Top critical review
12 people found this helpful
on 8 July 2014
Having followed Marc's career since Soft Cell's early singles, I must say that I've always had a soft spot for his recordings with voice and piano, especially the Violent Silence e.p. Hopes that this song cycle might be along similar lines would be misplaced, however, because this is a highly theatrical piece: a series of songs about the central character's life during the London plague of 1665. It sits in Marc's catalogue alongside The Tyburn Tree, John Harle's 2014 album about London, except that his voice was there wrapped in full orchestration, drenched in reverb, whereas here we have it presented with an uncomfortable starkness and intimacy.
Seen strictly as a piece of chamber music, Ten Plagues works well enough; in fact, it would be interesting to hear it performed by a trained voice rather than by Marc although (given that it was written for him!) this first recording has a particular authenticity. He works well with the more comic or grotesque moments (such as "The Wig") but his idiosyncratic vocal technique is not so well suited to some of the more lyrical passages, resulting in a recording that overall is probably uglier than it should be.
Mark Ravenhill's libretto works well and Conor Mitchell (here performing his own music on piano) has provided a detailed and intelligent score. This is an adventurous work, but needs to be recognised as a curiosity of the classical world rather than as a Marc Almond album proper. Approach with caution.