Marc Almond - Heart Of Snow

Whether collaborating with Gene Pitney, working with Bronski Beat or reforming Soft Cell, Marc Almond has reinvented himself and reinvigorated his creative juices for over two decades. His ambition, drive and determination is even stringer to even attempt his latest musical masterpiece. When Marc was approached by Russian producer Misha Kucherenbo with an idea of recording an album of Russian songs no one could have imagined how expansive, intricate and beautifully arranged these songs would turn out. Recorded entirely in St Petersburgh and half sung in Russian, the talented musicians he's chosen to work with is a masterstroke. With duets and special guests all assembled the end result is a satisfying and original album and at nineteen tracks he's tackled his craft with passion.

"Gosudaryuria" has Marc working with Aquarium group. With an acoustic introduction this has all the drama you'd expect from such a balladeering troubadour. Cinematic in scope with authentic Russian instrumentation, this is very moving and emotionally resonant. "Oh My Soul" is a duet with Allaya Bayonova. With just a piano for musical accompaniment this has a timeless quality and benefits from such a simplistic arrangement. Overall this track is strikingly original.

"The Storks" is a song about the Russian involvement in the Second World War. It has classical instrumentation and is atmospheric. It conjures up images of poetic beauty. The brass interludes are most welcome. "Gone But Not Forgotten" was written by Marc especially for the album, the other songs being traditional Russian songs (painstakingly translated in some cases). This track has surprising elements of electronica and draws you in with it's melodramatic opening. Only Almond could carry off the line "love can grow as cold as a Russian winter" with his dignity intact. This has a military feel which keeps the feel of the song a touch of class.

With so many bands and performers releasing cover albums left right and centre it's a joy to discover someone as versatile and idiosyncratic as Marc Almond releasing an album of Russian romance songs for a whole new audience and introducing them to a wide range of artists and songwriters whose work is well overdue for a re-evaluation.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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