Marc Almond

Fantastic Star

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Not so much a cohesive album as a collection of different sessions in both London and New York, featuring everyone from Soft Cell producer Mike Thorne to New York Dolls frontman David Johansen (on harmonica!) and Velvet Underground veteran John Cale (and Cale's solo sideman Chris Spedding to boot), Fantastic Star still showed enough of Almond at his magpie-like best that the album theoretically should have done a lot more -- alas, no American release this time, and at home it undeservedly sank like a stone on the charts. The big change in the music comes from Almond's newest regular sideman and musical collaborator -- none other than guitarist Neal X, previously only known for his work in Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Fantastic Star experiments with a variety of styles and sounds, its strongest tracks being its singles: "Adored and Explored," a quick slice of techno rompery with Almond's signature marriage of sex and the city in the lyrics, "The Idol," a wry, synthed-up glam rock stomp about fame, "Child Star," a big dramatic weeper, and "Brilliant Creatures," very much the lyrical child of "Say Hello Wave Goodbye" but with a beautiful hi-NRG pulse/synth shade to it. Not everything fully connects, and the generous length of the album makes it ultimately feel like it's gone on too long, but there's enough going on here to give an ear to.

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