In Session: Vol. 1

Marc Almond

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In Session: Vol. 1 Review

by Ned Raggett

Marc Almond has performed a wide slew of sessions solo and in group context for the BBC; this particular batch of recordings, from three separate dates in 1983 and 1984, focuses on his early solo career. Though unsurprisingly the hyper-fan would care the most about this, this is also a strong précis of Almond's initial solo efforts that can serve as a reasonable introduction for a newcomer to his material. Almond is in (generally) fine voice throughout, and the various BBC producers do a good job in capturing his sound (and his various bands), from those years. The first consists of takes on four tracks from his debut Untitled -- besides enjoyable enough versions of the title song and "Empty Eyes," there's an amiable ramble through Syd Barrett's "Terrapin," and a fantastic, strong take on Jacques Brel's "If You Go Away." Almond's done many versions of the latter over time, but this one, one of his earliest, ranks as one of his best as well. The second session finds Almond first backed by the Mambas, and then the Venomettes, the latter being the compact string section that often backed him in the early days. "Empty Eyes" is revisited again, as are Torment and Toreros numbers "Once Was" and another Brel cover, "The Bulls." The real treat for Almond fanatics is "Your Aura," an obscure B-side from "Black Heart" given a fine string-led arrangement. The final session tackles three Vermin in Ermine songs, including "Ugly Head" and "Joey Demento," with Almond backed by the fine lineup of the Willing Sinners from those days. Like the second session, an obscure rarity turns up: "Black Mountain Blues," a take on the old Bessie Smith number that was the B-side for "You Have."

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