This compilation consists of live recordings in Reykjavik, Tilburg, London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Brussels, Manchester, New York and Tokyo, plus studio recordings in Chicago, New York, London and Atlanta. The rehearsing sections are from Atlanta and New York. The material covers the period 1986 to 1997 in which Swans and World of Skin were active. The track listing on my copy does not correspond to the song sequence on the CD but it doesn't matter.
Representing eleven years of Jarboe's vocals, keyboards and found sounds, and songs by herself and Michael Gira (separate and together), this impressive album also includes compositions by Nick Drake, Ira Gershwin, Joy Division and Screamin' Jay Hawkins. There is thus plenty of variety in style and presentation, from torch songs like The Man I Love and Song For Dead Time to searing rock such as Mother Father and Black Eyed Dog live.
The general tone of the album varies from atmospheric, even eerie, to raw and powerful live performances. Of the former, highlights include a poignant perspective on the death of Maria Callas called Everything For Maria, the oneiric Dream Dream and the slow version of Mother's Milk. Amongst the outstanding live tracks are Love Will Tear Us Apart, two other versions of Mother's Milk, Can't Find My Way Home with its spookily churning rhythm and the arresting Wayfaring Stranger.
There are also some snatches of conversations and quarrels between band members during rehearsals, which add to the charm and atmosphere of the album. Although it spans more than a decade and various changes of direction in the sound of the band, plus the World of Skin side project, Mystery Of Faith is quite cohesive and serves as a breathtaking display of the anima of Swans.
This collection is more accessible than the early solo albums Sacrificial Cake and Thirteen Masks. Her magnificent voice and superb interpretive skills make Jarboe one of the most remarkable little-known vocalists, in rock and other genres. For more of this amazing music, I highly recommend her collaboration with Lary Seven, Beautiful People Ltd. and Swans albums like Children of God, Soundtracks For The Blind and The Burning World. And of course Jarboe's solo albums Mahakali and Anhedoniac.