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Cat Power - You Are Free
Label: Matador Records
Release: 2003

I Don't Blame You
Good Woman
Speak to Me
He War
Shaking Paper
Baby Doll
Maybe Not
Half of You
Keep on Runnin'
You Are Free - Cat Power
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Average Blamo User Rating: (23 votes)

Chan Marshall, who basically is Cat Power, hasn't put out an original record in five years. In the interim came a cover record, aptly titled The Covers Record, which was good, but certainly not what she was capable of. Three years later, however, she's bounced back with the most developed and tightly executed record of her career thus far.

The songs on You Are Free basically fall into one of two catergories. First there are are piano ballads like the somber opener I Don't Blame You, a letter to a performer that may be Chan herself, or the stunning Maybe Not which perhaps best encapsulates the simplicity of the record - double tracked vocals and a simple chord progression create one of the most stirring songs on the record in my opnion.

There are, also, of course the guitar-based rockers. Speak For Me and Free are both churning numbers and along with opening single He War demonstrate the more straightforward, aggressive face of the album, perhaps helped forward by the presence of Dave Grohl on drums.

Cat Power albums have always had a certain sound to them. You Are Free is no departure from the formula, but it improves upon it. Not only is the songwriting just plain better, Chan is also learning to make better use of her collaborators. Eg: Good Woman is absolutley flooring and features Chan's distorted guitar picking intertwining with Warren Ellis's violin and backing vocals by two preteen girls and Eddie Vedder (I know it sounds weird, but it works, trust me).

Basically, that about sums it up, actually. You Are Free is the sound of a troubled performer (evidenced by her live reputation) really coming into her own. If you like Cat Power already, you're gonna love this. If you can't stand her, there's not much here to change your mind. If, however, you haven't discovered her yet, this is an excellent place to start.

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