Despite the constant pressure on veteran female artists not to act their age, Marianne Faithfull refuses to disguise the wear and tear caused by her four decades in rock. She eschews surgical enhancement, and her ragged voice often sounds downright ancient -- although "timeless" is a better way to describe it. No wonder she's earned the respect of musicians such as PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and Damon Albarn, whose contributions to Before the Poison establish them as kindred spirits of the show's star.
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Faithfull's collaboration with Albarn, "Last Song," is lush and creepy, yet her pairings with Harvey and Cave linger longest. Had Harvey sung "The Mystery of Love," which she wrote, she probably would have torn into the tune with trademark ferocity. Instead, Faithfull oozes with a weary vulnerability that's more subtle but just as memorable. "There Is a Ghost," meanwhile, pits Faithfull's evocative words against Cave-penned music that suggests Kurt Weill in Hell.
Poison doesn't go down smoothly, and that's appropriate. The album finds beauty in the flaws most performers prefer to hide.