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REVIEW: MARC ALMOND – THE VELVET TRAIL (2015)

THIS IS NOT RETRO SAYS...

Marc Almond is something of a musical chameleon and while that makes his career an interesting one, with each new release you can never be quite sure which Marc Almond you're going to get and if you're a fan of one style then you might find that you're not quite so keen on another. Fortunately on 'The Velvet Trail' there are no such concerns as this latest album features a little of all the Marc Almonds; there are songs here that will resonate with fans of his Soft Cell electro-pop; there are torch songs; there are perky upbeat moments and there are moments of dark melancholia. 'The Velvet Trail' is an album that ticks all the boxes, showcases Almond's musical virtuosity and reaffirms - if such a thing was ever needed - that he is an artist working at the peak of his powers.

MARC ALMOND - The Velvet Trail (2015)

'The Velvet Trail' is an album in three acts, each bookended by a burst of classical instrumentation, and was written in collaboration with producer and songwriter Chris Braide (who has also worked with artists as diverse as Lana Del Ray, Beyonce and David Guetta) and although it explores a diverse selection of styles across its twelve tracks they all display a sparseness that pulls them all together; Marc Almond's voice is the star here and the music is largely in the background and is mostly stripped back to its very bones.

Fans of Soft Cell will respond to songs like 'Zipped Black Leather Jacket', 'The Pain of Never' (which echoes 'Say Hello, Wave Goodbye'), 'Demon Lover' and 'Pleasure's Wherever You Are' all of which feature a spare but largely electronic backing. It's pop music for sure but it's dark and twisted and introverted with lyrics that explore life's seedy underbelly, most evident on the grandiose and theatrical 'Pleasure's Wherever You Are' and 'The Pain of Never' which includes the standout line 'So much beauty, but none of it mine."

There are torch songs too, sparse and deceptively simple, like the title track 'The Velvet Trail' which is wistful and pretty, and the standout vocal performance on 'Scar'. At times these songs verge towards the conventional - in particular on 'Life In My Own Way' and 'Winter Sun' which sound like they wouldn't be out of place in a West End musical - and that jars slightly against the dark overtones of the record, but there's no doubt that throughout 'The Velvet Trail' Almond is in exceptionally fine voice.

Then there are the oddities: a collaboration with Beth Ditto entitled 'When The Comet Comes' is perhaps the best song title on the record as well as being one of the most commercial, but - with the exception of the very catchy choruses - the song comes across as a battle of voices with Ditto coming off decidedly the worst. Then there's the glam rock electro stomp of 'Bad To Me', the slow handclaps and tribal percussion of 'Minotaur', and the lazy trip-hop styling of 'Earthly'.

A collection of deceptively simple songs, delivered with great panache, 'The Velvet Trail' is quite simply a delight and a triumph.

WE'LL GIVE IT...

TRACKLISTING

Bad To Me / Zipped Black Leather Jacket / Scar / Pleasure's Wherever You Are / Minotaur / Earthly / The Pain of Never / Demon Lover / When The Comet Comes / Life in My Own Way / Winter Sun / The Velvet Trail

RELEASE DETAILS

'The Velvet Trail' was released on March 9th 2015 via Cherry Red.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Please rate this release below, and share your thoughts in the comments section further down the page.

* * * * ½ FROM 6 VOTES
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CONTENT ADDED: Mar 12th, 2015

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