❉ Ange Chan takes a trip down memory lane with this lavish collection of live treasures and rarities.
Following the release of the super Trials of Eyeliner box set a few years ago, there’s a new 10CD box set which has been made recently available by Cherry Red, but this time it’s a limited edition selection of Marc Almond’s live concerts. This new collection Marc Almond: A Live Treasury Of Song (1992-2008) contains 147 tracks covering over ten hours of pure Almond essence and is lavishly presented in a specially-designed art box with an exclusively designed fold out poster, with each of the concert’s discs individually packaged in their own colour sleeves.
Starting with disc one, we’re treated to sixteen tracks from a June 1992 concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. Eagle-eyed fans will have noticed that this particular concert was previously released as a ‘fan club only’ disc. It boasts an excellent mix of songs ranging from Marc’s Mamba days in the form of In My Room and Fun City, Soft Cell tracks such as Where the Heart Is and Torch, a good few tracks from his Enchanted and Tenement Symphony albums and a couple of rare numbers Amnesia Nights and Vision (a Peter Hammill cover version), both of which are beautiful piano pieces. The disc ends with the epic opus Orpheus in Red Velvet which is a rarely-performed live track, so it’s excellent to see it included here.
Discs two and three both contain Almond’s Twelve Years of Tears from his landmark September 1992 concert, again showcasing a number of tracks from Mambas, Soft Cell and his albums to date at the time. This recording is the ‘as live’ video soundtrack and covers twenty one tracks, recorded at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London. The discs replicate the visual releases of the concert, and the previously released CD package, however as with disc one it’s pleasing to see this significant concert in Almond’s career included in this selection. There’s a rather nice piano medley on the second of the two discs encompassing Stories of Johnny, Tenderness is a Weakness, Black Heart, Vision, Mr Sad, There is Bed and Youth, showcasing Almond’s love of the tender, dark melancholia that he does so well. Disc three contains Aznavour’s What Makes a Man a Man, which was a poignant moment during the show and dedicated to “those that dare to be different”, and the disc finishes with Soft Cell’s biggest hits, namely Tainted Love and Say Hello Wave Goodbye, the latter of which Almond often now plays as the finale for many of his concerts.
Moving to disc four and we’re treated to a concert recorded in February 2000 at Leicester Cathedral, which I attended and have many fond memories of. The cathedral has wonderful acoustics which lent itself beautifully to some of the a capella tracks Almond performed throughout the show amongst the carved stone statues and gothic arches. The disc opens with the beautiful Under Your Wing, which is another rarely-heard Almond song. The theme continues with The Flame (originally sung with Marie France), Beautiful Losers, Charles Aznavour’s When I was a Young Man, and ramps up with some tracks from Fantastic Star including Come in Sweet Assassin, Love to Die For and Our Love, My Love and then progressing onto Sequins and Stars (from the soundtrack of the film Mojo), Tragedy (a melancholic song which has helped me through many times of angst in my life) and ends with the gorgeous Night and No Morning from the album Open All Night.
Discs five and six cover another landmark concert in Almond’s career, this time at Islington’s Union Chapel, London in December 2000, covering twenty two tracks and nearly one hundred minutes of music. Again, I was in attendance at this concert and this event was committed to another fan club-only release, however many of the tracks on this collection were not featured on the original Fan Club CD making it a unique listening opportunity. We’re treated to tracks like Amnesia Nights, Caroline Says and When It’s Your Time. I think I’m right in saying (but I’m sure some one will correct me if I’m mistaken!) that this is the only recording of I Created Me, where Almond sings of leaving his lasting legacy of being committed to CD and vinyl when the finally shuffles off this mortal coil. He’s an artist that has often sung about death, but on this occasion he’s inwardly reflecting on his own mortality.
Moving onto discs seven and eight, I was excited to discover the inclusion Almond’s recording of another keenly-remembered concert I attended, this time at the Almeida Theatre, Islington London (just round the corner from the Union Chapel) in July 2004. This recording has never appeared on CD before, although it is available on DVD. This duo of discs contains a few of Almond’s Russian songs including The Glance of Your Dark Eyes, Just One Chance and Heart on Snow which are sung with the famous Russian singer Alla Bayanova, and Oh My Soul accompanied with Igor Outkine on accordion. Other notable tracks include the rarely heard Rouge and Perfume, the Jacques Brel interpretation of The Slave, Bowie’s Rock and Roll Suicide and Brel’s Amsterdam (popularised by Bowie as the B side of Sorrow). Disc seven ends with the ‘not for the faint-hearted track’, Catch a Fallen Star.
The second disc of this live recording includes tracks such as Hustler’s Tango, Lotus Blossom, I Cover the Waterfront (an Abe Lyman’s California Orchestra cover version) and Romance in the Dark. It also contains the fabulous Suicide Saloon, which is a personal favourite, and the familiar Strangers in the Night written by Bert Kaempfert and originally sung by Frank Sinatra, whose 1966 recording bagged the Chairman of the Board that year’s Record of the Year Grammy award. The live concert recording ends with the Turkish-inspired Scheherazade, but this is not where the disc ends as there are five additional bonus tracks of dress rehearsal recordings and two remixes of Scheherazade, namely the Turkish Delight Mix and Seven Veils Mix.
The final two discs of the collection are taken from another concert I attended and have cherished memories, held at the beautiful east end gem of a theatre, Wilton’s Music Hall, in July 2008. The venue is formed of a number of Victorian houses which have been knocked into one venue, and over the last decade has been sympathetically refurbished to maintain its aura of faded glamour. The tracks from this concert encompass twenty-seven songs over two hours and twenty minutes. Despite its length I recall this concert passing in a heartbeat and although I have a recording from this show, it’s again most pleasing to have this concert here in this collection.
The disc encompasses a good range of songs over Almond’s career and introduced us to the track Kill Me or Make Me Beautiful (about the death penalty inflicted to gay people in Middle Eastern countries), Lavender (about the homophobic 1970s), Miss Urania, and the old London Music Hall rompy tune Masculine Women, Feminine Men by Irving Kaufman, with accompaniment from Celine Hispiche and Baby Dee. Other notable tracks on these discs include Three Monkey Tango, Beggar, Weakness for the Roses, The Great Valerio and Calvary.
Little Annie (Bandez) also appeared on stage with Marc for this concert and a tender version of Charles Aznavour’s Yesterday, When I Was Young. The live recording ends with Gyp the Blood (rarely heard sung live), Saint Judy (a modern-day Almond classic) and my favourite track of his from the Mambas days, Torment. There are also four additional bonus tracks included here; rehearsal versions of All the Beautiful Strangers, My Heart’s Come Home, and Hell-Tale of a Tart as well as a demo of Bluegate Fields which sings of the Wilton Hall area’s history when the place was inhabited by opium dens, docks, and Chinese immigrants forming London’s original Chinatown before it was relocated to the West End.
This collection is a must-own for Marc Almond fans who love those songs you wouldn’t expect to hear on his more conventional Tainted Love/hits-type shows. There are many tracks here which can’t be found on any other CD releases other than the aforementioned fan club releases now no longer in print, so it’s a complete joy to hear them here in one place. This collection of live treasures is a strictly limited edition and so if you’re a fan of Marc Almond, or someone who would like to explore more of what he’s about, then don’t delay in snapping it up.
❉ Marc Almond: ‘A Live Treasury Of Song 1992-2008’ 10CD Box Set (Strike Force Entertainment SFE101BOX) was released 16 December 2022, RRP £48.99. Click here to order from Cherry Red Records.
❉ A lifelong lover of music and prominent contributor to Me and the Starman (now available by Cult Ink on Amazon), Ange Chan is a Freelance Writer, having produced two novels and six volumes of poetry.