While Marc Almond's tours during the early '90s had mostly consisted of performances backed only by the piano of Martin Watkins -- both dramatic and admittedly cost-effective -- a lengthy mega-splash of a retrospective evening at London's Royal Albert Hall was staged in late 1992, consisting of three hours, costume changes galore, dancers, fireworks, the lot. Twelve Years of Tears, a full 75 minutes worth of highlights, does a mostly fantastic job of showcasing what on balance sounds like Almond's ultimate performance for all sides of his talented musical personality. Mostly, not totally -- Tenement's "Champagne" has Almond a bit more flat on the vocals than usual, while the Enchanted selections, though nice enough, just don't stand up well next to the other performances. And what performances those are! Besides full band versions of expected Soft Cell hits like "Bedsitter" and even "Tainted Love" itself, as well as solo smashes like "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart" and "Jacky," Almond uses a featured section accompanied only by pianist Watkins to sing two of Mother Fist's best numbers, "Mr. Sad" and "There Is a Bed," a haunting, spare version of Soft Cell's lament "Youth," another solid version of Brel's "If You Go Away," and, to top it all off, a lovely, heartfelt version of Charles Aznavour's sympathetic, wry portrait of a transvestite, "What Makes a Man a Man." With an amazing eight-minute take of Soft Cell's breakup ballad "Say Hello Wave Goodbye" wrapping everything up with a full orchestra, backup singers, guitars, and Almond singing at his bravura best, Twelve Years shines.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett