Marianne Faithfull, shown above in a glamor shot that is apparently from the ‘60s, starred in a movie called, in French, La Motorcyclette, and in English as either Girl on a Motorcycle, or Naked Under Leather. I saw it a year or two back, and it’s not terribly memorable. (As a side note let me say that I didn't recall much about this movie either in 2009, when I originally wrote this, or today, in June of 2012.)
The current album, 20th Century Blues, is not, as I thought when I checked it out of the library, blues songs, but recordings, evidently live, of Faithfull singing songs by Brecht and Weill and others.
Faithfull has had a hard life. Anybody who got involved with Mick Jagger is practically guaranteed to have had a hard life. Look at what he’s done to his body, every sin shows on his physique. Her various addictions, and her life on the streets, have affected her voice. It’s rough, and harsh. Some might describe it as “whiskey-soaked” while others might say that she has “vulgarized her voice.” I’m not sure that I recall her voice from the movie, which was made when she was at the height of her initial fame, but I don’t recall it as being this rough. Snippets of earlier songs, from the start of her fame as a singer, indicate that she had a prettier voice, younger, and not as gritty before it suffered irreparable damage. Whether you prefer grit, or youth and prettiness is up to you.
Now that I’ve torn her voice apart, the question still remains, how does the broken voice match up with the songs. On Alabama Song, and Pirate Jenny, which are sung by whores, pretty well.
The version of Mack the Knife that she sings is more sexually explicit and tougher than other versions, such as Ella’s, Satchmo’s, or Bobby Darin’s that I’ve heard.
It’s not for everyone, but if you like Brecht/Weill, and music that is fairly raw, it might be your cup of tea.