Released just a few weeks ago, Ministry's Toronto 1986 (Cleopatra) is, of course, a live album culled from a Toronto Ministry show during the North American tour in support of Twitch, which ranks among the most influential industrial recordings of all time.
As someone who has listened to Twitch at least a million times over the past thirty years, I'll tell you, I know every musical note of this album by heart. In truth, I don't even really have to listen to the album anymore except to give my brain a rest. Having said that, when I first heard that Cleopatra would be releasing this live document from that tour, my first concern was audio quality.
As intimately familiar as I am with Cleopatra's past reputation for releasing albums of questionable origin in between absolutely inspired moments of musical greatness, the label seems to have upped their game considerably and this album, despite being released with little hype or fanfare, is an absolutely worthy addition to Ministry's discography.
The audio quality, while not pristine, is better-than-average for a live album, especially one recorded back in '86. What truly makes this album essential, though, is the fact that the set list focuses on what is, for many, Ministry's most fertile period; right after the band had parted ways with Arista Records and leader Al Jourgensen was making a conscious effort to distance himself from the mainstream soft-pop moniker
Prior to Twitch's release, Ministry had struck gold on the dancefloor with "All Day" and "Everyday Is Halloween", both of which make appearances. The remainder of the performance focuses on tracks from Twitch with arrangements that vary just enough from the studio versions to be refreshing to ears that have lived with Twitch for the past 30 years.
Considering that most of us, upon hearing Twitch for the first time, thought that there could be no way to reproduce these songs live, hearing Jourgensen and new partner-in-crime Paul Barker do just that is a joyous assault upon the ears.
Most interesting is the inclusion of "Isle of Man", which was recorded during the Twitch sessions but did not make the album, although it later appeared as a bonus track on the CD version of the album.