Marianne Faithfull with Warren Ellis: She Walks in Beauty review – a magical return

Faithfull is on impeccable form in beautiful settings by Ellis of the Romantic poetry beloved of her youth

She Walks in Beauty marks the culmination of Marianne Faithfull’s longstanding love of the Romantic poets, first kindled at convent school in Reading in the early 1960s. Here, the works of Keats, Byron, Shelley, Tennyson and Wordsworth are brought vividly to life by her rich, weathered voice and impeccable intonation. She’s backed by imaginative musique concrète soundscapes courtesy of Warren Ellis, with contributions from Nick Cave on piano, cellist Vincent Ségal and Brian Eno, their ambient textures never overshadowing Faithfull, instead framing and accentuating her delivery.

The results are frequently beautiful, the new settings making even the most familiar texts (Ode to a Nightingale or The Lady of Shallot, say) sound fresh. And it’s all the more impressive given its difficult genesis. Fresh from the excellent Give My Love to London (2014) and Negative Capability (2018), Faithfull had already recorded half of her vocals for the album with PJ Harvey producer Head before she contracted the coronavirus last spring. She almost died (she discovered later that her medical notes had specified “palliative care only”), and ended up spending three weeks in intensive care. Her slow return to health clearly made this a difficult album to finish – Faithfull has confessed to feeling especially nervous recording a stirring Ozymandias – but we should be thankful that she was able to.

Watch the lyric video for She Walks in Beauty


Phil Mongredien

The GuardianTramp

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