She Walks In Beauty (with Warren Ellis)
With She Walks in Beauty, Marianne Faithfull with composer and multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis releases one of the most distinctive and singular albums of her long, extraordinary life and career. It was recorded just before and during the first Covid-19 lockdown – during which the singer herself became infected and almost died of the disease – with musical friends and family including not only composer Warren Ellis but Nick Cave, Brian Eno, cellist Vincent Ségal and producer-engineer Head. She Walks in Beauty fulfils Faithfull’s long-held ambition to record an album of poetry with music.
It’s a record that draws on her passion for the English Romantic poets, a passion she fostered in her A Level studies with one Mrs Simpson at St Joseph's Convent School in Reading. From there she entered the world of As Tears Go By, of Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, Top of the Pops and the left-hand path of pop and stage stardom. Sixties iconography and outrage followed, as did her subsequent battles with addiction before her 1979 return to powerful female and artistic autonomy with Broken English, an album which featured her setting to music Heathcote Williams’ poem of eviscerating rage, Why D’Ya Do It?
Drawing deep on the poetry of Shelley, Keats, Byron, Wordsworth, Tennyson and Thomas Hood, Faithfull’s vocal performances set to Ellis’s subtle collages of sound draw out the heart, the quick, the vibrant living matter in all these great poems, making them fresh, renewing them with the complex, lived-in timbres of her voice, and set to a subtle palette of ambient musical settings. It’s both a radical departure and a return to her original inspirations as an artist and performer.
The greatest poetry is best heard, and Faithfull’s accounts of some of the greatest lyric poetry in our language – Keats’ Ode To A Nightingale and Ode To Autumn – are spine-tingling in their deep understanding of the poetry’s powerful currents of meaning and identification. On Nightingale, her voice opens up like an epic landscape, while in Shelley’s miniature masterpiece, To The Moon, she sounds otherworldly, as if calling down from another medium, and the atonal, otherworldly sound textures provided by Eno on Bridge of Sighs and La Belle Dame Sans Merci become a compelling foil for Faithfull’s haunting interpretations of these rich, dark poems.
Released: April 2021