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Feasting With Panthers

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Album Review

After tackling the Gypsy folk songs of ostracized Soviet troubadour Vadim Kozin on 2009's Orpheus in Exile, '80s pop icon Marc Almond continues to pursue his avant-garde sensibilities on his 12th studio album, Feasting with Panthers, a joint effort with experimental composer Michael Cashmore (Current 93) that includes 13 musical interpretations of his favorite homoerotic poems. It's an intriguing concept that breathes new life into classic pieces by the likes of Rimbaud ("The Sleeper in the Valley"), Gérard de Nerval ("El Desdichado"), and Jean Genet ("The Man Condemned to Death"), as well as showcasing the literary talents of celebrated poet Jeremy Reed on several new compositions ("Boy Caesar," "Patron Saint of Lipstick"). But by sticking to the piano-led torch song arrangements of their previous collaboration (Current 93's adaptation of 1763 methodist hymn "Idumea"), the pair fails to deliver anything as majestic as the source material. Almond is in fine form, toning down his sometimes theatrical tendencies in favor of a more restrained vocal style that allows the new translations to take center stage. But other than the Hammond organ-driven "The Song of the Unwept Tear," the softly brushed rhythms of the epic seven-minute title track, and the subtle sweeping strings of "Hotel de France and Poetry," the latter of which provides the album's only memorable melody, the low-key stripped-back production is just too one-note to be considered as anything other than highbrow background music. One has to admire Almond's refusal to conform to commercial constraints, but he would have been much better confining his creative flow to the duo's previous two-track EP (the Count Eric Stenbock poems "Gabriel" and "The Lunatic Lover," also featured here) than trying to extend it to this highly ambitious but ultimately flawed full-length album. ~ Jon O'Brien, Rovi


Genre: Pop

After disbanding Soft Cell, vocalist Marc Almond pursued a solo career that followed the same vaguely sleazy, electronic dance-pop his former group had made popular. Almond's strength was never his personality, and his voice tends to waver around the notes instead of hitting them. It was the atmosphere he created with the synths and drum machines. Underneath all of the electronics and disco rhythms, Almond harked back to the days of cabaret singers, updating that sound for the dance clubs of the...
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