Photo: Damien de Blinkk
Let’s imagine, for the sake of argument, that there’s been a recent national (or even international) event so seismically disturbing that your entire worldview has crashed on the rocks of Reality Beach, a well-tended waterfront property under the maintenance of a bunch of mean-faced racist and xenophobic rich old white men in their 70s with much younger wives.
More than once, during particularly stressful times in my life, I’ve gone into a well-stocked record store to ask someone whose opinion I respected to recommend something by a non-mainstream artist who I might’ve missed, but whose work would blow my mind and draw me deep into its mystery, to move my head from the place it was in to someplace else. It almost doesn’t matter where. Makes sense, right? The power of music. A therapy of sorts. A diversion. A solace. A form of self-medication. Prayer, even.
Can’t be anything frivolous. It has to transport you. Change your mood. Change your mind. Transform you. It must be magical. Holy. It’s got to move you from here to there.
The “correct” response to my record store query might be something like “Well, have you gone through a Sun Ra phase yet?” “Do you have the Faust box set?” or recommending both of these Big Youth anthologies.
My prescription for what psychically ails you? Do take me up on this sage advice, I promise you my rock snob reader that it will work: Trials Of Eyeliner: Anthology 1979-2016, the newly released and truly magnificent 10-CD, 189 track anthology of the life’s work of Marc Almond.
Trials of Eyeliner, I reckon is one of the most essential box sets of the day, an all-killer, no-filler jam-packed to the bursting point celebration of one of our greatest living vocalists, a singular talent who will never be equaled or topped in the niche that he created for himself as the ultimate gay torch singer/diva. And this is the definitive study of Marc Almond’s work, chosen by the artist himself, with singles, deep cuts and unreleased numbers from his collaborations with David Ball in Soft Cell, the Marc and the Mambas/Willing Sinners/La Magia period with Anni Hogan, solo work and duets with the likes of Siouxsie Sioux, Saint Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell, Jimmy Sommerville, Gene Pitney and PJ Proby. Packaged in a slick, glossy box with a copiously annotated hardback book, it’s a luxurious item, but one with a very reasonable price (around $80-90). Want something to lose yourself in musically? This is it.
Photo by Pierre et Gilles
I’ve been a massive Marc Almond fan for pretty much the span of his entire career, from the first Soft Cell album onward and I have to say that there are few disappointments, in terms of tracks not included on Trials of Eyeliner, although I can still think of a few dozen off the top of my head. These 10 CDs make a very, very clear—and as far as I am concerned unequivocal and definitive—musical argument that Marc Almond is one of the greatest artists of our age, a one-of-a-kind vocal talent who will probably be ranked alongside of Frank Sinatra, Nick Cave, Scott Walker, Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf and even Judy Garland by future generations of musical historians for a unique ability to breathe life, but also unutterable grief into a sad song. His decidedly homoerotic artform also compares to French poet and revolutionary Jean Genet, but I believe Marc Almond will ultimately achieve a stature far greater than Sartre’s “Saint Genet” as a pioneering gay artist of the 20th century when all’s said and done.
And I gotta say, I can only imagine what Marc Almond himself thought when he got his own copy of Trials of Eyeliner. He must’ve been fucking pleased. All in one place like this? It’s a staggering accomplishment.
Here’s a sampling of some of my favorite things on Trials of Eyeliner. Truth be told, I love pretty much everything on it.
The quintessance of Marc Almond’s artistry is on display here in his heart-breaking performance of Charles Aznavour’s “What Makes a Man a Man?”
Much more Marc after the jump…