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Faith is the second of a trilogy of albums released by The Cure in the early 1980's that had a distinct musical style. It was preceded by the minimalist musicianship found on Seventeen Seconds and was succeeded by the black hole like depression of Pornography. Early Cure isn't about pop melodies or sweeping guitars, it's about creating a downbeat mood, perhaps a mood that could be called both gothic and haunting, yet with its feet stuck well within the boundaries of popular music.
The entire album is very bass orientated, and most of the songs revolve around a tempo set by the bass guitar, the exception being the keyboard heavy middle section of the LP. More often than not, subtle drums and intricately placed guitar are only there to add to the overall atmosphere.
The opening song to this minor masterpiece, The Holy Hour, boasts some of the most sinister bass ever played by The Cure, not a feat to be scoffed out considering the intensity with which this band has played over their recording career. The song starts with a spiralling thud of bass that loops repeatedly and causes the song to become a very claustrophobic piece to listen to, but enjoyable all the same. It is the very representation of the stark and desolate wasteland that the album artwork so capably points to.
The singles from the album were Primary and Other voices. Primary is the most melodic thing on the album, where two scratchy bass guitars can be found thundering across the scene at an extremely fast pace. In my opinion Primary is the weakest song on the album, this is largely due to the fact that artistically it sticks out like a sore thumb. Fortunately, the same cannot be said for Other Voices, a perfectly realised piece of music and one of the first classic singles to be released by The Cure. Again, the bass comes crashing in and is placed extremely high in the mix. The electric guitar that is used sparingly in the background mirrors the bass and together they are a perfect marriage.
One of the most enjoyable tracks here is the extremely sad The Funeral Party, which laid a great template for what would follow toward the end of the decade with the keyboard laden Disintegration. Smith delivers downright gloomy vocals in the way that only he can, as if he is genuinely mourning the loss of kin referred to in the song.
Doubt holds firmly onto the punk roots of the band's debut, Three Imaginary Boys, as Smith yelps out his words of violent abuse. In my opinion it joins Primary as the weakest moment on the album. The reasons for me taking this critical angle are exactly the same as those that can be found when I described Primary.
The Drowning Man is possibly the most surreal, yet successfully atmospheric track on the album, and the imagery is horrific to say the least. The vocals dash eerily from one speaker to the other and now we find that it's the electric guitar's turn to shine. One fret welcomes the next with open arms as the cold and heartless ambience rings out.
Things come to a natural end with the title track, the longest song from the 8 song set. In terms of sound it isn't dissimilar to the opening The Holy Hour but the tempo is certainly slowed down and dragged out for your listening pleasure. Smith howls, "There is nothing left but faith" with such belief that you wonder if this was less an artistic statement and more a cry for help, especially when taking into account the way his despair manifested itself a year later on Pornography.
Faith is easily the most accessible album from the band's early output and in my opinion, the best buy. I felt that I had forced myself to get on with Seventeen Seconds, but that the attraction that I had found with Faith was more of a natural one. I also find that it is their most important early album in terms of the sombre attitude Smith took towards creating the soundscape, as it is the one that they would repeat most in the future.
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In 1981 The Cure released their third album "Faith" following on from the release of their two previous albums "Three Imaginary Boys" and "Seventeen Seconds" in 1979 and 1980 respectively.
In 2005 the Faith album was re-issued in a digitally re-mastered deluxe edition version. This is a two CD pack, which as well as containing all of the tracks on the original vinyl album on disc one, also featured a previously unreleased song on this first disc called "Carnage Visors" plus a non-album single released around the same time called "Charlotte Sometimes", which appears on disc two.
Disc two features alternative versions of some of these same tracks in either a live or demo form, as well as some previously unreleased songs that are all instrumentals. Some of these were later reworked into songs that resurfaced elsewhere.
Disc one of Faith contains nine tracks:
1. Holy Hour
3. Other Voices
4. All Cats Are Grey
5. Funeral Party
7. Drowning Man
9. Carnage Visors
Disc two contains a further 15 songs:
1. Faith (Demo)
2. Doubt (Demo)
3. Drowning (Demo)
4. The Holy Hour (Demo)
5. Primary (Demo)
6. Going Home Time (Demo)
7. Violin Song (Demo)
8. A Normal Story (Demo)
9. All Cats Are Grey (Live)
10. The Funeral Party (Live)
11. Other Voices (Live)
12. The Drowning Man (Live)
13. Faith (Live)
14. Forever (Live)
15. Charlotte Sometimes (Single)
"Faith" is often considered to form the middle album between a trilogy of three album releases with its predecessor "Seventeen Seconds" and the follow up album in 1982 "Pornography." This album continues the darker, more atmospheric mood that we saw on "Seventeen Seconds" and takes it a little step further. Like its predecessor this is a very minimalist album, with just eight tracks on the original vinyl release and a running time of little over thirty-five minutes.
This album features just three band members. Lead singer Robert Smith provides keyboards, guitar, as well as vocals whilst the drums come courtesy of The Cure's only other permanent member, Lol Tolhurst. Here Simon Gallup on bass joins the duo. This line up gives a much more electronic edge to the sound of these tracks and an evident shift away from the more guitar based songs that had strongly influenced their earlier albums.
Looking at the track listing it would be easy to presume that this is a dark, gloomy, gothic album about death. Titles like "The Funeral Party" and "Drowning Man" both conjure up unpleasant, tormented images. In reality this assumption could not be further from the truth.
In fact, this is quite an uplifting album. Songs like "Holy Hour" "All Cats Are Grey" and "The Funeral Party" are all very lively tracks, with long instrumental sections, where the catchy synthesised sounds skip along, rising and falling like a crescendo.
"Primary" is a little more aggressive, and features a more prominent guitar sound than the other tracks. Whilst "Doubt" "The Drowning Man" and the title track are all much more laid back affairs. "The Drowning Man" is actually inspired by the Gormenghast novels written by Mervyn Peake.
I purchased this digitally remastered CD for two reasons. Firstly I own this album on vinyl but although I still have the facility to play my vinyl collection I rarely do so. I believed the sound quality would be much better on this CD and this is certainly true. There is definitely a much cleaner, crispier feel to the sound.
I also bought this CD for the additional tracks. "Charlotte Sometimes" was a classic Cure single that never appeared on any studio album, whilst "Carnage Visors" was another song that I had heard and liked, and again was not available anywhere else. The rest of the tracks on the second CD were more of a curiosity rather than anything else.
At 27 minutes long "Carnage Visors" lasts for an eternity. I never realised that this song was so long and now I know why it never made it onto a studio album.
To be perfectly honest the rest of the tracks on the second CD are nothing special. They are home demo versions of songs that sound like they have been recorded on a portable cassette player in Robert Smith's bedroom, and they probably have. Other tracks are live recordings, which again are of fairly poor quality. These songs here certainly have some curiosity value, but they will appeal mainly only to diehard fans. The tracks that appear here for the first time all instrumentals.
The cover of this CD is the same as the cover of the original vinyl release and features a photograph of Bolton Abbey shrouded in mist. This would later be the location where Robert Smith would wed his childhood love, Mary.
In summary I would say that Faith is a superb album and is highly recommended for anyone that is a fan of the band. This deluxe version however is somewhat of a disappointment and I would suggest that you would be better of spending your money on a single CD version of this album, which is available. This includes the same tracklisting as Disc One of this deluxe edition.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Holy Hour
3 Other Voices
4 All Cats Are Grey
5 Funeral Party
7 Drowning Man