Easy Come Easy Go [Bonus DVD]
Songstress Marianne Faithfull last collaborated with producer Hal Willner on her iconic Strange Weather album in 1987. Though Faithfull has continued to record sporadically -- and has written and published her memoirs -- it's odd to think that she hasn't worked with Willner again until now, because then as now, the match feels effortless and natural. Like Strange Weather, Easy Come Easy Go is a covers collection, featuring Faithfull in different musical settings and interpreting the songs of everyone from Merle Haggard to Smokey Robinson to Duke Ellington to Randy Newman to the Decemberists to Morrissey with a killer guest list including Antony Hegarty, Rufus Wainwright, Teddy Thompson, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Jarvis Cocker, Jenni Muldaur, Sean Lennon, Warren Ellis, Nick Cave, and Keith Richards. The core band on this set includes old friends like Marc Ribot and Greg Cohen as well as drummer Jim White, Rob Burger, Doug Weiselman, Steve Weisberg, Barry Reynolds, Steven Bernstein, Marty Ehrlich, and Lenny Pickett. The sense of sprawl is incredible in that these 18 songs cover two discs. The album opener, a cover of Dolly Parton's "Down from Dover," features the full band and guests numbering 18 strong! Faithfull's trademark deep-throated, whiskey-and-cigarettes-ravaged voice is in better shape than it's been in a decade at least. It's full and expressive, and she brings up a depth of passion for this sad tale that almost soars. The band, arranged by Weisberg, plays with beautiful space and elegant harmonics with nice work by Ribot and Burger.
Cave sings backing vocals on the Decemberists' "The Crane Wife 3," its lithe rock arrangement shaded by a beautiful British folk-style melody and gorgeous bass work by Cohen, celeste by Burger, and a three-piece string section. While Wainwright's signature backing vocals grace a jazzy arrangement of Espers' "Children of Stone," and the chart is eight minutes of pure, nocturnal lounge lizard eros, it does go on a bit too long, emptying it somewhat of its power. Ellington's "Solitude" works far better, as Faithfull's command of sparse phrases drives the tune, expressing more in the spaces between words than the words themselves -- or even her voice. Disc one closes out with Richards adding both his guitar (to those of Ribot and Reynolds) and his raggedy vocal to Faithfull's on Haggard's "Sing Me Back Home." It's sad and slow, but feels more contrived than honestly emotional. Far better is the preceding tune, a surreal faux-soul reading of Robinson's "Ooh Baby Baby," a duet with Antony. Disc two's highlights include an excellent version of Judee Sill's "The Phoenix," a stellar sultry version of Johnny Burke's "Black Coffee," Steve Winwood's "Many a Mile to Freedom," and the traditional "Flandyke Shore," which closes the album. While this is a long journey with a couple of missteps -- Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere (A Place for Us)," from West Side Story, features Cocker and it could also have benefited from the use of a full orchestra and feels a bit staid -- Marianne Faithfull shows up in excellent form throughout this offering. If you are patient, there is more than enough here to hold your attention and take you on journeys through love, lust, tragedy, and longing and bring you home again. [The Special Edition also includes a documentary DVD on the making of the album.]