Marc Almond signed to Virgin Records in 1985 and recorded two albums for that label (Stories of Johnny and Mother Fist and Her Five Daughters). He also released several singles and EPs filled with non-LP material. This first in a series of two CDs attempted to collect these non-album tracks and put them together for Marc Almond fans. Almond has always utilized his singles to experiment and explore his sound. To that end he has ventured down many genre roads, often successfully. This collection demonstrates his ability to cover diverse artists (such as Eartha Kitt with "The Heel," Procol Harum's "A Salty Dog," and Johnny Ray with his "The Little White Cloud That Cried"), and he does wonderful interpretations of each song, especially "A Salty Dog," which is absolutely stunning due to the beautiful arrangement and Almond's plaintive vocals (all of these tracks were originally part of the EP A Woman's Story, included in its entirety on this collection). There are some failed moments (such as his take on Peter Hammil's "Just Good Friends" and the very overlong "Blond Boy), but overall some of these songs are as good as anything found on his albums, but would have been out of place on the respective album. The CD also features 12" mixes that at times are better than the original form (such as the "Ectoplasmix" of "This House Is Haunted," which has much more depth and energy than the much-shorter album version). Virgin, however, did not take great care with this package. The liner notes are scant at best and there is little information as to the origins of these songs. Also, the opening track of the moving and brilliant "Stories of Johnny" does not feature the Westminster City Choir, but is the 10" mix of the song. Sadly, the choir version did not make it onto the CD. It is this sloppiness on Virgin's part that detracts from the otherwise brilliant compilation. Also, given the length of the CD, several other brilliant songs could have been included, such as "Take My Heart" and "Burning Boats," to name just two. Fans of Marc Almond will love this CD, especially if they are unable to track down the rare vinyl.
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AllMusic Review by Aaron Badgley