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You Are Free

4.3 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 18, 2003
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Product Description

The first album in four years from Chan Marshall, one of the premier female singer-songwriters of our generation. Her richly complex vocal stylings and minor-key poetics have made her an indie superstar. This album, printed on recycled paper and recorded with renewable resources, explores the world of relationships and fame. Catchy, intense, and beguiling. "Her voice sounds liker her soul laid bare--arresting, beautiful and evocative"--Nylon.

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Chan "Cat Power" Marshall's performances have become legendary marathons marked by Marshall's shyness and her ability to create moments of fragmented beauty. Five years on from her last collection of original songs, 1998's Moon Pix, Marshall has reined in the silvery brilliance of her shows. The 14 pieces on You Are Free maintain a spontaneity, but, compared with their digressive live incarnations, they've been given focus--a development that owes something to a notable supporting cast that includes Dave Grohl on drums and Eddie Vedder on vocals. Marshall's impressionistic vision is expressed with a new clarity while retaining its affecting understatement and sense of dislocation. Her past kinship with Bonnie Prince Billy and Smog gives way to PJ Harvey and Nina Simone comparisons. You Are Free confirms that Marshall is one of the most original and compelling singer-songwriters around. --John Mulvey
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 18, 2003)
  • Original Release Date: 2000
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Matador Records
  • ASIN: B00007JVBI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,170 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Chan Marshall has finally managed to combine the soft coziness of 'Moon Pix' with the raw emotion of 'What Will The Community Think', & the result is unbelievable lovely.
'You Are Free' is crafty, melodic, layered, painful, beautiful & inspired. Its' quiet spaces give way to angry lamentations that manage to flow together seamlessly.
If you're into early PJ Harvey (esp. her demo work) the Cowboy Junkies 'Whites Off Earth Now' album, Edith Frost, or Patty Griffin's first album- then this is an absolute must!
Anyone who can sing, "turn out the lights, set yourself on fire, say goodnight," & make it sound sexy & like a piece of freedom, deserves attention.
Highly, Highly recommended!
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Format: Audio CD
I've really come to love this album, though I'll confess it was slow to grow on me. For once thing, if you are in the mood for something upbeat and energetic, this isn't going to be your album. It is quiet, somber, reflective, minimalistic. There are albums that have gripped me on a first hearing, but more often than not they tend to fade in appeal as time goes by. This is a "difficult" album, but once you penetrate the apparent lack of diversity and instead the come to appreciate the subtle variations from one song to another, it can possess at a far deeper level than more accessible but ultimately more superficial ones.

This is music stripped down to essentials. I have been alternatively listening to this and a superb Teenage Fan Club album, and while I love both, the differences between the two couldn't be starker. Teenage Fan Club hates empty space, to the extent of layering sound upon sound to produce a many layered, astonishingly dense result. Chan Marshall, the artist who is Cat Power, not only is comfortable with silence within the music, she seems to quietly cultivate it. Her songs are filled with spaces, and adds in new strands of sound only hesitatingly. If a piano, a single guitar, and a backing vocal get the job done, why add in drums or bass? Or even get rid of the guitar or piano. The only way for the album to get any sparser would be for Marshall to sing the whole thing a capella. The effect of all this is to focus all the attention on the lyrics and the emotions Marshall is evoking. The result sometimes feels almost more like confessional therapy than music, an attempt to put raw emotional experience into a form in which it can be confronted and absorbed.

I couldn't recommend this album more strongly for listeners who are patient and comfortable with subtle music that reveals its treasures only slowly.
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Format: Audio CD
This year in music has been pretty boring so far. Nothing worth getting excited about has come out...and that's why it is all the more relieving that Chan Marshall just released the best work of her career with "You Are Free."
The album's opener, "I Don't Blame You," leads one to believe that Marshall is content with continuing along her same old path: it is a slow, piano-driven number reminiscent of the entire Cat Power back catalogue.
Though the song treads previously explored territory, it is already apparent that Marshall is on top of her songwriting game. The somber mood and the light hooks are executed perfectly.
But when "Free" chimes in after the brief moment of silence in between tracks, you realize Marshall has some new tricks up her sleeve. It makes use of a simple guitar part that is looped throughout its entirety. However, "Free" is so well written that it never gets boring. Different textures and vocals interchange seamlessly to produce a fresh, lively song. It rocks.
Marshall showed she was more than capable of breathing her own life into songs penned by other artists with her 2000 release, "The Covers Record." She chose to include two cover songs on "You Are Free" with country artist Michael Hurley's "Werewolf" and blues legend John Lee Hooker's "Keep on Runnin' (Crawlin' Black Spider)."
The covers work very well within the context of Marshall's own work; they never really feel like they could have been written by anyone but her. "Werewolf" is especially convincing with its string-tinged, haunting persona.
Marshall flexes her songwriting muscle time and time again throughout "You Are Free." The middle section of the album continues to explore new territory.
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Format: Audio CD
It is never entirely certain what Chan Marshall ("Cat Power") is singing about, even on the songs she "covers" (rather, deconstructs entirely, picking and choosing amongst the lyrics until they are some sort of found art almost unrecognizable to the original author). This album is probably her best, where she dumped the last vestiges of her punk-ish early music and went straight minimalist melancholy, without the ornations that hide the bones of The Greatest. She never has drums where a few chords will do. She never has chords where a single note would do. The only constant is her smoky voice, singing enigmatic lyrics that often obscure more than inform.

The result is hauntingly beautiful, like the Southern landscape from which Chan came, with the exception of "Names" which is simply chilling. Is any of it true? Does it really matter? When she sings "we can all be free/maybe not with words/maybe not with a look/but with your mind", does she believe it, or is she being ironic? It's never entirely clear what Chan's up to, but it is an experience that stands repeated listening well.
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