Marc Almond – The Velvet Trail (Cherry Red)
LP / CD / CD+DVD / DL
9 March 2015
British pop icon, Mark Almond, releases his latest album. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates reviews.
Thank you Chris Braide. The English songwriter and producer with surely one of the most impressive pop CVs around (Kylie, Lana Del Ray, Paloma Faith) has to be credited with persuading Marc Almond to record more new material. After Marc’s 2010 album Variete he indicated that it would be his last work to contain his own original material. This just wouldn’t have done. This would surely have to involved Parliament and some legislation to ensure it didn’t happen. Thank you again Chris Braide.
The story goes that Braide emailed Almond with some instrumental tracks, Marc loved them and wrote lyrics for them. The cyber relationship continued with music and voice flying across the Atlantic until The Velvet Trail was completed and only then did the pair actually meet in person.
Marc’s back catalogue is unprecedented and probably needs no introduction. Every music lover over the past four decades will have encountered and loved something, somewhere, at some time.
The Velvet Trail features 16 tracks including four instrumental interludes split into three Acts. This is Almond doing what he does best – good solid songs, evocative lyrics and one of the most recognisable voices around. Following the opening instrumental, Act One, it’s straight in with Bad To Me with a pounding backbeat and as catchy a chorus as you’ll hear. Braide even tucks in small trumpet solos slightly reminiscent of Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, maybe only the thing that a long-term Almond fan would include.
There’s the stuff that has made turn into Almond fans too. Scar is a deception-laced torch song into which he injects mammoth feeling and emotion and Pleasure’s Wherever You Are, despite its lightweight backing is a toe-tapping tale with a chorus that’s strong and effective.
Act Two, the third section of the album, is probably the most powerful with Minotaur describing rage and animal passions against cascading synthesizers; Earthly is deep and passionate with a slow snared beat. The Pain Of Never slows the pace before Demon Lover (with more than a passing resemblance to Soft Cell’s Where Did Our Love Go) fits snugly into place as probably the album’s strongest track.
The unmistakable voice of Beth Ditto duets on When The Comet Comes again – a sure-fire radio favourite that oozes personality. Life In My Own Way revisits the brilliance of The Mambas before reflective pieces Winter Sun and the title track close the collection with references to Marc’s Southport childhood walking the beach as jet fighters pass from their Lake District manoeuvres.
Yet another competent album from Marc Almond, never waning, never fading and reminding the public of why we love him so.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog and you can follow him on Twitter here, and on Facebook here. You can also follow him on Twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news.