Marianne Faithfull's majestically unnerving croak is the sound of funerals on drizzly days; of midnight ashtrays overflowing with stubbed regrets. Yep, it's often a downer, but absolutely magnetically so, which is one reason the 58-year-old "unsinkable Molly Brown" of the music biz has drawn such kindred wraiths as Polly Jean Harvey and Nick Cave to her side for her latest collection of tales from the dark side. Harvey wrote and plays on half of Before the Poison
's 10 tracks; the duo's mother/ daughter-like vocal communion on the sardonic, piano-stabbed "No Child of Mine" stands as the finest of their frayed art-blues collaborations. The Cave compositions are, as one might surmise, more theatrical, yet no less gripping: Faithfull takes her rightful place as lamenting queen of the cabaret-damned on the viola-caressed "Crazy Love" and the fittingly vaporous "There Is a Ghost," then drops a sultry near-rap on the sax-y stomper "Desperanto." Easily the most visceral album Faithfull's ever crafted, Poison
gets under the skin, rattles the soul, and demands to be consumed again and again.