- Cat Power includes: Chan Marshall (vocals, guitar).
- Personnel: Maggie (vocals); Warren Ellis (violin); The HT3 (drums).
- Audio Mixer: Adam Kasper.
- Recording information: 2002.
- Photographer: Mark Borthwick.
- If catharsis is the name of the game, then Cat Power (AKA Chan Marshall) handily achieves this goal with YOU ARE FREE, her first studio album of original material since 1998's MOON PIX. She's a master at making more out of less, and to say Marshall's arrangements are sparse is an understatement. That said, songs like "Maybe Not" and "I Don't Blame You" benefit immensely from the solo piano accompaniment that gently prods along this southern singer-songwriter's creaky vocals. Even when she adds instrumentation, a measured approach keeps everything tight, whether Marshall is howling in front of Dave Grohl (who plays bass and drums), on the hypnotic, guitar-driven "Speak For Me," or delivering an ethereal cover of Michael Hurley's "Werewolf" that features David Campbell's evanescent string arrangements. In singing about various facets of freedom, Chan Marshall addresses her lover's unhealthy lifestyle (the mournful "Babydoll") and inability to open up (an echo-drenched "Half of You"). Along with Grohl, Eddie Vedder puts in a pair of appearances. The Pearl Jam frontman loses himself within the murmured duet "Evolution" and "Good Woman," the fullest-sounding song on the album, like a modern-day Lomax recording with its scratchy fiddle, buzzing guitar, and spooky harmonies.
Rolling Stone (12/25/03, p.105) - Included in Rolling Stone's "50 Best Albums of 2003"
Rolling Stone (3/6/03, p.69) - 4 stars out of 5 - "FREE may be her most beautiful album....There are gaunt rock songs and ramshackle ballads, all painted with bold, sure strokes..."
Spin (3/03, pp.119-20) - 8 out of 10 - "Marshall has never sounded this in control of her demons..."
Spin (p.108) - "[S]he sings in her sultry Georgian accent."
Entertainment Weekly (2/21/03, p.150) - "[Marshall's] voice remains a dusky hush, turning songs by John Lee Hooker and cult folkie Michael Hurley into spooky whispers..." - Rating: B+
Uncut (01/04, pp.84-7) - Ranked #40 in Uncut's "Albums Of The Year 2003"
Uncut (3/03, p.100) - 4 stars out of 5 - "Everything Marshall touches has a hypnotic power that's eerily unsettling..."
The Wire (01/04, p.38) - Included in Wire's "50 Records Of The Year "
The Wire (2/03, p.59) - "The more upbeat songs of YOU ARE FREE have a simmering energy in keeping with the current vogue for refried garage rock..."
CMJ (12/29/03, p.5) - Ranked #5 in CMJ's "Top 10 of 2003" - "[This album finds Chan Marshall] settling into the role of her generation's Carole King..."
Billboard (p.36) - "[T]he album is still a work of stunning beauty."
Mojo (Publisher) (01/01/04, p.58) - Ranked #19 in Mojo's "The Best of 2003"
Mojo (Publisher) (3/03, p.102) - 3 stars out of 5 - "YOU ARE FREE is the most stylistically varied Cat Power album....The sense of fragile lives on the verge of collapse is never far from the surface..."