❉ After a series of classic album reissues, we have Marc Almond’s first new collection of songs in several years. Ange Chan is waiting in the wings…
Soft Cell frontman Marc Almond is back with a brand-new mini album Things We Lost in this, his celebratory sixty-fifth birthday year. Working again with long-time collaborator Chris Braide, Marc has produced a collection of six new storytelling songs for the album. Reviewed here is the expanded 3CD version which contains live tracks and previously unavailable content.
Disc One opens with Golden Light which tackles the evasion of death thus far by ‘standing in the golden light’. Somewhat controversially, this is a positive sounding track from established doom-master Almond, both lyrically and musically. It has a light, commercial edge which makes it Radio 2 playlist-ready.
Returning to type, Dead Stars is more like the classic Marc Almond song that we’ve come to know and love. Lyrically, it discusses the formal niceties of funeral arrangements of a particular individual, raised to the heights of a deity in death. This is juxtaposed by the harsh reality of their true imperfect personas, delivered with relish by the singer.
Track 3 is Wolf (Modern Life) is lyrically urgent-delivered song about coming face to face with a snarling, red-eyed wolf and the emotions felt whilst faced with the creature. The gentle piano accompaniment removes some of the fear for the listener despite Almond’s convincing delivery. This song feels like a ‘filler’ track, and not Almond’s best work in my opinion. With a different musical background, the song would become more convincing as the terror-filled symphony I feel the lyrics portray it to be.
Siren is a beautiful ballad with Almond returning to singing about his love of the sea and the mythical creatures contained within. In stark contrast to the previous track, Braide’s piano accompaniment sits much more comfortably on this song, working in perfect synchronicity with Almond’s delivery of the gentle yet evocative lyrics.
A Flowered Goodbye continues in the same gentle tones and touches on the transiency of life where tomorrows are not guaranteed. Lyrically, this is much more of a classic ‘Marc Almond song’ which talks of the beauty of emotions tinged with a bitter edge. It’s my favourite on the collection so far.
The final track on this disc is the title track, Things We Lost, where Almond sings about how even though things (and people) are lost they are still always there in the background ‘the things that never leave us, they move in a difference direction’. Lyrically this is a redolently rich song which will stir emotions with every individual that listens to it, as it digs into your own personal psyches to recall the things you lost too. Musically however, it’s a bit ‘70s cult TV series, which I’m not personally keen on (Gasp! – Ed). I’d love to hear this song with a different backing arrangement, which I think would work better and pay due homage to the skilful lyrics.
As an album I envisage this to be somewhat of ‘a grower’. On first listening I didn’t feel the urge to skip over any tracks which is always a good sign! I’ve fallen out of favour with Marc Almond in the last couple of years (long story), but this album of new songs may just tempt me back into the fold. It’s his first new solo music in several years, which after a series of re-releases and re-mastered versions of previous albums, makes a welcome and pleasant change.
The double disc, entitled Chaos and More, includes live version of songs from the album Chaos and the Dancing Star, as well as six tracks from The Velvet Trail, the previous Braide/Almond collaboration album released in 2015.
The audio on these two discs is taken from the live concert with Chris Braide at the Royal Festival Hall, London in February 2020, and happens to be one of the last concerts I attended pre- lockdown. It also features Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull, who Marc was a big fan of in his teenage years. Lord of Misrule and The Witch’s Promise are both included here.
The first disc of the two opens with the brilliant Black Sunrise from Chaos and a Dancing Star. Almond’s voice is strong in its delivery and the live recordings are almost indistinguishable in vocal quality from the studio version of this album, played in full.
Disc 3 includes songs from The Velvet Trail and also a stripped-back and emotive piano-and-vocals canon of cult songs from Marc and the Mambas, Marc Almond and Soft Cell back catalogues including Soft Cell’s Torch, Mambas’ Black Heart and Soft Cell’s Little Rough Rhinestones from their subversive album This Last Night… In Sodom. It was interesting to hear the differing musical treatments afforded these songs, although I still prefer the original recordings with all their guts and glory!
Braide’s best known compositions Unstoppable! (written for Sia) and Kill and Run (for the Leonardo Di Caprio film The Great Gatsby), are included in the recording. Braide is an extremely well-known singer/songwriter, for his flawless compositions by many of music’s top recording artists including Lana Del Ray, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce and the aforementioned Sia. His music has been included on adverts and film soundtracks alike. If you don’t know Chris Braid’s name, you will almost certainly know his music.
Also included on this fan ‘must have’ are two cover versions paying tribute to Braide and Almond’s shared love of Marc Bolan, who died 45 years ago, in the form of Dandy in the Underworld (the anthemic title song of Bolan’s last album) and 1972 T Rex single Children Of The Revolution.
The all too familiar Soft Cell songs Tainted Love and Say Hello Wave Goodbye ended the concerts, and thus this live recording. As a fan, this is an essential release which encompasses many rare and unheard-of collaborations unless you were lucky to be at the RFH concert in 2020.
For those of us that were there, it takes us back to that time, when we didn’t know we were about to be separated from others due to the global pandemic. It was just before the time that life changed for us all and as such, as a line in the sand of collective musical experiences – a record of the things we lost.
❉ Marc Almond: ‘The Things We Lost’ 3CD Expanded Edition (Strike Force Entertainment SFE094T) released 28 October 2022, RRP £20.99. Click here to order from Cherry Red Records. Also available as a Sky Blue 10″ Vinyl Edition, RRP £18.99. Marc is performing live at the London Palladium on 16 October 2022 and also at Liverpool, York and Birmingham: Tickets available from www.viagogo.co.uk
❉ 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.