Today's artist pursued a solo career that followed the same vaguely sleazy, electronic dance-pop his former group had made popular. Almond's strength was never his personality, and his voice tends to waver around the notes instead of hitting them. Almond has steadfastly devoted his career to exploring the art of the song. As an interpreter, he has successfully taken on Jacques Brel (on Jacques), '60s obscurities (on the mini-album A Woman's Story), Brecht and Weill ("Surabaya Johnny" and "Pirate Jenny"). His original compositions draw inspiration from subjects as diverse (or not) as French sensualist Georges Bataille (Violent Silence) and Judy Garland ("Saint Judy" on Mother Fist). In addition, he has collaborated with Coil, Bronski Beat, Jim "Foetus" Thirlwell, Nico, Psychic TV, Sally Timms of the Mekons and Andi Sex Gang. One of the most uncommercial commercial artists in pop,. ........N'Joy
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Almond was born in Southport, Lancashire, the son of Sandra Mary Diesen and Peter John Sinclair Almond, a Second Lieutenant in the King's Liverpool Regiment. He was brought up nearby at his grandparents' house in Birkdale with his younger sister, Julia, and as a child suffered from bronchitis and asthma. When he was four, they left their grandparents' house and moved to Starbeck, North Yorkshire. Two years later they returned to Southport, and then moved to Horsforth, West Yorkshire.
At the age of 11, Almond attended Aireborough Grammar School near Leeds, West Yorkshire. He found solace in music, listening to British radio pioneer John Peel. The first album he purchased was the soundtrack of the stage musical Hair and the first single "Green Manalishi" by Fleetwood Mac. He later became a great fan of Marc Bolan and David Bowie and got a part-time job as a stable boy to fund his musical tastes. He gained two O-Levels in Art and English and was accepted onto a General Art and Design course at Southport College, specialising in Performance Art.
Almond applied to Leeds Polytechnic, where he was interviewed by Jeff Nuttall, also a performance artist, who accepted him on the strength of his performing skills. During his time at Art College, he did a series of performance theatre pieces: Zazou, Glamour in Squalor, Twilights and Lowlifes, as well as Andy Warhol inspired mini-movies. He left Art College with a 2:1 honours degree. He later credited writer and artist Molly Parkin with discovering him. It was at Leeds Polytechnic that Almond met David Ball, a fellow student; they formed Soft Cell in 1977.
In 1982, Almond formed Marc and the Mambas as an offshoot project from Soft Cell. Marc and the Mambas was a loose experimental collective that set the template for the artist that Almond would become. The Mambas at various times included Matt Johnson, Steve James Sherlock, Lee Jenkinson, Peter Ashworth, Jim Thirlwell and Anni Hogan, with whom Almond worked later in his solo career. Under the Mambas moniker, Almond recorded two albums, Untitled and the seminal double opus Torment and Toreros. He disbanded the collective when it started to feel too much like a regular band. Soft Cell disbanded in 1984 just before the release of their fourth album, This Last Night in Sodom, though the duo reunited in 2001.
Almond's first proper solo album was Vermin in Ermine, released in 1984. Produced by Mike Hedges, it featured musicians from the Mambas outfit, Annie Hogan, Martin McCarrick and Billy McGee. This ensemble, known as The Willing Sinners, worked alongside Almond for the subsequent albums Stories of Johnny (1985) from which the title track became a minor hit, and Mother Fist and Her Five Daughters (1987), also produced by Mike Hedges. The latter album was highly acclaimed in reviews, with Ned Raggett writing that the 'Mother Fist' album "embraces classic European cabaret to wonderful effect, more so than any American or English rock album since Bowie's Aladdin Sane or Lou Reed's Berlin."
McCarrick left The Willing Sinners in 1987 to join Siouxsie and the Banshees, from which point Hogan and McGee became known as La Magia. Almond signed to EMI and released the album The Stars We Are in 1988 This album featured Almond's version of "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart", which was later re-recorded as a duet with the song's original singer Gene Pitney and released as a single. The track reached No. 1 in the UK. It also reached number one in Germany and was a major hit in countries around the world. The Stars We Are became his biggest selling solo album in the USA, and the single "Tears Run Rings" became his only solo single to peak inside the US Billboard Hot 100.
Almond's other recordings in the 1980s included an album of Brel songs, called Jacques, and an album of dark French chansons originally performed by Juliette Greco, Serge Lama and Léo Ferré, as well as poems by Rimbaud and Baudelaire set to music. This album was released in 1993 as Absinthe, and was initially recorded in the late 1980s then finished in Paris in the early 1990s.
Almond's first release in the 1990s was the album Enchanted, which spawned the UK Top 30 hit "A Lover Spurned". A further single from the album, "Waifs and Strays", was remixed by Dave Ball who was now in the electronic dance band The Grid. In 1991, Soft Cell returned to the charts with a new remix of "Say Hello Wave Goodbye" followed by a re-release of "Tainted Love" (with a new video). The singles were issued to promote a new Soft Cell/Marc Almond compilation album, Memorabilia - The Singles, which collected some of the biggest hits from Almond's career throughout the previous ten years. The album reached the UK Top 10.
Almond then signed to WEA and released a new solo album, Tenement Symphony. Produced partly by Trevor Horn, the album yielded three Top 40 hits including renditions of the Jacques Brel classic "Jacky" (which made the UK Top 20), and "The Days of Pearly Spencer" which returned Almond to the UK Top 5 in 1992. Later that year, Almond played a lavish one-off show at the Royal Albert Hall in London, which featured an orchestra and dancers as he performed material from his entire career. The show was recorded and released as the CD and video 12 Years of Tears.
In 1993 Almond toured Russia (including Siberia) by invitation of the British consul in Moscow. Accompanied only by Martin Watkins on piano, he played small Soviet halls and theatres, often without amplification, and ended at the "mini Bolshoi" in Moscow. Transmitted live on television Almond made a plea for tolerance of gay people. The tour was fraught with troubles, which Almond detailed in his autobiography, but it marked the beginning of his love affair with the genre of Russian folk torch songs known as Romance.
Almond's next album Fantastic Star saw him part with WEA and sign to Mercury Records. Much of Fantastic Star was originally recorded in New York with Mike Thorne, but later after signing to Mercury, was reworked in London. Almond also recorded a session for the album with John Cale, David Johanson, and Chris Spedding; some made the final cut. Other songs were produced by Mike Hedges and Martyn Ware. Adding to the disjointed recording process was the fact that during recording Almond also spent several weeks attending a treatment centre in Canterbury for addiction to prescription drugs. However, on its release Fantastic Star gave Almond a hit single with Adored and Explored, and also minor hits and stage favorites such as The Idol and Child Star. Fantastic Star was Almond's last album with a major record label, and the period also marked the ending of his managerial relationship with Stevo Pearce.
Almond re-invented himself and signed to Echo records in 1998 with a more downbeat and atmospheric electronica album, Open All Night. This featured R&B and trip hop influences, as well as torch songs for which he had become known. The album featured a duet ("Threat of Love") with Siouxsie Sioux as well as one ("Almost Diamonds") with Kelli Ali (then of the Sneaker Pimps). "Black Kiss", "Tragedy" and "My Love" were the singles from the album Open All Night.
Almond relocated in 2000 to Moscow where he rented an apartment. With the encouragement and
connections of executive producer Misha Kucherenko, he embarked on a three-year recording project of Russian romance and folk songs, called Heart on Snow. Featuring many Russian stars old and new such as Boris Rebenshchikov, Ilya Lagutenko of the Russian band Mumiy Troll, Lyudmila Zykina and Alla Bayanova and featuring The Rossiya Folk Orchestra conducted by Anatole Sobolev, it was the first time that such a project had been undertaken by a Western artist, many of the loved Soviet era songs sung in English for the first time. The album was produced by musician/arranger Andrei Samsonov. Almond performed many times at the famous now demolished Rossiya Concert Hall with Lyudmila Zykina and Alla Bayanova, and with the Rossiya Folk Orchestra.
In 2001, Soft Cell reunited briefly and released their first new album in 18 years, Cruelty Without Beauty. Two singles came out of this album, "Monoculture" and a cover of the Frankie Valli's "The Night", which led to a Top of the Pops appearance for the band, their first since the mid 1980s.
In October 2004, Almond was seriously injured in a motorbike accident near St Paul's Cathedral, London. Near death and in a coma for weeks, he suffered two huge blood clots and had to undergo emergency surgery twice. He also suffered serious head injuries, multiple breaks and fractures, a collapsed lung and damaged hearing. After the accident he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He began a slow recovery determined to get back on the stage and in the studio.
In June 2007, Almond released an album of cover songs, Stardom Road. Picked to tell a story of his life and
In 2008 and 2009, Almond toured with Jools Holland throughout the UK as well as guesting at shows by Current 93, Baby Dee and a tribute show to the late folk singer Sandy Denny at the Festival Hall. In October 2009, Almond released his second album of Russian Romances and Gypsy songs in an album titled Orpheus in Exile. The album was a tribute to Russian singer Vadim Kozin, who was exiled to the gulags of the Arctic Circle. The album was produced by Alexei Fedorov and features an orchestra arranged by Anatole Sobolev.
In June 2010, Almond released Varieté, his first studio album of self written material since Stranger Things in 2001. Almond intimated at the time that this could possibly be his last fully self-penned album. The album marks Almond's 30th anniversary as a recording artist, a fact he celebrated with a new concert tour in Autumn 2010. Also in the summer of 2010 Almond was named Mojo Hero, an award given by the music magazine Mojo. The award was presented to Almond by Anohni who flew from New York for the occasion.
In 2011, Almond released the Feasting with Panthers album, a collaboration with musician and arranger Michael Cashmore. It featured poetry set to music, including the poems of Count Eric Stenbock, Jean Genet, Jean Cocteau, Paul Verlaine and Rimbaud. Later in the same year Almond took part in a music-theatre work Ten Plagues, held at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre, as part of the 2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, from 1 to 28 August 2011. Ten Plagues is a one-man song cycle based on Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year (which dates back to 1722), with metaphors of Aids and epidemics. It was written for him by Mark Ravenhill and Conor Mitchell.
In 2012, Almond took the role of the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca in the Paris Théâtre du Châtelet's experimental rock adaptation of Poppea, based on Monteverdi's original 17th-century opera The Coronation of Poppea. The production also featured ex-Libertines member Carl Barat, French singer-songwriter Benjamin Biolay, Swedish singer Fredrika Stahl and was directed by ex-Clash drummer Peter Howard. Later that year, on 9 August 2012, Almond performed at Anohni's Meltdown Festival in London's Southbank Centre, reforming Marc and the Mambas to perform their second album Torment and Toreros live for the first time. Anohni has stated that Torment and Toreros was her favourite album throughout her teens and that it became the starting point for Antony and the Johnsons] Anohni joined the band on stage for one song, singing "My Little Book of Sorrows" with Almond.
Almond released three albums throughout 2014. First was The Tyburn Tree (Dark London) with composer John Harle, a concept album about dark historical London. This was followed by The Dancing Marquis album, made with a number of collaborators including Jarvis Cocker, Carl Barât and Jools Holland, featuring production from Tony Visconti on some tracks. Finally, Almond released a studio recording of his 2011 show, Ten Plagues - A Song Cycle.
2015 saw the release of The Velvet Trail, an album of original material produced by Chris Braide. Almond is currently working on a song cycle to accompany the filming of a multi media performance of À rebours (translated as Against Nature) by Joris-Karl Huysmans. The score for this project has been written by Othon Mataragas with words from Feasting with Panthers collaborator Jeremy Reed. Reed states that he has written 15 songs for the project commenting that Against Nature is "still probably one of the most decadent books ever written" and that Almond had always wanted to perform it, stating that "now we’re both jaded aesthetes we could do it".
In 2016, Marc Almond signed his first major label deal for 20 years, signing a two-album deal with BMG Rights Management. In 2017, the compilation album Hits and Pieces / The Best of Soft Cell & Marc Almond, debuted at number seven in the album chart.
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If there is someone to fit the "drama queen" tag among the 80s crooners, it is undoubtedly Marc Almond. Well, one of, and just as exceptional in terms of genuine talent. When expected by the industry to continue exploiting his own massive successes with a certain Soft Cell, Almond continually fought the cliché of becoming a "pop star", despite the fact he actually - and deservedly - became (a dark) one. Untitled was Almond's first album away from Soft Cell and was made concurrently with the latter's The Art of Falling Apart album. Almond collaborated with a number of artists for this album, including Matt Johnson of The The and Anni Hogan. The album was produced by the band, with assistance from Stephen Short (credited as Steeve Short) and Flood.
Jeremy Reed writes in his biography of Almond, The Last Star, that Untitled was "cheap and starkly recorded". He states that Almond received "little support from Phonogram for the Mambas project, the corporate viewing it as non-commercial and a disquieting pointer to the inevitable split that would occur within Soft Cell". An article in Mojo noted that "from the beginning, Almond and Ball had nurtured sideline projects, though only the former's - the 1982 double 12 inch set Untitled - attracted much attention, most of it disapproving." The article mentions that Almond "who preferred to nail a song in one or two takes" stated that it was all "about feel and spontaneity, otherwise it gets too contrived" when accused of singing flat. There may be some inconsistency in "Untitled", though. On one side, there is the beauty of its minimal arrangements (mostly augmented by the piano), accentuating Almond's obsession (or identification) with Jacques Brel, Scott Engel, Lou Reed and/or Syd Barrett - each given a decent hommage with an honest, warm-hearted re-interpretation (and how can one not love "Caroline Says" or "If You Go Away"?). Moments recorded in collaboration with the one and only Matt Johnson are also beauties and audibly Johnson's playing trademark left its shine through.
On the other, the aura of the soft-cellish synth-pop (and the presence of Cindy E only adds extra honey for the bees) is hard to ignore, albeit heading more for the experimental territory; the entire 45 bonus disc - "Twilights & Lowlifes", while dangerously bordering the tedious, the two closing counterparts successfully avoid the trap of sounding like a leftover, providing space for a trance groovy improvisation that is neither dub, disco - nor all that jazz...
Marc And The Mambas - Untitled (flac 359mb)
01 Untitled 4:54
02 Empty Eyes 5:03
03 Angels 8:34
04 Big Louise 5:04
05 Caroline Says 3:38
06 Margaret 3:45
07 If You Go Away 6:28
08 Terrapin 4:17
09 Twilights + Lowlifes 11:29
10 Twilights + Lowlifes (Street Walking Soundtrack) 11:08
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If there's any acid test for being a Marc Almond fan, it would have to be Torment & Toreros, originally a double album and still the longest thing he's yet released. It isn't so much length as it is subject matter, the sheer self-loathing and unrestrained anger have never been paralleled by any of his other releases. Sure, much of the material on this (what was originally a double vinyl) album is sombre, sordid and desperately depressing - but it's also wildly uplifting at times, as the indomitable Marc Almond's lust for life can't help but smash through the gloom.
Marc's singing has always given the impression that we, the listeners, are right there in the room with him. And on T&T it almost sounds like one gin-sodden mate regaling another with his sorry tales of heartbreak and loss in the wee small hours after the party has broken up and everyone else is long gone. As always, Marc lays his emotions bare, holding nothing back... , this album maybe not for everyone. But with its elements of late-night melodrama and Spanish-tinged operetta it should appeal to those who enjoy dark cabaret, modern vaudeville, art-punk, goth and the like.
Marc and the Mambas - Torment and Toreros (flac 504mb)
01 Intro 3:17
02 Boss Cat 4:17
03 The Bulls 2:18
04 Catch A Fallen Star 5:12
05 The Animal In You 7:29
06 In My Room 3:01
07 First Time 3:37
08 (Your Love Is A) Lesion 5:38
09 My Former Self 2:45
10 Once Was 5:10
11 The Untouchable One - Blood Wedding 7:56
12 Black Heart 4:50
13 Medley - Narcissus,Gloomy Sunday,Vision (11:46)
14 Torment 4:21
15 A Million Manias 5:52
16 My Little Book Of Sorrows 5:59
17 Beat Out That Rhythm On A Drum 5:00
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Making his first label jump since signing to Mercury in the early Soft Cell days, Stories continues the drive towards a brighter commercial sound, with Hedges once again producing and the Sinners lineup in perfect sync and well-versed in everything from lush Euro-disco to nightclub jazz and smouldering ballads (add some extra credit for the solid work of album guest Martin Ditchum on "all kinds of percussion"). The troika of brilliant singles from the album's first half makes the album a keeper alone: the tender title track (written about a young friend of Almond's who OD'ed), a sassy remake of Mel Tormé's "The House Is Haunted," and "Love Letter," where electronics resurface to a degree not seen since Soft Cell's collapse. However, there are plenty of other fine delights throughout, such as the solid rocker "The Flesh Is Willing" and the snarling "Contempt," not to mention "I Who Never," a soaring breakup number, and "My Candle Burns," another in the fine series of understatedly intense Almond love/obsession songs. Fans of Almond at his harshest will find this perhaps a bit too smooth at points, but as a balance of killer hooks, great music, and Almond's ever-improving singing, this is a winner through and through.
Marc Almond - Stories Of Johnny (flac 281mb)
01 Traumas Traumas Traumas 5:07
02 Stories Of Johnny 3:45
03 The House Is Haunted 2:19
04 Love Letter 4:51
05 The Flesh Is Willing 4:45
06 Always 6:03
07 Contempt 3:36
08 I Who Never 4:31
09 My Candle Burns 3:49
10 Love And Little White Lies 5:13
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Great screaming melodrama as Almond does his best to prove that he's the best possible cabaret performer that no one will put on a cabaret stage. Depending on the mood you happen to be in, this collection can either be taken seriously or as a tongue-in-cheek celebration of some great over-the-top material (which even applies to Peter Hammill's "Just Good Friends"). Almond's frenetic cover of "The Heel" alone should raise this mini-album to classic status. Violent Silence is from a performance originally done for Georges Batailles on 26 September 1984. It's kept in a kind of mimalized style that is more aluding to the Mambas that were finished in January that year and features much more sombre lyrics.
The house is haunted
By the echo of your last goodbye
The house is haunted
By the memories that refuse to die
I can't get away from the vision that brings
Intimate glimpses of intimate things
A voice in my heart like a torch singer sings
I wonder who's kissing you now
Marc Almond - A Womans Story + Violent Silence + The House Is Haunted (flac 460mb)
01 A Woman's Story 3:41
02 The Heel 3:19
03 A Salty Dog 4:27
04 The Plague 3:09
05 The Little White Cloud That Cried 2:14
06 For One Moment 2:57
07 Just Good Friends 3:53
09 Healthy As Hate 7:33
10 Things You Love Me For 5:58
11 Body Unknown 4:45
12 Unborn Stillborn 3:42
The House Is Haunted
13 The House Is Haunted (Ectoplasmix) 6:18
14 Broken Bracelets 5:18
15 Cara A Cara 4:31
16 Medley (Unchain My Heart,Black Heart,Take My Heart) (5:33)
17 Burning Boats (Annie Hogan) 6:03
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