Metropolis Records [release date 10.03.17]
Best known for fronting Bauhaus, (and starring in that Maxell tape cassette advert) in the early ‘80’s, Peter Murphy has released 10 solo albums in the 30 years since. This live album was recorded in Greenwich Village during his 2016 ‘Stripped’ tour. It features intimate, pared down renditions of his solo work, together with a Bauhaus medley.
Murphy’s solo career has mostly operated below the radar and much of the material here will only be known to his core followers. Yet such is the tenderness, vibrancy and quality of delivery, that this album should really extend beyond the cult horizon and into the mainstream.
Accompanied by only John Andrews on guitars and Emilio Zef China on bass and electric violin, the songs feature a surprisingly full and diverse sound, notably opener ‘Cascade’ and the classy electric violin that swirls around ‘A Strange Kind of Love’.
Though more often, the soundscape serves more as a backdrop to Murphy’s rich, complex and mesmeric voice, as on the captivating ‘Marlene Dietrich’s Favourite…’ and the resounding ‘The Rose’.
The inclusion of a David Bowie cover is hardly a surprise, given the towering influence he has had over Murphy’s career. The track is not an obvious one though. ‘The Bewlay Brothers’ from ‘Hunky Dory’ is one of Bowie’s more impenetrable tracks, but delivered here with clarity and character, accompanied by acoustic guitar and a little more haunting electric violin.
The Bauhaus trio, ‘King Volcano’, ‘Kingdom’s Coming’ and ‘Silent Hedges’ sound fine, but they do sit uncomfortably with the rest of the material and definitely change the mood of the performance.
Other highlights include the raw ‘Gaslight’ and the wrought ‘Your Face’ that brings the collection to a climax.
Lowlights? Not many. ‘Secrets’ and ‘Never Fall Out’ are a bit hard going. Maybe there are a few moments where the emotion in Murphy’s voice tips over into strained/pained wails that jar somewhat. But this is a live, spare album after all – bare-boned indeed – and that is a small price to pay for a slice of shimmering, fragile authenticity. ****
Review by Dave Atkinson
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