Cherry Red Records (label)
28 July 2014 (released)
01 August 2014
As the frontman for electronic pop duo Erasure, Andy Bell saw his fair share of chart exposure, but it will surprise many that this is his fourth solo album - with the previous three going unnoticed by most of those that would have bought the band's singles in the nineties.
His latest venture though could change that - not because it will take him to the top of the charts necessarily - but because this project has brave written all over it. The album is a 22 song set, telling the story of semi-immortal polysexual Torsten. If you didn't know it was a show before you listened - you would instantly realise the theatrical link (it's being performed by Bell at the Edinburgh Festival).
With lyrics written by Barney Ashton and music from Christopher Frost and Simon Bayliss, Torsten The Bareback Saint is a challenging listen at times, exemplified by the opening to the first track Freshly; "freshly buggered, he braved it into school....". From that point you know this is not a 'normal' album.
The challenge for any recorded version of a show - is making the concept work without seeing the stage. Without doubt Bell is sounding as good as ever - revelling in songs that push his range and style, as on the superb Fountain of Youth. While that seven-minute epic holds up away from the theatre - the likes of Bingo Hall Baby are more typical of show tunes that need a context.
The story itself has echoes of Oscar Wilde's classic Dorian Gray, just without the picture in the attic, and there are issues close to Bell's heart. The openly gay singer has certainly stepped out of the Erasure shadow - and for that he deserves praise. Critical acclaim will no doubt follow.