Sunday, 3 June 2018

Marianne Faithfull - Broken English (1979)

Why d'ya do it.....

  

Released November 1979

Recorded at Matrix Studios, London

Running time 36.25

1979’s “comeback” from gin-soaked old cigarette puffer Marianne is not at all bad. Her voice, ravaged by years of smoking had developed a throaty sensuality to it that gives the album a real character. 

The original CD master is perfectly acceptable, sound-wise. I do not have the deluxe edition so I cannot comment on whether that is an improvement or not.

TRACK LISTING

1. Broken English
2. Witches' Song
3. Brain Drain
4. Guilt
5. The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan
6. What's The Hurry?
7. Working Class Hero
8. Why'd Ya Do It?                                      

The album’s content somehow suited the punk milieu of 1979. Woman who had been round the block a lot singing in that afore-mentioned croaky, drink and smoking ravaged voice about why her lover let another woman..., well you know. (That refers to the track Why D'You Do It by the way). The solid mid-pace rock punch of Guilt explores a life that hadn't been much fun for Marianne for a few years. Angst is all over this song and, indeed, most of the album. That is perversely what makes it so good. Her soul is stripped bare, but not in an indulgent or self-pitying way. It is just full of honesty. It is a proper rock album too, from the opening minutes of deep, mysterious chugging guitar, bass and drums.

Other highlights are the impressive, urgent Broken English, with its rasping vocal and catchy refrain, the impressive, committed, chilling cover of John Lennon’s Working Class Hero and also the heartbreakingly sad, evocative version of Dr. Hook’s The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan. Although this is a cover version, its narrative fits the blueprint of the album perfectly. It could have written directly for Marianne. 

Witches' Song has an insistent, slow-pace rock intro and Marianne's voice on this is superb - breaking, yet eerily dominant. The whole track is packed full of atmosphere. Brain Drain is an infectious slow burner. A bluesy rumbler of a number once again overflowing with character and a slightly unnerving feel to it. It also features some excellent guitar in the middle. What's The Hurry? is the album's most upbeat number - a riffy and synthy piece of new wave meets post punk driven on by an insistent guitar and a spacey keyboard swirling around. Once more Marianne's vocal is perfect for the song. She coped admirably vocally, not being overshadowed by any of the instrumentation, particularly when you consider she hadn't exactly been prolific in putting out rock material. 

In later years, Faithfull has spoken of her being fortunate to get producer Mark Mundy to do such a good job on the album -

"....I don't think I could have handled Broken English without a producer. You can't imagine what it was like. There I am with no respect at all within the music business. ... So I found somebody who wanted the break, and that was Mark Mundy. He wanted to be a record producer, and he had some great ideas...."

The "deluxe edition" of the album contains the full album in its "original mix" which is, in places, quite different to the one eventually released - Lucy Jordan, for example, loses the synth backing for a Dire Straits-ish low-key guitar one; Working Class Hero has deeper, more sombre bass line underpinning it and Why'd Ya Do It is two minutes longer (although it is mostly an extended fade-out repeating the hook line). There are little bass lines here and there throughout the album and the percussion seems to be even sharper as well. I enjoy both mixes, but there is something stripped-down and edgy about the original mix that suits the album's raison d'ĂȘtre.

C+

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