention it takes, whether it's the dead-of-night eroticism of her cover of Michael Hurley's "Werewolf," the pretty yet eerie longing of "Fool," or the prairie romance of "Half of You." Every Cat Power album takes at least a few listens to fully reveal itself; You Are Free may take awhile longer than expected to unfold, but once it does, its excellence is undeniable.
Rolling Stone - Kelefa Sanneh
During the past eight years, this Georgia-born songwriter has perfected her own desolate, disjointed version of folk music. Free may be her most beautiful album.
Spin Magazine - Joe Gross
Marshall has never sounded this in control of her demons. (8)

Product Details

Release Date:
02/18/2003
Label:
Matador Records
UPC:
0744861042723
catalogNumber:
10427
Rank:
45674

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You Are Free 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first album by Cat Power that I have bought and I was not disapointed. She has a beautiful and innocent sound. I highly recomend this album.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i was at first hesitant to accept the latest from my favorite musician; 1, because of her new-found studio money, which enhances the sound, which is essentially a good thing but i was too used to her older albums with flawfull guitar and shaky vocals(which i love). 2, because of all the featurings in the album such as dave grohl and ed vedder, i thought that all the attention would draw her from her original style. of course all those had effects but none so severe to have taken her from her beautiful folk songs. i actually love this album. i think that chans ability to keep to her southern style and not be as doggerel and amorphous as alot of southern folk musicians are is very impressive and i applaude her and she remains my favorite musician.
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