You Are Free

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For the 1983 documentary film, see You Are Free (film).
You Are Free
Studio album by Cat Power
Released February 18, 2003
Recorded 2002
Genre Indie rock
Length 53:08
Label Matador
Producer Adam Kasper (engineer only)
Cat Power chronology
The Covers Record
(2000)
You Are Free
(2003)
The Greatest
(2006)

You Are Free is the sixth album by American singer-songwriter Cat Power (a.k.a. Chan Marshall). It was released in 2003 on Matador Records.

The album features guest appearances by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and Nirvana, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Warren Ellis of the Dirty Three.

Recording[edit]

According to Cat Power: A Good Woman by Elizabeth Goodman, You Are Free represents the longest Marshall had spent recording an album at that point. Marshall and engineer Adam Kasper recorded about 40 songs over the course of a year, of which 14 were included on the album.[1]

In a 2003 interview with Pitchfork, Marshall explained the album was recorded "Sporadically. While I was traveling...Adam was working on other things, and I worked on his schedule. He'd get these really nice studios, and when he had off time we'd go in and then try to remember what we did like two months ago and pull that tape up. I'd be like, 'Uh, no, I wanna do something new,' and then I'd write a new song. So it basically worked like that-- every few months getting together and essentially writing new songs." [2] According to Marshall, Kasper helped her decide which of the 40 songs they recorded should make it onto the album.[2]

Marshall revealed that she chose Kasper because "I was looking for somebody who would let me do what I wanted to do, who's a really good engineer," and said that she saw him as an engineer, rather than a producer.[2]

Numerous songs on the album are performed solo, with only Marshall on vocals and guitar or piano. Grohl plays drums on the songs "Speak For Me," "He War" and "Shaking Paper," and plays bass on "Shaking Paper." Vedder provides backing vocals on "Good Woman" and "Evolution," while Ellis plays violin on "Werewolf."

The songs "Good Woman" and "Werewolf" feature string arrangements by David Campbell, which were recorded after Marshall's vocals had been completed, at the Boat Studio in Los Angeles, California.[1]

Release[edit]

You Are Free became Cat Power's first charting album, reaching 105 on the Billboard 200. "The song "He War" was released as a single, and a music video for the song directed by Brett Vapnek was released.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[3]
Austin Chronicle 4/5 stars[4]
Drowned In Sound 10/10 stars[5]
Entertainment Weekly B+[6]
Mojo 3/5 stars[7]
Pitchfork Media (8.9/10)[8]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[9]
Spin 8/10 stars[10]
Uncut 4/5 stars[11]
The Village Voice (positive)[12]

You Are Free was Marshall's first album of original material since the critically acclaimed Moon Pix (1998), and was met by strong reviews. Kelefa Sanneh of Rolling Stone wrote that "Free may be her most beautiful album, as well as her cagiest: There are gaunt rock songs and ramshackle ballads, all painted with bold, sure strokes that belie her ambivalence." [13] Heather Phares of Allmusic wrote that "You Are Free may take awhile longer than expected to unfold, but once it does, its excellence is undeniable." [14] Chris Ott of Pitchfork called it an album "full of arresting, serene beauty...Sans a handful of lesser inclusions and tributes, the imaginary, shorter version of You Are Free is flawless." [15]

In 2009 Pitchfork placed the album at number 98 on their "The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s" list.[16]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Chan Marshall except where noted.

  1. "I Don't Blame You" – 3:05
  2. "Free" – 3:34
  3. "Good Woman" – 3:58
  4. "Speak for Me" – 3:04
  5. "Werewolf" (Michael Hurley) – 4:08
  6. "Fool" – 3:49
  7. "He War" – 3:31
  8. "Shaking Paper" – 4:36
  9. "Babydoll" – 2:56
  10. "Maybe Not" – 4:19
  11. "Names" – 4:50
  12. "Half of You" – 2:42
  13. "Keep on Runnin'" (John Lee Hooker) – 3:51
  14. "Evolution" – 4:44
  15. "The Party" (Japan bonus track) – 2:49

Musicians and contributors[edit]

  • Chan Marshall – vocals, guitars, piano
  • Warren Ellis – violin on "Good Woman"
  • Dave Grohl – bass on "Speak For Me", drums on "Speak For Me", "He War" and "Shaking Paper"
  • Eddie Vedder – vocals on "Good Woman" and "Evolution"
  • David Campbell – string arrangement on "Good Woman" and "Werewolf"
  • Maggie & Emma – vocals on "Good Woman"
  • Adam Kasper – recording, mixing
  • Rick Fisher – mastering
  • Mark Borthwick – photography

Charts[edit]

Chart (2003) Peak
position
French Albums Chart[17] 67
UK Albums Chart[18] 157
US Billboard 200[19] 105
US Heatseekers[19] 1
US Independent Albums[19] 2

Notes[edit]