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.
"Mutant Moments" came to the attention of music entrepreneur Stevo Pearce, who at the time was compiling a "futurist" chart for the music papers Record Mirror & Sounds which featured young, upcoming and experimental bands of the new wave of electronic sound. He signed the duo to his Some Bizzare label and they enjoyed a string of nine Top 40 hit singles and four Top 20 albums in the UK between 1981–84. They recorded three albums in New York with producer Mike Thorne: Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing and The Art of Falling Apart. Almond became involved with the New York Underground Art Scene at this time with writer/DJ Anita Sarko, and performed at a number of Art events, as well as meeting many New York Art luminaries, including Andy Warhol.
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 career, the album featured songs as diverse as "I Have Lived" by Charles Aznavour, to "Stardom Road" by Third World War, Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night", and "Kitsch" by Paul Ryan. The album featured his first new song since the motorbike accident, "Redeem me (Beauty Will Redeem the World)". Stardom Road was to be one of three albums for the Sanctuary label, the UK's largest independent record label up until 2007 when it got itself into financial difficulty and was sold off in June 2007 to Universal Music Group. In July 2007, Almond celebrated his 50th birthday on stage at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London and in September performed at a tribute show to Marc Bolan, his teenage hero. At the concert he dueted with Bolan's wife, Gloria Jones, on an impromptu version of "Tainted Love". In October 2007, the fashion house Yves Saint Laurent picked Almond's "Strangers in the Night" to represent their show at London's Fashion Rocks. Almond performed for the event at the Royal Albert Hall.
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.
In 2013, Almond revived Ten Plagues and performed it for a month at Wilton's Music Hall in London. He also performed with Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson on stage performing Tull's concept album "Thick as a Brick" at The Royal Albert Hall. That year Almond also received The Ivor Novello Inspiration Award which was presented to him by longtime friend and co-Manager Vicki Wickham, and was also awarded the Icon Award from Attitude.
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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Following up both Stories and his fine covers EP A Woman's Story, Almond took a turn for the more challenging on Mother Fist, to be rewarded with the loss of his contract and a search for a new label. Quite why that should have happened is all the more surprising when upon listening, it becomes clear that Mother Fist was and still is the best Almond album of original material to date. With Hedges once again producing and the Willing Sinners still producing instrumental magic -- the great work of Hogan on keyboards, McCarrick on cello and accordion, and McGee on bass and orchestrations simply can't be overstated here -- Almond created a generally sparer and more theatrical album that 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. The wonderful, cheeky swing of the opening title track -- an unashamed, Truman Capote-inspired ode to masturbation -- moves to the pulsing, piano-and-bass driven lover's lament "There Is a Bed," followed by the supremely drugged out and sleazy "Saint Judy" (as in Garland), each track showcasing Almond with a different but equally accomplished vocal approach. Mother Fist keeps going from strength to strength as the album progresses, almost a series of short stories come to life exploring hustlers, burnt-out boxers, romantic dreams, and desires; its centerpiece, the wonderful "Mr. Sad," shifts perfectly from a solo vocal with electric guitar to a full orchestral blast. All this and two great should-have-been hit singles, "Melancholy Rose" and the pulsing "Ruby Red," as well. An all-around triumph.
Marc Almond With The Willing Sinners - Mother Fist And Her Five Daughters (flac 293mb)
01 Mother Fist 4:29
02 There Is A Bed 4:50
03 Saint Judy 5:53
04 The Room Below 3:30
05 Angel In Her Kiss 3:42
06 The Hustler 3:15
07 Melancholy Rose 3:10
08 Mr Sad 3:49
09 The Sea Says 4:03
10 Champ 4:23
11 Ruby Red 3:41
12 The River 5:17
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Another year and another label for Marc Almond, along with a newly stripped-down band, La Magia, with Willing Sinner vets Annie Hogan, Billy McGee, and Steve Humphreys on drums. Even more so than Stories of Johnny, this is Almond with an eye and ear on making a commercial record while still being himself, and the result is much better than expected. Bob Kraushaar's production feels much lighter and brighter in general than Mike Hedges' past efforts, and the songwriting often matches it -- the sprightly opening title track, followed by the tenderly passionate "These My Dreams Are Yours," makes for what has to be the most upbeat start to a Almond album yet. Similar moments crop up throughout the record, including "Bitter Sweet," with a killer sweeping chorus, the sparkling, slightly jazzy "The Very Last Pearl," which gives pulsing nightlife one of its best makeovers ever, and a triumphant, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink version of Gene Pitney's "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart," replaced on later versions of the album with the U.K.-chart-topping duet with Pitney himself. That said, it's still an Almond album through and through -- the lighter songs still have his sweet purr in the vocals (and Hogan's keyboards and instrumental arrangements remain uniformly excellent), while moodier and expectedly dramatic numbers still turn up in abundance. The forceful duet with Nico, "Your Kisses Burn," calls to mind prime Lee and Nancy, with masses of strings to boot; elsewhere, "The Sensualist" acts as his clearest statement yet on the many erotic joys life has to offer. Perhaps most surprisingly of all, "Tears Run Rings," his most overtly political number to date, became a minor U.S. hit.
Marc Almond - The Stars We Are (flac 437mb)
01 The Stars We Are 3:43
02 These My Dreams Are Yours 5:27
03 Bitter Sweet 3:20
04 Only The Moment 4:40
05 Your Kisses Burn (feat Nico) 4:42
06 The Very Last Pearl 4:44
07 Tears Run Rings 4:21
08 Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart 4:39
09 The Sensualist 5:27
10 She Took My Soul In Instanbul 6:21
11 Tears Run Rings (Extended) 5:10
12 Everything I Wanted Love To Be 3:08
13 Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart (with Gene Pitney ) 4:41
14 The Frost Comes Tomorrow 4:16
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Recorded on and off over three years, through all sorts of record company and band changes, and ultimately released independently when no major label would take a chance on it, perhaps the most striking thing about this labor of love is its general consistency. Much more than that, though, Jacques turns out to be one of the best single-artist tribute records yet recorded; certainly it was anything but a commercial cash-in, given how its subject, French singer/songwriter Jacques Brel, had little more than a cult following in the English-speaking world, most notably through Scott Walker's various cover versions. Remaking two songs done earlier in his solo career, concert standby "If You Go Away" and "The Bulls," Almond adds on ten other songs, whose subject matter alone is testimony to Brel's abilities with lyrics both personal and political. The classic Willing Sinners lineup is mostly present throughout (Martin McCarrick's abilities with the accordion especially come to the fore here), with plenty of orchestral players as well, serving the Gallic cabaret/pop tunes well. The most striking performances include the worker's lament "The Lockman" and the astoundingly beautiful and lush "The Town Fell Asleep," certainly one his best-ever recordings. In the end, though, singling out songs from this remarkable album is nearly impossible; without any question, it's an out and out triumph
Marc Almond - Jacques (flac 232mb)
01 The Devil (Okay) (Le Diable) 3:00
02 If You Need (S'il Te Faut) 1:57
03 The Lockman (L'Éclusier) 4:05
04 We Must Look (Il Nous Faut Regarder) 1:47
05 Alone (Seul) 3:25
06 I'm Coming (J'Arrive) 6:13
07 Litany For A Return (Litanie Pour Un Retour) 2:00
08 If You Go Away (Ne Me Quitte Pas) 4:15
09 The Town Fell Asleep (La Ville S'Endormait) 5:35
10 The Bulls (Les Toros) 2:40
11 Never To Be Next (Au Suivant) 4:53
12 My Death (La Mort) 4:53
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A slightly fallow period for Almond's more high-profile releases began with Enchanted, an ultimately flawed attempt to build on his more mainstream success with The Stars We Are. Crucially, keyboardist and co-songwriter Annie Hogan, who had been Almond's longest musical partner ever, starting with the first solo record in 1982, had departed, while La Magia ceased to exist as a musical entity. Billy McGee remained to provide orchestral arrangements, which give the album some zest, while the subject matter is still Almond's own, tales of "Waifs and Strays," a "Toreador in the Rain," and "Orpheus in Red Velvet." This said, the album ends up as just too anonymous to truly succeed -- Bob Kraushaar's production this time out seems much more concerned at creating slick Euro-pop as opposed to the distinct blend of styles that Marc usually pursues. There are a couple of solid winners nonetheless, like the perversely jaunty "Death's Diary" and "A Lover Spurned," a dramatic tale of vengeance from the other woman. If ever an album deserved the title "archetypal" it's this one. Enchanted features many of Marc's hallmarks, there are flamenco beats, tortured love songs, arabic mantras, accordian led story songs and best of all, sumptuous string laden classics. Every song is produced to high heaven which only adds to the enjoyment. An album to really lose yourself in.
Marc Almond - Enchanted (flac 313mb)
01 Madame De La Luna 4:45
02 Waifs And Strays 5:07
03 The Desperate Hours 4:27
04 Toreador In The Rain 2:49
05 Widow Weeds 5:37
06 A Lover Spurned 5:38
07 Death's Diary 3:59
08 The Sea Still Sings 3:48
09 Carnival Of Life 4:37
10 Orpheus In Red Velvet 5:05
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Historical rare recording made between 1978 and 1982 by the now legendary 80's electro pop group Soft Cell. Originally, vocalist Marc Almond and synth player Dave Ball teamed to compose music for theatrical productions, and as Soft Cell, their live performances continued to draw heavily on the pair's background in drama and the visual arts. A self-financed EP titled Mutant Moments brought the duo to the attention of Some Bizzare label head Stevo, who enlisted Daniel Miller to produce their underground hit single "Memorabilia" the following year. This was the launch pad for the band to rise to international notoriety in their short and successful career. This is an absolute must for any Soft Cell fan- it explores their roots, and the sound is harsh and electro with hints of the pop brilliance that would come later. Fantastic.
Soft Cell - Science Fiction Stories (flac 289mb)
01 The Girl With The Patent Leather-Face 4:58
02 Science Fiction Stories 3:17
03 Facility Girls 1:47
04 Living For Today 2:06
05 Factory Fun 3:24
06 Penthouse Pet 1:50
07 When We Go Marching 2:33
08 Purely Functional 1:54
09 I Am 16 4:08
10 Bleak Is My Favourite Cliche 2:17
11 Occupational Hazard 3:42
12 A Man Could Get Lost 2:56
13 Mix And Match 4:20
14 Persuasion 3:32
15 Potential 3:22
16 L-O-V-E Feelings 3:26
17 Metro MRX 2:11
18 Frustration 3:33
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