Marc Almond

Live at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, 1992

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In the early '90s, the majority of Almond's concert appearances were done as intimate affairs, with the singer accompanied only by a pianist, Martin Watkins. They swiftly achieved legend among his fan base and general notice outside of it for the performances' passion, Almond's astonishing vocal work, and Watkins' skill as a musical foil to Almond. While the Twelve Years of Tears live album featured a few songs with the Almond/Watkins pairing, a full recording of the duo's work had been unavailable officially until this welcome, long overdue release. Taken from a date in June 1992, the 16-song collection covers familiar and less-well-known material, the end result being one of the best torch-song recordings out there. Watkins' keyboard work is supple, flowing, intricate, matching Almond's vocal flights with skill. Consider the mid-song vocal break on "Stories of Johnny," where his higher notes play softly around Almond's own gentle repeating of the chorus without losing any of the song's energy. Almond himself is simply astonishing -- if a case ever had to be made for his vocal abilities in and of themselves, this performance, focused as it is simply on vocals and piano, makes that case convincingly. Some of the many joys come from hearing material on the somewhat overheated Enchanted and Tenement Symphony albums get simpler and much more elegant performances. "Champagne" is a revelation, finally letting Almond's intriguing personal portrait breathe to its full, while performances of "Toreador in the Rain" and "Orpheus in Red Velvet" also are of note. Two total rarities surface, both among the album's best moments. "When I Was a Young Man," an old folk song performed off and on by Almond over the years, gets a strong delivery here, Watkins' piano and a bit of backing synth creating a mysterious, gloomy feeling. "Amnesia Nights," co-written by Almond and Watkins, combines glazed, slightly druggy electric piano with a grand, lovelorn lyric.

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