❉ A welcome reissue showcasing a landmark album of Almond’s career, writes Ange Chan.
One of my favourite Marc Almond albums has recently been reissued and remastered in expanded form by Cherry Red and no-one is happier about it than me. Following the meagre success of his previous album Fantastic Star, Almond parted ways with Mercury/Phonogram and released his tenth studio album, Open All Night on his own independent label, Blue Star Music, in March 1999.
The overall mood of Open All Night harks back to Almond’s time as one half of the duo Soft Cell. It’s an album which is best appreciated under cover of darkness, its lyrics raw and sleazy, shining a light on the underworld of London’s Soho and the twilight lifestyle of its hookers, pimps, and rent boys, and an undertone of cheap desperation is the order du jour. NME aptly described the album as “an evocative Brel-meets-Barry landscape with a midnight blue melancholy” and there’s a certain kind of kitsch glamour emanating from its lush, decadent orchestration, and evocative undertones of tragedy and dissolution.
The album saw a number of tracks released as singles but sadly they failed to chart; these include Tragedy, a song of strong hope and tenacity in the face of adversity, Black Kiss, a tribal cantina, worshipping false gods as ‘beautiful evil’, and My Love, a no-holds-barred track written by Almond and Neal Whitmore (aka Neal X of Sigue Sigue Sputnik) of a love that’s “a walking disaster” but that’s what is adored about them. It’s also featured as a bonus track on disc one in the form of a remix by Almond’s Soft Cell compadre, Dave Ball.
Other remixes and alternative versions appended to the original album on disc one include an Almond/ Whitmore remix of Threat of Love and a Hard Vocal remix of Black Kiss. The album also boasts two duets; Threat of Love with Siouxsie and Budgie aka The Creatures, a percussive side-project from their band Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Almost Diamonds with Sneaker Pimps’ vocalist Kelli Ali.
Disc two of this 3CD set, encompassing demos, outtakes and film soundtracks from this period, features several of my personal favourite tracks from Marc Almond’s catalogue, opening with an alternate version of Beautiful Light of Madness, a stand-alone track Almond has performed live on a number of occasions, which is also the case for Beautiful Losers, where Marc champions the bruised and broken-hearted, singing “and we’ll be winners at the end of the day”.
There are also three soundtrack songs on disc two written and recorded for Rhythm & Blues and Mojo, two British indie films released at the turn of the millennium whose tawdry settings and seedy characters are not a million miles from those conjured up on Open All Night. As such Almond was the perfect choice for the soundtracks on both films, throwing his trademark gritty glamour into the mix.
The title song for Rhythm & Blues (2000), a film described as a “gay comedy thriller” is included on this collection, but sadly not The Thrill of the Kill, Almond’s other contribution to the film. Representing Mojo (1997) are two very contrasting songs, the beautifully melancholic Sequins and Stars and One Night of Sin, a big band number delivered with all the gusto Almond can muster.
The other stand-alone track on disc two is Tale of a Tart (Hell), and it’s a jaunty number that starts with the line, “When I first met you, you were in a mess, lying in a pool of your hopelessness”, and is reportedly about a well-known female singer, whose name shall go unmentioned!
The rest of the disc contains a number of demo versions including Half World, Heart in Velvet, Sleepwalker (another personal favourite), Tragedy, When Bad People Kiss, Lonely Go Go Dancer, and a completely different version of Almost Diamonds. Almond has produced two sets of lyrics for this song in the past, but this version has a different melody and arrangement, which I vastly prefer to the other versions.
Finally, disc three rounds the set up with live versions of tracks from Open All Night performed at Lokerse Festival in 2000 and the Almeida Theatre in 2004, plus three more remixes of Black Kiss by Tall Paul, Baby Doc and DJ Face.
As a fan, this is a welcome reissue that not only showcases a landmark album of Almond’s career, but also displays a number of previously untried musical styles including trip-hop. This expanded re-release is also available as a special edition midnight blue double vinyl set containing the material found on discs one and two.
The album itself takes the listener on a journey and is a cohesive body of work, which will leave you imagining a world that is slightly soiled around the edges.
❉ Marc Almond: ‘Open All Night’ 3CD Expanded Edition (Strike Force Entertainment SFE089T) released January 20, 2023, RRP £20.99. Click here to order from Cherry Red Records. Also available as a Midnight Blue Coloured Vinyl Edition, RRP £30.99. Cherry Red Records have been releasing and reissuing the most innovative and independent thinking music since 1978. Follow them on Twitter or visit their site.
❉ 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.
Header image: Marc Almond @ Manezh Kadetskogo Korpusa (CC BY-SA 2.0)