Complementing the similarly titled video release featuring a 1991 concert in Berlin, The Willing Sinner finds Marc Almond at one of the most unusual -- and fascinating -- points of his career. On the verge of scoring a big solo hit in the U.K. with his cover of "The Days of Pearly Spencer," part of his extremely lush album from that year, Tenement Symphony, Almond himself increasingly favored performing stripped-down shows consisting of only himself and one regular musician, pianist Martin Watkins. While seemingly counterintuitive from the perspective of the business, this was just what the doctor ordered from an artistic point of view, letting Almond showcase not only the increasing depth and ability of his vocals and song choices but his now well-honed air of the professional treading the boards. Well-recorded and with an audibly thrilled crowd supporting him, Almond reworks both solo and Soft Cell songs to either emphasize the core melodies at the heart of bigger numbers such as "Something's Got a Hold of My Heart," a brilliant take on "Mr. Sad," or "Toreador in the Rain" (the latter punctuated by enthusiastic handclaps) or bring out the elegant melancholy already apparent in songs such as "Youth" and "Stories of Johnny." Watkins' performance is equally top-notch, matching Almond well as his second of three key collaborators over the years (along with Dave Ball and Neal X); given that the two never recorded a studio album together on their own, it makes this document all the more impressive. A relative rarity surfaces with a cover of "A Man," which wouldn't see the light of day in studio form until the release of "Absinthe," while Agnes Bernelle joins Almond on-stage to re-create the Stars We Are-era duet "Kept Boy" -- a great performance but, by default, appearing without the outrageously fun mugging apparent in the video.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett