May 31, 2007

Marc Almond: Darkness into light

Glitter, stars, smoky bars, beauty, tears, passion, dreams, the gutter and the moon. All words/images known to Marc Almond fans. It occurs to me that most of the world has no clue that Marc has continued to make lustrous, torchy pop music in the 25 years since he had a worldwide hit with his cover of Tainted Love with Soft Cell. We're talking megapop songs with strings and near-operatic vocals, one-off vocals on tracks by dance combos and offbeat works like a double album of Russian Folk music!

Marc, who turns 50 on July 9, was almost killed in October 2004 when he had a horrible motorcycle accident in London. It has taken much perseverence over several years, but he is back with new music on June 4.

The album, his first since 2003, is called Stardom Road and it is, as he describes it, "cover songs telling the story of my musical life," bar one new original. Produced by Tris Penna and Marius DeVries, guests are Antony Hegarty (whose album is he not on? Maroon 5's, maybe?) and Sarah Cracknell of St. Etienne on a cover of Dusty Springfield's I Close My Eyes And Count to Ten. I'd expected the record to be all torchy and Brechtian and dark, but it's a fully orchestrated waltz through various underground classics and styles. I'd love to put up an MP3, but I'm afraid Marc would be unhappy with that, so please note the purple link below, along with an MP3 of 2001's beautiful single Glorious, which is.

Hear new song The Ballad Of The Sad Young Men on his myspace page

You can also hear the same song at Tacim's 8/1 blog.

This is the official Stardom Road tracklist:

I Have Lived / I Close My Eyes And Count to Ten (feat. Sarah Cracknell) / Bedsitter Images / The London Boys / Strangers In The Night / The Ballad Of The Sad Young Men (feat. Antony) / Stardom Road / Kitsch / Backstage (I’m Lonely) / Dream Lover / Happy Heart /Redeem Me (Beauty Will Redeem The World) / The Curtain Falls

The aforementioned new song, the doo-woppy Redeem Me, is astonishing, one of the finest productions of his life. A summation of Marc's career and life, he sings, "I danced my way through subterranean cellars, chasing stars up alley ways / Kissed in doorways covered in glitter, falling in and out of clubs and bars / It's not too far to fall to the gutter from the stars." The song makes me realize how much Marc's music precedes the over-the-top compositions of Rufus Wainwright. Redeem Me is guaranteed a spot in my top 20 songs of 2007, perhaps the top 10.

What are my favorite Marc Almond songs? Here are ten:

My Hand Over My Heart
Say Hello Wave Goodbye (Almighty Mix)
Tears Run Rings video
Redeem Me
Child Star
The Days Of Pearly Spencer video
Meet Me In My Dreams
I've Never Seen Your Face

I suspect Varant and Tremble Clef have their own picks!

If you're looking for a perfect pop album you've probably never heard before, I'd recommend Marc's 1991 Tenement Symphony. The production is split between the fantastical arrangements of Trevor Horn and darker creations with Marc's Soft Cell collaborator, Dave Bell. The strings were done by Anne Dudley. Five of the songs on my list above are from this album, which has strangely not been re-released, but is available for a song on Amazon Marketplace. Get. It. Now.


Tricky said...

This seriously whets my appetite for seeing him live in July (got my impulse-purchase tickets yesterday). This post is an absolute gift. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

One of the best singer songwriters. Stardom Road is absolutely beautiful, good cover collection.

xolondon said...

Tacim! I updated this post with a link to your own Stardom Road post. OH HOW I WISH I COULD READ YOUR BLOG. Your taste is... exquisite!

J'ason D'luv said...

Tacim's site rocks. Just drop the text into an online translator.

Love, love, love the Sarah Cracknell duet on this album.

DanProject76 said...

I've never thought myself a fan but realised after listening to this new album that I have been a fan for quite a while, I just never realised.

Track down his song with Jools Holland... it's a version of Say Hello Wave Goodbye and it's all 'live' and marvellous.

V said...

Excellent Marc post! Thanks! :)

I just want to mention the duet he did with Jimmy Summerville of then Bronski Beat with the song "I Feel Love." The video for that is a hoot and I believe it's on YouTube.

It would be hard for me to put together a top ten MA songs because I love so much of his work. And he's got so much out there, but I'll try.

Black Heart (Marc & The Mambas)
Tenderness is a Weakness (Ermine)
Stories of Johnny (same)
St. Judy (Mother Fist)
Only The Moment (Stars We Are)
Jacky (Tennement)
Champagne (Tennement)
The Desperate Hours (Enchanted)
A Lover Spurned (Enchanted)
Lost Paradise (Absinthe - The French Alubm)

I didn't even get to the later albums.

I recommend his "French Album" titled "Absinthe." One of my favorite MA cover albums.

Anonymous said...

Thanks your kind words XO. You made me blush!

J'ason aka Mr fascinating, translator such a good advice.

Brittle said...

XO, what kind of INSANITY would make you choose the Almighty mix of "Say Hello" over the sublime original? You're making me cry.

countpopula said...

OK XO, I've been on vacation for TWO days, and you go and post about my favorite artist of ALL-TIME!?! Had to abscond with my parents computer just to respond to this...I am so looking the Sarah Cracknell duet...

My top 10 (funny there's five of yours in here):

Only the Moment
My Hand Over my Heart
Under Your Wing
A Lover Spurned
Say Hello Wave Goodbye
Bitter Sweet
Child Star
Ruby Red

There seem to be a million more: Champagne, Melancholy Rose, Broken Hearted & Beautiful, Heart on Snow, L'esqualita, I Who Never, These my Dreams are Yours, Your Kisses Burn, Waifs & Strays, the Idol, Barriers, the River, Days of Pearly Spencer, the Slave...I could go on and on and on. ABSOLUTE MAGIC. Thank God he survived.

Anonymous said...

That was great.

You might want to enter a competition to win tickets to next month's concerts and a signed Stardom Road copy. I found it at

Thanks again for the article.

xolondon said...

That's for UK residents only, so if any UK fans want to click, they can have my "spot"!