The Associates made some of the best and most distinct singles of the early 80s. Billy Mackenzie never managed to fully capture the energy and excitement of the 3 early lps especially Sulk where they got the mix of pop and experimentation just right. When Alan Rankine left, Mackenzie used the Associates moniker for a couple more lps. They set a pattern where you felt he was struggling to find a collaborator who could turn the sounds in his head into something exciting and dynamic in the studio. This feeling is only reinforced with the various one off collaborations that appeared. These 2 post Rankine lps suffered from some good songs married to a production that was often a bit bland.
In terms of his solo lps all but one were released after his suicide in 1997. The best one (although I've not heard the one he recorded with Paul Haig - "Memory Palace") is "Beyond the Sun". It does have a bit of a not quite finished feel although this brings a roughness and spontaneity that the later Associates lps could have done with. Overall the songs have a much more a classical, almost torch singer quality to them (although there is a weird electro detour with the mad 3 Gypsies in a Restaurant)
The lp was mixed/produced by Simon Raymonde of the Cocteau Twins who by and large gets the musical accompaniment just right, letting Mackenzie's voice take the lead and providing a subtle support
You can buy Beyond the Sun here
Whether Beyond the Sun would have kicked started his career again we will never know but it certainly deserved to
Tom Doyle has written a fantastic biography of Billy Mackenzie - "The Glamour Chase" which gives a great insight into someone who you can't help feeling had a streak of genius that given the right partner and support could have delivered so much more. It is hard to track down - Amazon have it at a steep £22, but worth keeping a look out for.