Marc Almond

A Virgin's Tale

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Appearing some years after Marc Almond's departure from Virgin, this two-disc collection (sold as separate releases) covers the plentiful B-sides and non-album tracks from that era, with a brief but informative interview with Almond to explain some of the tunes present. While obviously not a cohesive release, both discs have plenty of worthy numbers, making it something more than a fan-only purchase; certainly hearing yet more of the classic Willing Sinners lineup becomes reason enough to investigate. The first disc is slightly stronger, with highlights including versions of "Stories of Johnny" and "Love Letter" done with the Westminster City Children's Choir, and "Blond Boy," a swinging and powerful number. For the real winners on the disc, though, listen to the tracks from the Woman's Story covers EP, aside from the otherwise-collected title song. Among them, the wonderfully bitchy Eartha Kitt number "The Heel," a dramatic version of Scott Walker's already theatrical "The Plague," and the quietly intense "For One Moment," a Lee Hazlewood song, stick in the mind. Perhaps the unexpected highlight, though, is Procol Harum's "A Salty Dog," turned into a breathtaking orchestrated blast of a performance. The second disc feels more iffy in comparison, but some distinct beauties reveal themselves. On the cover front, Almond salutes a clear musical ancestor, the Brecht/Weill team, with fine versions of "Surabaya Johnny" and especially a lengthy, piano-driven version of "Pirate Jenny." Other theatrical romps like "Gyp the Blood" and "Jackal Jackal" capture the ear, while the concluding number, "I'm Sick of You Tasting of Somebody Else," is a campy, relaxed zing.

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