Marc Almond first ventured into quasi classical territory with John Harle last year, providing vocals on a couple of tracks on Harle's 'Art Music'. Now arrives 'The Tyburn Tree', a fully-fledged collaboration, steeped in theatre, art and poetry. The Tyburn Tree itself was a gallows in what is now Marble Arch, from a village called Tyburn which was recorded as being at the west end of what is now Oxford Street. Executions took place from the late twelfth century; the Tyburn Tree Gallows itself active from 1571 to 1783, and the word Tyburn became synonymous with public (mass) executions. What this has to do with music is that it sets the scene for the stories told by the songs of a dark unforgiving city of the past. Tales of folklore, 'Spring Heeled Jack', tales of true horror, and maybe monsters like a Minotaur, roaming through 'The Labyrinth of Limehouse'. 'My Fair Lady' opens with a rendition of 'London Bridge is Falling Down' and you feel not too sure about what is happening. A minute later you’re singing along to a chorus(?) of 'bye bye baby' like a 60's pop throwback leftover before the song continues with bricked up windows and bridges of flesh. 'Fortress' gives a song writing credit to William Blake (it's adapted from a poem), it's a dark rhythmic beast, like Woodkid but much more scary. Other songs include 'Dark Angel', 'Black Widow' and 'The Vampire of Highgate'. This is not modern London, it's London as it grew and gelled, as it was scared of itself. It's a fine album, without peers. The only record in my collection I feel I can even connect to it is The Skids much neglected fourth, 'Joy', which was also rooted in a past that was dark and also stood apart from the mainstream musical background that it would not have existed without. But it's great and I recommend it whole heartedly!
If you fancy your Marc Almond a touch more as you might expect then check out the (also) new 7"/CD release 'Tasmanian Tiger’ EP. The titular track is a full on bonkers glam/pop romp and tells the story of the last Tasmanian tiger, an animal extinct since the 1930's. It is mental, features great production from Tony Visconti, and is joyously up there with best of Almond's solo output. The rest of the EP is great too, with contributions from Jarvis Cocker and Carl Barât.