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Album Review

Making his first label jump since signing to Mercury in the early Soft Cell days, Stories continues the drive towards a brighter commercial sound, with Hedges once again producing and the Sinners lineup in perfect sync and well-versed in everything from lush Euro-disco to nightclub jazz and smouldering ballads (add some extra credit for the solid work of album guest Martin Ditchum on "all kinds of percussion"). The troika of brilliant singles from the album's first half makes the album a keeper alone: the tender title track (written about a young friend of Almond's who OD'ed), a sassy remake of Mel Tormé's "The House Is Haunted," and "Love Letter," where electronics resurface to a degree not seen since Soft Cell's collapse. However, there are plenty of other fine delights throughout, such as the solid rocker "The Flesh Is Willing" and the snarling "Contempt," not to mention "I Who Never," a soaring breakup number, and "My Candle Burns," another in the fine series of understatedly intense Almond love/obsession songs. Fans of Almond at his harshest will find this perhaps a bit too smooth at points, but as a balance of killer hooks, great music, and Almond's ever-improving singing, this is a winner through and through.

Stories Of Johnny, Marc Almond
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