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Horses & High Heels

4.5 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 28, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

'I don't really do conventional...' Recorded in New Orleans with a core of exceptional local musicians, the album features eight cover versions and four original new songs co-written by Marianne, four songs which feature the virtuoso guitar playing of John Porter, a musician/producer friend most noted for his work with Roxy Music, Eric Clapton and The Smiths. The album also includes one song with lyrics specially written for her by Irish playwright Frank McGuiness (the evocative 'The Old House'), two cameo appearances on guitar from another old friend, Lou Reed, plus further cameos from Dr. John and MC5's Wayne Kramer. It's all exquisitely produced by long-term collaborator Hal Willner, the soundscape alchemist behind the critically-lauded 'Easy Come, Easy Go' (2009), her astonishing collection of covers and duets featuring more of the kind of people Marianne calls friends, from Keith Richards and Jarvis Cocker to Rufus Wainwright and Nick Cave. There's the brooding, spectral guitar-rock of Greg Dulli & Mark Lanegan's 'The Stations', the swooning, country-rock tinge of R.B Morris' 'That's How Every Empire Falls' and the bar-room blues and 70s soul revue thrills of Jackie Lomax's 'No Reason'. 'We chose some soul material this time which I was very unsure of at first,' muses Marianne. 'No Reason', 'Back In Baby's Arms', 'Gee Baby', these songs are more vocally demanding and it was quite frightening. But I think we managed it.' Elsewhere are glimmering 70s soul classics, from the gorgeous, steel-guitar-layered 'Love Song' (originally written by 70s song-writer Lesley Duncan and made famous by Elton John), the bewitching piano reverie of Carol King's 'Goin' Back' (definitively recorded in '66 by Dusty Springfield) and her positively Shakespearian rendition of the Shangri-Las masterpiece, 'Past Present and Future'. Her four original new songs are a revelation: the folky and unfeasibly rousing 'Why Did We Have To Part?', an elegy to the end of a long relationship 'I just couldn't resist a break-up song - and the pain is over', to the rollicking, Hammond swirl of 'Prussian Blue' (a paean to her life in Paris), the rhythmically compelling, Celtic-folk-tinged 'Horses And High Heels' and the joyous 'Eternity' featuring a sampled Arabian-jazz flourish from Brian Jones' recording in Morocco with the Master Musicians of Jajouka (1968's 'Brian Jones Presents: The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka'). 'It's all a very different style for me,' notes Marianne, 'much more rhythmic. And a very modern record, it's not looking back to the past at all. All the songs are about now, you know?' Marianne is, they say, the Godmother of Goth, both doomed romantic and ultimate bohemian survivor. A teenage pop star, rock star's girlfriend and iconic beauty in the 1960s.

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. The Stations
  2. Why did we have to part
  3. That's how every empire falls
  4. No reason
  5. Prussian blue
  6. Love song
  7. Gee baby
  8. Goin' back
  9. Past, present and future
  10. Horses and high heels
  11. Back in baby's arms
  12. Eternity
  13. The Old House

Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 28, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naive Pop
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,127 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Marianne never ceases to amaze nor does she ever disappoint. This is only her 19th album (not 23rd as stated elsewhere) in a career that's now spanned 47 years and is I think her very best. It took a few listens to settle in but when it did it's like I always knew the songs. Her voice is totally unique and she has a knack of making old songs sound like they were made for her.

Of the thirteen tracks seven are new songs and six covers of classics from the '60's. Two of the covers are the Shangri-Las 'Past, Present & Future' and 'Goin' Back' which was a hit for Dusty Springfield. Both are now sung from the perspective of a much older woman who sadly acknowledges the passing of time. Marianne puts her boots on for a stomping version of Jackie Lomax's 'No Reasons' and her take on the late Lesley Duncan's 'Love Song' is breathtaking.

Marianne co-wrote four of the new songs. 'Horses And High Heels' which mentions places where she has lived. 'Prussian Blue' with it's great but simple key changes, the haunting 'Why Did We Have To Part' and 'Eternity'. The final track 'The Old House', which was especially written for Marianne by Irish playwright Frank McGuiness, conjures up images of ghosts and forgotten memories.

At sixty-four years of age Marianne is still a force to be reckoned with. She doesn't run with the pack, she's well ahead of it.
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I don't have the historical background of the songs on "Horses and High Heels" that the other two reviewers do, but whenever Marianne Faithfull covers a song, she makes it her own. I know that "Goin'Back" (written by Goffin/King) was a hit by Dusty Springfield and her version was a wonderful pop recording. Elkie Brooks also recorded it and had a hit with it in the UK. Marianne doesn't try to compete with these artists nor does she try to imitate their style. Marianne sings it as if it were a new song and approaches it with a completely different feeling. Marianne's voice is unique but she knows how to use it superbly; she is an artiste.
"Why Did We Have to Part" is haunting in a most beautiful manner. "Gee Baby" is a winning pop song and Marianne makes it work. "Eternity" has such excellent production and is uptempo. This is a real stand-out song to this listener. It is a song that makes one move to it. "Back in Baby's Arms" is a great cover and is also uptempo.
Yes, this album is full of ghosts and references to the past such as "Prussian Blue", "Past, Present and Future" but none so much as the tremendously haunting "The Old House". This song was another stand-out for me. I couldn't help but to stop and listen to the lyrics. It is a masterpiece and perfect for Marianne's voice.
"Horses and High Heels" is a new friend in my Faithfull collection. It is a most welcome friend. I knew I loved it by the second time I played it. It contains different genres but her previous album, "Easy Come, Easy Go" covered a wide variety of genres more so than on this album. Marianne Faithfull never disappoints me with her every album. She is an extremely intelligent woman and I admire her immensely. She would never release an album unless it met her high standards. "Horses and High Heels" is solid testimony of her artistry. I am enjoying getting to know this album better with each playing. It deserves a Five Star rating which I am glad to bestow upon it. Thank you, Ms. Faithfull.
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HORSES & HIGH HEELS reveals the brilliant actress behind every song. Marianne Faithfull becomes the characters in all their various stages of life and living in these exceptional songs. Sadness, joy, loss, remembrance, hope and redemption pass through these accounts and MF digs deep into her uncanny ability to embody the shores of emotional survival. Producer Hal Wilner has surrounded MF with an all-encompassing sound collage that creates layers of hearing, much like a film director fills the screen around his protagonist with visual images to move the story forward and reveal subtle secrets. New Orleans gives the album a shimmering location both spiritually and musically. There really is no other contemporary performer who does what MF does. She carries the burden and blessing of 20th century anguish and ecstasy into the 21st with grace and determination. MF's composition ETERNITY covers the full range of her understanding: "Jump for joy" she sings. Why not?
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Format: Audio CD
I love this album!

Okay now that I've said that, I'll explain why, which may differ from previous reviews posted here.

I was there in the 1960s when Ms. Faithfull rode the British Invasion with her hit "As Tears Go By", and I was impressed by her hit single "Broken English", which was released in 1979. But, honestly, I haven't followed her career since. Then this CD arrived and I put it in my player. The first song grabbed my attention, and I was listening intently for the next 12 tracks. I then played the album again and liked it even better.

But it wasn't just Faithfull's voice - which is hoarse, and unlike any other singer I can think of - that got me. It was the way it was used by producer Hal Willner, a guy who has created some on the most unique and amazing albums over the last 20 years - often themed albums ("Stay Awake" - the Disney tribute is still a favorite). Willner is listed on every track as the one doing the "sampling" and, though I can't always identify what records he is sampling, the overall mood he creates is captivating.

Faithfull is a major part of the album's success, of course, with her voice and pen. Four of the songs were co-written by the singer (who is now 64 years old). And half of the songs on the album are covers. (While other reviewers have commented on how the covers compare with the original recordings, I'm one who takes the songs as if they were new to me, when rating the performance.) The album was recorded in 2010 in New Orleans, and there some NOLa musicians here (George Porter Jr. plays bass on every track, Dr. John sits in on piano for one, as does NOLa native Dr. Michael White on clarinet) - and there is an Allen Toussaint cover ( "Back in Baby's Arms") but this is not all NOLa-tinged.
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