Marianne Faithfull draws on the concept of negative capability to create the most transparent album of her career. Not only does she take us on a fantastic voyage in the Nick Cave collaboration The Gypsy Faerie Queen she's prepared to draw on how enduring the human spirit can be in times of adversity. Forged by her own trauma's, battles with pain from arthritis, and facing mortality with loss of her friends, Faithfull sees the making of this beautiful record as a 'great miracle.' There's no doubt that it has a certain je ne sais quoi, which is perhaps heightened because of its poignancy.
Her smoky, husky vocal is still distinctive and when placed alongside the collaboration of musicians, and the artful production from Warren Ellis and Rob Ellis. The album of mostly original songs becomes a work of poetry set to music, similar to Leonard Cohen or Johnny Cash's later work. A reworking of As Tears Goes By takes on a different perspective, looking back on a life well lived similar to Joni Mitchell's reprise of Both Sides Now and Petula Clark's introspective version of Downtown. The depth of emotion that comes through this new retelling is profoundly moving; something that Faithfull's original could never fully access. Witches Song from the album, Broken English is also given a captivating psychedelic makeover. Reworkings aside, it's the power of some of the newer songs that stick with you long after the album ends. They Come At Night is a chilling commentary on the Paris terrorist attacks. And No Moon in Paris is a frank tale of loneliness.
The album may be fraught with fear, anxiety and solitude, but it comes from a place of love which makes it all the more striking. There's a sensitivity in her work that cannot be ignored: it's reflective, brutally honest and captivating in equal measure. Just like all good art, Negative Capability is about allowing us to escape into fantasy while reminding us of our human qualities.
Groupie Rating 4/5