by Rob Jones
This is the first ever deluxe expanded edition of Marc Almond’s landmark seventh studio album, ‘Tenement Symphony’. Originally released in 1991, this collaboration with Trevor Horn yielded three Top 40 UK hits! Exclusive to this boxed edition are four unique CDs adding to a total 76 audio tracks, 34 of them never previously having been commercially released. There is also a DVD that showcases all three promo videos and Marc Almond’s five contemporaneous BBC TV appearances. A 32-page booklet full of lyrics, photos and listening notes adds to the package.
The actual Trevor Horn produced ‘Tenement Symphony’ sequence opens CD1 as was his original intention, with the dramatic statement of the orchestral ‘Prelude’ as a precursor to the intoxicating energy of lead hit single, ‘Jacky’, as written by Jacques Brel.
‘Tenement Symphony’ was an attempt, at the time, to make the definitive Marc Almond album as masterminded by Warner Music UK’s then chairman Rob Dickins. The effect of the record was meant to be like looking through the windows of different rooms in a tenement building and hearing a bouquet of narrative songs about disparate characters residing therein. It saw the first post-breakup rekindling of the songwriting partnership with Soft Cell’s Dave Ball (with The Grid’s Richard Norris) on the three techno-torch tracks ‘Meet Me In My Dream’, ‘I’ve Never Seen Your Face’ and UK hit ‘My Hand Over My Heart’. It was an album that also featured three co-writes with Marc’s long-standing collaborator and arranger Billy McGee(Marc & The Mambas, The Willing Sinners) on the emotionally charged tracks ‘Vaudeville & Burlesque’, ‘Beautiful Brutal Thing’ and ‘Champagne’.
Complementing the 11 tracks of the original album on CD 1 are a collection of songs which were used as B-sides to the different formats of the album’s three hit singles, ‘Jacky’ (UK#17), ‘My Hand Over My Heart’ (UK#33) and ‘The Days Of Pearly Spencer’ (UK#4). Many of these ‘B-sides evidence such stellar songwriting quality that they could have easily created a double album back in the day to showcase all the contemporaneous contributing talents of Trevor Horn, The Grid, John Coxon and Billy McGee.
At the end of the day when it comes to lyrics about the human condition and love, lust and loss – Marc Almond is at the top of the tree – and, the tunes that surround the stories are also well structured and lusciously arranged. ‘Tenement Symphony’ is another example of a genius, who keeps on pushing boundaries as a solo artist or through his range of collaborations – and, as someone who has been lucky enough to see a 2023 Soft Cell show – I can confirm that there is plenty left in the tank of the main Mamba.