Those Were The Days [Solenoid 1DVD NTSC]
Compilation of TV performances from ‘60s to ‘90s. Video VG to Ex-; Audio Ex- mono to stereo. Varying quality depending on clips. The b&w ‘60s clips are very good. 70 min.

There has always been a yawning void where a truly great Marianne Faithfull video anthology should lie, and this 14-song compilation goes a long way towards filling it. Of course there are some howling omissions - the superlative performance of "Summer Nights" that is currently doing the Youtube rounds, her appearance at the Rock’n’Roll Circus, and her 1973 duet with David Bowie. But Hullabaloo performances of "Come And Stay With Me," "As Tears Go By" and "There But For Fortune" appear here, with Faithfull’s beguiling beauty and fragile uncertainty as captivating today as they were back then.

The leap from there to her late 1970s comeback is startling - Tracks Four and Five round up Faithfull’s Saturday Night Live performances of "Broken English" and "Guilt," and the sweetly innocent, angelically toned maiden of just a few moments earlier is nowhere in sight. But the lived-in, worn-out spirit that stands in her place is even more captivating and, though her voice sounds shot and her band sounds anonymous, this remains one of those SNL moments that you will never forget, Faithfull playing up every rumor of dissolution and despair that had ever attended her, and offering up a role model that Courtney Love, for one, would never forget.

The remainder of the collection skips through a fairly representative selection of subsequent TV performances and occasional videos, none packing the same power as the SNL shot, but all having their high spots… "Sweetheart," "So Sad," "Running For Our Lives," "The Memory Remains"… the disc finally bows out with a 2003 awards ceremony performance of "As Tears Go By," Faithfull backed by Johnny Marr, and simply defying you to compare her with the lass whose take on the same song opened the disc.

In keeping with the unfamiliarity of much of this material, the quality is not always red-hot - VHS flutter, a loss of synch and multi-generational decay all affect the sound and vision. But any document of this most tempestuously fascinating career is welcome, and you just know there’re a few performances here that would never be permitted onto an official collection. - Dave Thompson

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September 29, 2006