It was clear from the start that Marianne Faithfull was no ordinary artist. Following the success of the singles "As Tears Go By" and "Come and Stay with Me" (gifted to Marianne by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards and Jackie DeShannon, respectively), Decca wanted her to record a pop album. Marianne wanted to record a folk album. The result was that not one, but two, LPs were released in April 1965 showcasing two very different sides of the singer. (For the record, the folk set outperformed the pop record.) But whether recording the songs of Lennon and McCartney, Donovan, Bert Jansch, Bob Dylan, Tim Hardin, Carole King, Phil Ochs, Shel Silverstein, Tom Waits, or Serge Gainsbourg, Marianne Faithfull always stayed true to herself, bringing her own distinctive persona and sound to the session. Hence, Songs of Innocence and Experience - two abundant qualities in Faithfull's body of work.
It's tempting to say that the early recordings are innocent and the latter ones experienced, but it's not such an easy breakdown when considering the 44 songs on this beautiful new 2-CD collection (28 on the 2-LP vinyl iteration). Those include tracks by those illustrious songwriters, as well as by Faithfull herself. Such exquisite, often shattering recordings as "Sister Morphine," "Is This What I Get for Loving You," "Come My Way," "Broken English," and "The Stars Line Up" retain their power on this remarkable collection, expertly compiled, annotated, and mastered by Andrew Batt (Bobbie Gentry's The Girl from Chickasaw County). Five tracks are previously unreleased; another eight make their CD debuts. While not a definitive "hits" survey - "As Tears Go By" is heard in its affecting 1987 remake rather than the original 1964 version - Songs of Innocence and Experience is a transporting and provocative journey with a singular artist.