Album Review

Marianne Faithfull "Horses and High Heels"

Jason Turner
I don’t mean to sound paranoid, but I think Marianne Faithfull is stalking me. A few weeks ago, without provocation, I picked up a copy of her autobiography, “Faithfull.” Two weeks ago she showed up again in my July issue of SPIN, and this week I was assigned to write a review of her 23rd solo album, “Horses and High Heels.”

Serendipity aside, I was very much looking forward to checking out this record. Faithfull, now 64, is best known for her relationship with Mick Jagger and proximity to the Rolling Stones, but that affiliation can’t possibly be enough to single-handedly sustain a 40-year recording career, can it?

I’ve heard Faithfull’s voice described as ‘lived-in’ and ‘bluesy,’ but nothing could have prepared me for the gravelly, pack-of-cigarettes-a-day performance on “Horses.” Faithfull’s rasp makes Macy Gray sound like a glass-shattering soprano. It’s not an unflattering fit for the predominant folk and blues vibe that permeates the album, but it is nonetheless an acquired taste.

Faithfull does well to start “Horses” off with a cover of the Gutter Twins’ “The Stations,” a haunting and emotive track that sits well with her conspicuous growl and aptly sets the tone for the many melancholy ballads to follow.

Another high point of the record is “Why Did We Have to Part,” an uncomplicated but memorable song that fuses Faithfull’s compelling lament of lost love and her talent for storytelling. Further bolstered timely harmonies and deceptively simple riffs this is arguably the best song on the album.

“Eternity” is another notable success, but not enough to rescue “Horses and High Heels,” from feeling too repetitive and excessively introspective. The album feels long and drags for sections at a time, while lyrically Faithfull rarely steps outside her own seemingly haunted recollections.

Faithfull clearly has a talent for storytelling and, it would seem, sufficient musical chops to justify her long tenure in the music business, but having famous friends never hurts. Rock n’ roll lore has no statute of limitations, and, for better or worse, being a part of the Rolling Stones’ sacred inner circle remains one of Marianne Faithfull’s most viable selling points.