Marianne Faithfull

20th Century Blues

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Review

As the liner notes to this intriguing release tell, Faithfull had a long-simmering interest in German cabaret, particularly the work of Kurt Weill. It came fully to life via her role as Pirate Jenny in a staging of +The Threepenny Opera in Dublin as translated by Frank McGuinness and her attendance at a workshop organized by Allen Ginsburg. After a series of initial performances with pianist Paul Trueblood, Faithfull took her revue of many classic songs from the mid-century, titled "An Evening in the Weimar Republic," to the road. This particular recording is from a performance in Paris in 1996, showcasing both a smart selection of songs to work with and Faithfull's own dramatic, interpretive skills with them. Kicking off with the aggressive-then-smooth bite of the Brecht/Weill standard "Alabama Song," Faithfull and Trueblood show they make a great team -- her distinct vocals seem almost born for the material, while Trueblood is a sure hand on the keys, both playful and polished. Weill remains the centerpiece of the show, in both his various collaborations with Brecht -- standout tracks include withering versions of "Pirate Jenny," "Salomon Song," and "Surabaya Johnny" -- and with other partners, including "Complainte de la Seine" and "Mon Ami, My Friend." Friedrich Hollaender gets the nod twice, with a take on the eternal classic "Falling in Love Again" almost rivaling Marlene Dietrich's original interpretation. The title track, a noted Noel Coward number, gets a fine performance, as does the one nod to more contemporary times, a rendition of Harry Nilsson's "Don't Forget Me." One nod to Faithfull's previous recording past appears via a new version of "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," originally covered by her on Strange Weather. Faithfull throughout introduces songs with humor and reflection, a perfect MC for her own performance. ~ Ned Raggett, Rovi