If you are more familiar with Mackenzie/ the Associates earlier experimental and electronic style, you will find this album very different. Many of the tracks are written/ recorded later in his career and pair his fantastic soulful voice with highly original arrangements. The opening track Wild is the Wind is on a par with the Bowie version, followed by Nocturne Seven where his tenor voice is accompanied by a moody piano accompaniment. Fourteen Mirrors is a highly original melody, When the Word was Young he hums a few simple notes in the chorus to a piano backing that descends through a sequence of beautiful key changes. There are many other stand out tracks too and the whole album is sheer delight to listen to. I wonder if he had achieved greater commercial recognition earlier in his career would he still have managed to produce work of such musical integrity as this?
I am a relative newcomer to Billy MacKenzie but if someone were to ask me for an introduction, I'd tell them to first get Sulk (The Associates) and then the present CD and it's companion Auchtermatic. Like Auchtermatic this is really a compilation but apart from one track ("Liberty Lounge" which sounds a bit out of place to my ears) it's very cohesive.
With the sparest of accompaniment, Billy sings a collection of the most beautiful songs you'll ever hear - "torch songs" indeed"! You can bathe in that voice - no typically 80's or 90's sounds to distract you - simply that unique voice, piano, acoustic guitar. I don't know how to describe it, haven't heard anything quite like it. I understand why people compare Billy MacKenzie to Jeff Buckley or David Bowie, yet it doesn't quite hit the mark. I hope I don't offend anyone by describing it as "androgynous". It has the ecstasy and abandonment of the female voice and the force, the pure strength of the male. It's not, as a rule, as mannered as Bowie's, and it's more varied than Buckley's.
Most of the songs here were written with Steve Aungle who must have been Billy's best collaborator since Alan Rankine of The Associates. Each song twists and turns to the nuances of the lyrics and the shades of the voice. Someone wrote somewhere that during Billy's slack years (Wild and Lonely, for instance), the material was substandard but the voice was still there. That's true, of course, but Transmission Impossible proves that no matter how fine the voice - it's still important what it sings, it's important that there should be layers of meaning to explore, and Billy's lyrics here are certainly among his deepest.
Beyond the Sun served it's purpose years ago by making some of Billy MacKenzie's greatest recordings available, but it did contain a fair amount of tinkering. With the present CD, "Auchtermatic" and perhaps "Memory Palace" it becomes somewhat redundant. The spare arrangements here are much more effective, and even the sound quality is superior - so much clearer and crisper. Compare, for instance, "Blue It Is": Apart from the superfluous spanish guitar the sound is almost muffled on "Beyond the Sun". On "Transmission Impossible" every single note is clear and bright; close you eyes and it feels as if Billy is singing there just in front of you. Or compare "At the Edge of the World", written together with Alan Rankine, and on "Transmission" a reminder of how perfect a musical partner he was. On "Beyond the Sun" the shimmering guitars, the distant drums, the swirling synths have been exchanged for some very bland electronica.
To sum up: Get this one, it's five stars plus. Then get Auchtermatic, "Pain In Any Language" in itself is worth every penny. Then get "Memory Palace"; it's a very mixed record but it does contain the best version of "Give Me Time" and the momentous "Stone the Memory Palace" which is a great song if you enjoy Billy's more flamboyant vocals with Rankine-era Associates (I do!).
One small complaint: Since Jude Rawlins has done such an excellent job sound-wise, it's a shame that there are no notes on the individual recordings (when, where, with whom), nor any essay-like comments on the compilation as a whole. But then, that would have made it dangerously close to perfect...
I think it's important to point out that your previous reviewer has leapt to a couple of misleading conclusions about the origination of this album and "Auchtermatic". These are the original mixes, Billy's originals, and contain no "posthumous" contributions from anybody. Simon Raymonde and Malcolm Ross do not feature anywhere on "Transmission Impossible", there is no such studio as the Auchterhouse; Auchterhouse is a village near Dundee where Billy had a house. The tracks featured on both albums existed - in their entirity, long before "Beyond the Sun" and "Eurocentric" ever did. There was no such "band" as Outerpol, it was a concept that Billy talked up for a while, but the only track ever recorded for the project was "Outerpol (Consenting Holograms Have More Fun)", which has never been released. Its nice that your reviewer likes the albums, but if one is going to set oneself up as an encyclopaedia, one ought to be a little bit more aux fais with the facts.