Two legends from different worlds collide in what promises to be a seminal album of songs about London. Composer/saxophonist John Harle and singer Marc Almond collaborate on 'The Tyburn Tree - Dark London' - an album of contemporary songs about the darkest sides of London's history - from the Tyburn gallows to Jack the Ripper, and from settings of the words of William Blake to a unique take on the nursery rhyme 'London Bridge is Falling Down'.
Following Marc's much lauded guest appearance on Harle's 'Art Music', this is an album full of driving rhythms, emotional impact and theatrical story telling of the highest order.
Along for the ride are noted soprano Sarah Leonard and great London poet and author Iain Sinclair who reads from his own texts. But it is the voice of Marc Almond that is the spiritual medium from which appears the ghosts of 'Dark London'.
"Marc is a true artist and true performer - showing total openness and vulnerability alongside an experimental, non-judgmental view of Art, and in 'The Tyburn Tree', London has found its Anti-Hero". - John Harle
"We all know that Marc Almond can sing but it still comes as a shock to hear his thrillingly drawn-out climax to Harle's "The Arrival of Spring", emoting words adapted from William Blake with operatic oomph." - The Independent
'The Tyburn Tree' has been in gestation for two years - Almond is the primary lyricist, having researched the subject matter and gradually formed his own take on 'Dark London', creating lyrics that have both historical relevance and an ear-catching quirkiness. Alongside this John Harle has been writing music that proves him to be at the height of his powers - after a canon of work that includes his "O Mistress Mine" for Elvis Costello, and as composer of the theme to BBC1's Silent Witness, he has matched Almond's lyrics with some punchy, compact and bitter-sweet songs full of emotion, percussive shock and humour. 'The Tyburn Tree' promises to be a concept album of cult-status.
Personnel: Marc Almond (voice), John Harle (voice, keyboards, saxophones), Sarah Leonard (voice), Neill MacColl, John Paricelli (guitars) Steve Lodder (keyboards), Dudley Phillips (bass), Martyn Barker (drums), Iain Sinclair (voice), Daniel Eisner Harle (sound design)
(4 stars) There are splashes of cabaret and jazz, but the echoing, crepuscular atmosphere is dominated by Almond's impressive neo-operatic singing (some distance from electro-pop!), with a thumping, galloping finale that uses an extract from Blake's "prophetic book" Jerusalem. Dark but dashing. --The Observer, (Neil Spencer), February 16, 2014
(4 stars) The virtuosic, rock-meets classical music is marvellously vigorous, sardonic and atmospheric, and Almond's voice oozes satanic undertones. --The Times, (Richard Morrison), February 22, 2014
(4 stars) Ultimately, it's the blend of Almond's delivery and Harle's remarkable score - West End Musical meets gory horror flick - that makes this so remarkable. --Classic Pop, (Wyndham Wallace), February/March 2014
(4 stars) Intriguing concept album...Ex-Soft Cell frontman Almond channels his fascination for cabaret into theatrical songs about the city's lore. Meanwhile composer Harle creates a moody score flickering with echoes of Gypsy folk, late-night jazz and, for "Spring Heeled Jack", about the supernatural London villain, neurotic prog rock. --Financial Times, (Ludovic Hunter-Tilney), February 22, 2014
(4 stars) Bringing in chunks of William Blake, dollops of nursery rhyme, snippets of narration by psycho-geographer of the capital Iain Sinclair, roaring choirs, roistering electropop, walloping great chunks of prog-punk guitar-strangling and Almond in full operatic mode, it should by rights be really hard work, but in fact it's really quite gripping. In its delirium, it automatically conjures Tim Burton and Jan Svankmajer images in the mind, marionettes, silhouettes, flashing lights and grand guignol, and like everything else in Almond's career, it's quite uncanny and unlikely that he carries it off - but he does. --The Arts Desk, (Joe Muggs), February 21, 2014