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In Review: Marc Almond's The Velvet Trail

In Review: Marc Almond's The Velvet Trail

Marc

The legendary vanguard pop artist returns with his first new album of original material in five years.  

In 2010, when British singer-songwriter Marc Almond suggested that the uber-personal Variete would be his last recording to feature any original material, fans were left assuming that they would have to settle for collaborative projects and cover albums for the remainder of his career. They've been proven wrong. The songwriting muse has returned with The Velvet Trail, and the legendary torch singer's fire has suddenly been reignited.

After Almond was contacted by LA-based producer/songwriter Chris Braide--known for his work with clients such as Lana Del Rey, Paloma Faith, Sia, and Beyonce--Braide sent him three instrumental tracks via email. Never once speaking on the phone or meeting in person until the album was completely finished, Almond found a creative, kindred spirit in Braide. The resulting collaboration proved to be a transatlantic labor of love. The Velvet Trail is one of the most commercially viable, yet distinctly Almond-esque records the vanguard pop artist has delivered in well over a decade.

In a recent interview with Advocate.com, the former Soft Cell frontman was asked if there was a difference in attitude towards out gay musicians in 2015, as opposed to when he arrived on the music scene in early '80s. His response was rather amusing: "There were talented gay musicians and singers, but the record company would try to market them as having [fictional] girlfriends or, at least, to have a blurred and, at most, bisexual sexuality, as they tried to do to me... I think it's changed, but still only if you have a non-threatening and family-friendly sexuality. Gluten-free music."

Luckily, his latest recording is anything but.

Divided into three acts and separated by four instrumental pieces, the record flits between uptempo, synth-driven tracks ("Zipped Black Leather Jacket", "Bad To Me"), lush ballads ("Scar", "The Pain of Never") and the cabaret theatricality of songs like the waltzing "Life In My Own Way". "Winter Sun" recalls the romantic croon of Bryan Ferry at his finest, "Demon Lover" sounds like "Tainted Love 2.0", and the title track seems like a poignant homage to the Soft Cell track "Barriers." The real highlight of the record proves to be the most unlikely pairing since Almond sang with Siouxsie Sioux, and it works just as brilliantly. Gossip's Beth Ditto joins Marc on the euphoric, sitar-synth pop number "When The Comet Comes"--there will be few choruses this year to rival the ear candy found on this track. Throughout The Velvet Trail, Almond's voice is in rare form and for once in a very long time, he actually appears to be enjoying himself.

The Velvet Trail and "When the Comet Comes" are available on I-Tunes now.

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