This is an album I had bought on vinyl when it was first released, had always wanted on CD, but had never got around to buying any of the various CD re-issues which have emerged over the decades between then and now. I finally took the plunge and bought this re-issue after it appeared in my Amazon recommendations.
It was Almond's first "solo" venture after the huge success Soft Cell had been enjoying over the past year or two, and while it obviously features Almond's instantly recognisable voice to the fore, the material is sufficiently different to Soft Cell's material to justify the project. The album features a number of originals from Almond and his collaborators, including the first three tracks which together comprised the rather excellent side 1 of the original vinyl issue.
However, it is the choice of the four cover versions, and the execution of these covers, which give the album its high points, and which showcase Almond's talent to maximum effect. Scott Walker's "Big Louise", from the "Scott 3" LP, kicks off this sequence, and Almond gives it everything - a breathtaking performance, close to the magic of Walker himself. He follows that up with a somewhat melodramatic version of Lou Reed's "Caroline Says", more accessible than Reed, but every bit as menacing. That is followed by Annie Hogan's moving piano instrumental "Margaret", before Almond goes completely over the top with an impassioned, and lengthy interpretation of Brel's "If You Go Away", another song made famous by Scott Walker. There ended the second side of the original album.
The remaining tracks always seemed to be a bit of a "bonus" on the original LP - a second disc containing only three tracks, one side to be played at 33, and one at 45. The first side contains a light whimsical reading of Syd Barrett's "Terrapin", and a lengthy, eleven and a half minute track "Twilights and Lowlifes", which is really the only track on the album which could easily have been Soft Cell. It's very good, but possibly goes on a little too long, as it does become a little self-indulgent.
At this point the original LP and this CD release follow different paths. On the original LP, the second side of the second disc had another eleven minute version of "Twilights and Lowlifes", which I remember as being a little poppier and more accessible. However, for some reason, that has been replaced here, and on some other re-issues with a rather inferior track "Sleaze", which is undoubtedly the low point of this collection. There was plenty room on the CD - I don't understand why both versions of "Twilights" couldn't have been given, along with "Sleaze" as a bonus track, if at all.
All in all, a great album, but loses one star for the senseless replacement of the final track.