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Marc Almond - Brel Extras

Right from Almond's work with the Mambas through to the polished-electro of 'Jacky', Trevor Horn's over produced track that took Almond back to the charts way back in 1991 the Belgian singer-poet's observations on love, death and life have featured prominently in the work of Marc Almond. Brel Extras was originally intended to accompany the Some Bizarre reissue of Jacques, Almond's much-celebrated album of Brel compositions. Some Bizarre's typical business acumen and haphazard relationships with their artists stymied the plans for an expanded reissue allowing Almond's own SinSongs imprint the opportunity to release this EP featuring new tracks, live tracks and an early demo recording.

'If You Go Away' has been a regular fixture in Almond live sets and two distinct versions appear here. With Martin Watkins on piano, Almond's emotive delivery ranges from soft-sung, spoken to soaring notes. Almond fills it with tenderness, backed by the experience of his age that he was clearly incapable of capturing on the original recordings with the Mambas. The other version is a live recording with Neal Whitmore's chiming electric guitar notes framing Almond's quivering and quavering voice. Almond's breathy delivery captures a sense of vulnerability, quite distinct from the tenderness of the studio version.

Almond returns to 'The Devil (Okay)' - foregoing the violins and obvious European feel of the Jacques version, with a sprawling rock guitar, allowing Almond the space to indulge in some theatrical vocal mannerisms. 'The Desperate Ones', dressed up in tremeloed guitar, is an interesting but unnecessary inclusion. Far more worthy is Almond's interpretation of 'Amsterdam', where he clearly relishes Brel's bawdy tale of lewd sailors. His sneering, leering tones carrying the melody over Neal Whitmore's spirited acoustic guitar playing. It's a wonderful interpretation and along with 'If You Go Away' the highpoints of Brel Extras.

Brel Extras is completed by a 1984 demo of 'My Death', which finds Almond hesitantly feeling his way around this nascent version of the song involving piano, strings and a cheap drum machine. It's a nice reminder of how much Almond has progressed as an artist to the extent that he is considered the foremost interpreter of Brel songs in the English language. Brel Extras is available from www.marcalmond.co.uk