Marianne Faithfull, ‘Negative Capability’ (2018)

Album cover is a colour photograph of Marianne Faithful looking directly at the camera. She is holding a cane in the foreground.

“It’s taken me a long time to learn, in fact my whole life so far”

Damn Marianne! This album near destroyed me.

Negative Capability seems to occupy a similar territory to some of Leonard Cohen’s last works. There’s a very conscious sense of someone staring down mortality and trying to tell us something of what they’ve learned from a long life.

Nick Cave and Ed Harcourt are perfect songwriting collaborators for Faithfull. The instrumentation is gorgeous and the songs bring out her strengths, along with a sensitive production from Head, Warren Ellis and Rob Ellis. Yes, her voice is cracked and broken, but boy, can she still put a song across.

And the songs! Faithfull’s 1965 hit ‘And Tears Go By’ has a very different resonance when sung by a 72 year-old woman (“I sit and watch the children play”) and is especially moving because we know what Hell she went through in the following years.  ‘The Gypsy Faerie Queen’ is a beautiful song and Nick’s Cave’s rich backing vocals give me chills.  There’s a broken-down cover of ‘It’s all over now, baby blue’. No Faithfull album would be complete without a rambling, angry, in-your-face song like ‘They Come at Night’.

One to treasure.

Lovely little video about the making of the album and interview with Faithfull here 

It is a terrible thing, this kindness that human beings do not lose. Terrible, because when we are finally naked in the dark and cold, it is all we have. We who are so rich, so full of strength, we end up with that small change. We have nothing else to give.

Ursula Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

The Albums that Made Me #3 – Mary O’ Hara, Music Speaks Louder Than Words (1978)

Album cover features a colour photograph of the artist. She is sitting in a green field with buttercups. She looks directly into the camera and has a bunch of the buttercups on her lap.

Mary O’ Hara’s Music Speaks Louder than Words (1978) is the first album that I can remember identifying as something that I liked for myself. I must have been around three or four years old at the time. I couldn’t quite manage to say her name, so I called her “auntie”, much to the amusement of my parents.

I now suspect that I was more interested in the photographs of O’Hara on the album cover than I was in the music. I had begun to realise that I was supposed to grow up to be a “lady”, as the people around me said in the sexist language of the time, and here was a “lady” that looked quite appealing to me.  We had fields full of buttercups like the one she’s sitting in on the front cover and I was fascinated by the dress she’s wearing on the back.

Image shows a studio photograph of Mary O' Hara. The picture is shot from just above the waist and shows O' Hara with her elbows on the top of her harp, leaning her head on her hands and wearing a brightly coloured stripey dress.

I didn’t know anything about her, so I looked her up and found that she’s a very influential Irish singer and harpist.  She’s had a pretty interesting life, which includes a period spent as a Benedictine nun.

This album has a lot of covers, so I think it must have been aimed at a more mainstream audience, but it’s her traditional Irish folk recordings seem to have had the staying power.

My favourite tracks when I was a child were the covers, ‘Music Speaks Louder than Words’, and ‘Annie’s Song’. As an adult, my top track is ‘Dust in the Wind’. I can’t find O’ Hara’s anywhere, but here’s a great version by Melanie.

I felt I should include one of her performances in this post, so here’s Óró Mo Bháidín which seems to be a favourite and has the most listens on Spotify.

Thanks auntie.

November Life Round-up

I usually struggle in November because it comes with some difficult anniversaries. This year, I decided to just try and enjoy it for what it is.

I did pretty well socially. Work sent me to North Wales, which gave me the opportunity to visit some friends on the way back. We took our nephew to the museum for an afternoon and he had a great time. We also went to a party at the end of the month at the house of people we hardly know, so that was definitely an achievement for us.

Reading 

I only finished two books in November and they were both re-reads, Persuasion by Jane Austen and Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie. I was motivated to read these after watching adaptations, Persuasion just because it’s wonderful and, along with Sense and Sensibility, is the Austen I like to read in the winter. I re-read Sleeping Murder with a view to actually writing a post about it, which I haven’t got around to doing yet.

Television 

I watched Anne of Green Gables (1985) and The Sequel (1987) for the first time and really enjoyed them. Anne of Green Gables isn’t really a “thing” in the UK, so I didn’t know much about it, but it was very important to my American partner.

I’m working my way through the Netflix re-imagining of The Haunting of Hill House. I think it’s brilliant, but it is f***ing with my head!

My chill-out watch has mostly been Chef’s Table, which has become more interesting now that the chefs have a bit more diversity. My favourite so far is the episode with Christina Martinez, an undocumented migrant who runs a traditional Mexican barbacoa restaurant in Philadelphia. It made me cry.  I really liked the one with Ana Ros, a self-taught Slovenian chef, too.

Film

We only watched one film and that was the 1995 adaptation of Persuasion. I didn’t really like this adaptation when I first saw it, but it’s grown on me over the years and is now one of my favourites. It has a different feel to other adaptations – slower and more realistic. The only thing I don’t like is the ending which has Anne and Wentworth kissing in the street as a circus goes past (why?) and then sees Wentworth demanding Anne’s hand in marriage in front of a room full of people (erm, no!).

Soundtrack to the Month 

Mostly Kristin Hersh!