This would have been his great comeback album- perhaps. Mackenzie had signed to Nude and appeared to be on a creative flight equal to the 80-83 period from 'Affectionate Punch' to '18 Carat Love Affair'. He even considered these new songs under alternate monikers- the torch songs would be Winter Academy, the electro-industrial Case and so on... Nude rejected some of the more electronic tracks for this release- such as 'Falling Out With the Future' or '14th Century Nightlife'. Even in death it seemed Mackenzie's work was being rejected in a 'Glamour Chase'-fashion. Strange that songs like 'When the World Was Young' & 'The Soul that Sighs' should have been overlooked- though we have the subsequent 'Memory Palace' & 'Eurocentric' albums now. Bizarrely I was getting into the Associates shortly before his death- hearing 'Partyfearstwo' on the radio lead me to a 2nd hand copy of 'Sulk'. The Barry Adamson album 'Oedipus Scmoedipus' had a smart Mackenzie track ('Achieved in the Valley of Dolls') and I had fond memories of listening to the original 'Affectionate Punch' and the single 'Breakfast' at a friend's house in 1990. Then I found a tape of 'Perhaps' and Apollo 440's 'Electro Glide in Blue'- which featured Billy's final vocal on the heartbreaking bluestblues 'Pain in Any Language'. 'Beyond the Sun' was released in Autumn of 1997 and recieved great critical reviews- but little commercial interest (Embrace were considered more meaningful- still their career is over now...). Ex-Cocteau Twin, Simon Raymonde, mixed several of these tracks- and give them the quality akin to his This Mortal Coil collaborations. 'Give me Time' is the opening track co-written with Paul Haig (there is another version on 'Memory Palace'): "there's something that I've got to say/Can't wait til tomorrow". This is a great pop song- much better than the Depeche Mode or Portishead releases at the same time...'Winter Academy' is sort of a sequel to 'Breakfast'- a stripped piano based song, with the most fragile vocals this side of Jeff Buckley's 'You & I'...'Blue it Is' continues the piano-torch song motif- sounding like the most personal words you have ever heard, the sound of night falling down on you...'14 Mirrors' is more guitar-based- not too far from 'OK'-Radiohead- imagine if Suede had any sense of futurism...'At the Edge of the World' was released under the Loom/n moniker as 'Anolucia Bay' (there is also a version on the double-out-takes cd of the Associates). This was originally recorded during the aborted reunion with Alan Rankine that also saw the great 'Stephen, You're Still Really Something'. It sounds not unlike something that could have turned up on Massive Attack's 'Protection' or 'Mezzanine' albums. Those vocals- indescribable...The title track alludes to The Doors 'Crystal Ship'- though is not unlike The Smiths 'Asleep' (there is also a Tim Buckley reference). 'And this She Knows' is another piano-ballad that replays aspects of 'Bridge over Troubled Water'-"sometimes some of its kinda alright with me". Imagine if John Barry ever wrote a song for a Kryztof Kieslowski film; ex-Orange Juice guitarist Malcolm Ross offers a lovely guitar solo. The conclusion of this is so divine and moving and paves the way for the pop single of this album, 'Sour Jewel'. This is as good as any popsong as I can think of- though it offers that basic drumbeat found in Sly Stone's 'Dance to the Music', Magazine's 'The Light Pours out Of Me' and Stone Roses 'I am the Resurrection'. "Are you aware that we had to meet?"- there is a sense of predestiny, of playing out a script- the stream of consciousness lyrics take us back to the Situation Two singles-"viewing all from freak to oblique". The soul here- "give me just one perfect day". This is a futurist glam-stomp and one of the greatest singles never released, "give me a day that's full enough", the international number One that never occurred...'3 Gypsies in a Resturant' is the sole electronic excursion (Nude have very conservative tastes)- imagine a fusion of The Prodigy and Yello on Marc Almond's 'Enchanted' album. This is probably the worst song here- moving towards hi-nrg with its strange lyrics about Hitler. Billy is spewing out a stream of images, exhibiting verbal entropy. A very strange song...The album concludes on the perfect 'Nocturne VII'- where Simon Raymonde and a string section sensitively add to this piano-lament. This is where the 'Ronnie Scotts' performance was taking him, songs like 'Breakfast', 'Heaven Blue' and 'This Flame'. The sound of another greener world- beyond the confines of this, beyond the 21st Century of 1982's 'Sulk', an existential elegy. There are songs related to this song- This Mortal Coil's 'Song to the Siren', 'Llorando' from the 'Mulholland Drive' soundtrack, Nina Simone in peak period, Tim Buckley singing 'Dream Letter', Van Morrison's 'Astral Weeks', Jeff Buckley's version of 'Hallelujah', Nico's 'Evening of Light', David Sylvian's 'Waterfront', Scott Walker's 'Big Louise'... The strange thing is that every person I play the Associates/Billy Mackenzie to is blown away by it. The dead cult singer tag may not help Billy now- but may discover him for an unknowing audience waiting out there... 'Beyond the Sun' is one of Billy's great works and, despite its circumstances, still a great album. William, you were really everything.
This is a must listen for any fan of Billy and/or the Associates. This is how he matured, darker, harder to appreciate with more sophisticated depths, flavours and tones - the Mackenzie equivalent of a cask conditioned 25 year old single malt rather than the younger, brasher blends of the Associates or even Wild and Lonely.
Many of the old collaborators are present and their influence on specific tracks discernible; Paul Haig and Alan Rankine for starters, both major contributors to Scottish music over the last 30 years, play homage to the man. But this is an album made by and for Billy's voice and vocal dexterity. Velvety, genderless, limitless in range and dreamworking. Its only flaw is that the album never got his final seal of approval: is this how he wanted these tracks to sound? Regardless, one listen and you will drink your fill again and again.
The shock of Billy MacKenzie's suicide and the surprise of the release of this album came at the same time for me. Hearing this music and instantly falling in love with it while knowing it would be more or less the last of Billy's recording career was difficult indeed. Maybe it's selfish of me to mourn the end of Billy's music, but that's what he meant to me and scores of others: music so breathtakingly beautiful and unique that you just know in your heart no one else could achieve it. Equally important on this album is the incredible work of Billy's new instrumentalist and co-writer, Steve Aungle, who I hope will continue his own recording career in some other incarnation. Meanwhile, we have "Beyond the Sun" and "Eurocentric" and the rest of Billy and the Associates' body of work that make listening to music a whole new experience.
beyond the sun is beyond compare. Beautiful lyrics sung by an amazing, & massively underated man. T he legend that was billy mackenzie. Do yourself a favour & buy all his back catalogue & truly appreciate this man's extraordinary talent.
This is an amazing album by a singer I had never heard of (OK, I am but a youngster in the musical know-how!) but I am so glad that I have found him. His voice is bordering on the operatic and the whole album is superb.
One of the greatest voices in the history of pop music. Way back then I heard it first, that's really heard how great it was, on Even Dogs In The Wild from the first Associates album, and fell in love. Beyond The Sun is a fitting, and heartbreaking showcase for it. I sat my mother down when I got it (she's a jazz/Sinatra/Nat King Cole/Ella Fitzgerald/Sarah Vaughan fan) and played her Winter Academy and Blue It Is... repeatedly, at her request, and she was blown away by the beauty and gravitas of THAT VOICE. I cried every time I played this at first, but other reviewers have done a good job of detailing the merits of every track on this and the other albums, so I won't go there. (I recommend reading the excellent Billy biography, which details his life, and this album, in particular - [ASIN:0747536155 The Glamour Chase: The Maverick Life of Billy Mackenzie]. Coming as BTS did in the wake of Billy's suicide there's a strong sense musically and lyrically that he was leaving this for us, and it is certainly a gift to be treasured.