A Perfect Stranger: The Island Anthology
Because more than half of the 35 songs on this two-disc retrospective of Marianne Faithfull's 1979-95 output come from her three great albums -- Broken English, Dangerous Acquaintances, and Strange Weather -- or are previously unreleased outtakes or B-sides from them, A Perfect Stranger: The Island Anthology makes a fine primer to Faithfull's often challenging, always mesmerizing (or would that be always challenging, often mesmerizing?) music. "Ballad of the Soldier's Wife," her solid contribution to 1985's Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill, is also included, giving Faithfull's hauntingly tragic voice the resonance and attention it demands. Weill and Faithfull seem made for each other, as the bulk of the second disc (comprised of songs from her 1990 live album and the underachieving A Secret Life, as well as the career-capping Strange Weather) makes clear. But there's also a strain to some of these tracks, as if Faithfull's aesthetic wandering eventually will bring her to that elusive cabaret of her dreams. On her best recordings, it indeed sounds like she's home.