Album #441 – Broken English

Album #441

Prior to the release of Broken English, Marianne Faithfull was best known for her versions of the Stones’ songs, As Tears Go By and Sister Morphine. She also spent a significant amount of time with Mick and Keith in the late 60’s. But, Broken English was not only Faithfull’s comeback, it made her a critical success. Yes, her voice is gravelly but, she sings with such emotion and conviction. This is the most apparent on her version of John Lennon’s Working Class Hero. Her rendition is just as haunting and powerful as the original, something that has never happened before or since.  One of my colleagues said that Faithfull was in the same league as Yoko Ono. Not even close!!! Faithfull brings new life to many of the songs she has interpreted. She decided to embrace synthesizers after years of doing folk rock. It paid off. She got Steve Winwood to play keyboards, an excellent addition that shaped this album’s sound. Most of the album’s tracks were co-written by Faithfull but, two songs stand out on Broken English that were not written by her. The Ballad of Lucy Jordan, written by children’s poet and songwriter Shel Silverstein (yes, the same Shel Silverstein who wrote A Boy Named Sue and Where The Sidewalk Ends), is delivered with passion and emotion that only Faithfull can deliver and she makes the song her own. Why D’Ya Do It, written by poet Heathcoat Williams, is akin to a bodice-ripper, set to music and filled with profanity, as only a bodice-ripper has. Faithfull actually convinced Williams not to give the song to Tina Turner due to the profanity. The song was very controversial and was not included on the original Australian version of the album. One of the few times the song was played on radio was on Q104 Halifax in it’s early days. DJ Andy K played the song as a request for a listener. Needless to say, the song didn’t play all the way through. lol  The performance by Faithfull makes the song stand out and makes it seem as if she lived it in her own life. You can say what you want about her voice but, she can sing a song with emotion and passion. This is why I like Marianne Faithfull. Her style of interpretation has inspired many since and should be a lesson in how to take the work of a songwriter and make it your own. Faithfull continues to record and perform. Her voice is even deeper now, but she still can do what she did on Broken English effectively. This album was really the start of Faithfull’s exciting career. Other highlights: Broken English, Witches’ Song, Brain Drain, Guilt and What’s The Hurry? Overall, I give Broken English, 5 out of 5.

Next: Cut by The Slits

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