I love this album!
Okay now that I've said that, I'll explain why, which may differ from previous reviews posted here.
I was there in the 1960s when Ms. Faithfull rode the British Invasion with her hit "As Tears Go By", and I was impressed by her hit single "Broken English", which was released in 1979. But, honestly, I haven't followed her career since. Then this CD arrived and I put it in my player. The first song grabbed my attention, and I was listening intently for the next 12 tracks. I then played the album again and liked it even better.
But it wasn't just Faithfull's voice - which is hoarse, and unlike any other singer I can think of - that got me. It was the way it was used by producer Hal Willner, a guy who has created some on the most unique and amazing albums over the last 20 years - often themed albums ("Stay Awake" - the Disney tribute is still a favorite). Willner is listed on every track as the one doing the "sampling" and, though I can't always identify what records he is sampling, the overall mood he creates is captivating.
Faithfull is a major part of the album's success, of course, with her voice and pen. Four of the songs were co-written by the singer (who is now 64 years old). And half of the songs on the album are covers. (While other reviewers have commented on how the covers compare with the original recordings, I'm one who takes the songs as if they were new to me, when rating the performance.) The album was recorded in 2010 in New Orleans, and there some NOLa musicians here (George Porter Jr. plays bass on every track, Dr. John sits in on piano for one, as does NOLa native Dr. Michael White on clarinet) - and there is an Allen Toussaint cover ( "Back in Baby's Arms") but this is not all NOLa-tinged. You'll see Lou Reed listed in the credits too but it's his guitar you'll hear; not his voice.
If I have one regret as to the packaging - it is that the 12-page booklet does not contain the lyrics. This is especially important for the newly composed songs and "That's How The Empire Falls", a Rolling Stones-style rocker whose lyrics are often overpowered by the guitars. But that's not enough to drop it a star in my rating.
The variety of the music is one of the trademarks of producer Willner's projects and hand-in-hand with Faithfull herself, they make this one of my favorite albums of 2011 (and the year is only halfway through.)