REVIEW: Marillion – Seasons End (2 CD remastered edition)

The first of two Marillion reviews, enjoy! Tomorrow, another!

MARILLION – Seasons End (1989 EMI, 2 CD remastered edition)

Hard to believe that Seasons End is 25 years old now. In the last 25 years, Steve Hogarth has stepped outside the impossibly big shadow cast by Derek W. Dick (“Fish”) as lead singer of Marillion. While some Marillion fans refuse to accept any Hogarth output post-Brave (I’m looking at you, Tom) many have embraced his work and the latest phases of Marillion. Seasons End was the first, tentative step in that journey. Even the great cover art reflects the change. The Jester and other visual clues from the past are there, inside Marillion’s new photographic artwork direction.

Armed with almost a full album’s worth of nearly complete music (see: Clutching at Straws bonus CD), Marillion set out to fill two enormous positions in the band: Lead vocalist, and lyricist, and not necessarily in that order. Due to the monstrous poetic talents of Fish, lyricist John Helmer was tapped to contribute lyrics to the music they had already written with Fish. (Fish took his lyrics and used them on his solo albums Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors and Internal Exile.) Then, ex-The Europeans and How We Live singer and keyboardist Steve “H” Hogarth was brought on board. Hogarth brought with him an infamous red bucket full of his own completed musical ideas. In that bucket were bits of what later became “The Space…” and the hit single “Easter”.

With that much music behind them it almost seems inevitable that Seasons End would be a winner. Indeed, since most of the music was written with Fish still in the band, it careens joyfully from progressive, moody tendencies to the brighter moments that Hogarth contributed. The result is possibly the perfect album to introduce a new singer: Just enough like the old band that people can relate, but not a copy. Hogarth himself was night-and-day different from Fish: He didn’t sing songs about getting drunk in a bar, or songs about Scottish freedom.  He had a quieter style as a frontman, and killer vocal range as a singer.

Seasons End starts off with a long moody intro before kicking in with Steve Rothery’s triumphant guitar melodies and Ian Mosely’s perfect drum rolls. From there it becomes slower, but hopeful: Welcome, “The King of Sunset Town”.

“Easter” is next, a near-perfect ballad for 1989. While it begins quite slow, it gets brighter and more upbeat by the time H sings the, “What would you do with the wire and the gun?” section.  Irresistible song.  Lyrically excellent, musically perfect.  I find a lot of ballads wear out over time.  Not “Easter”.

“The Uninvited Guest”, to me, is filler despite its status as a single. There are better songs on the album, and this one is to me just a straightforward standard rock song. The lyrics are interesting — a look at HIV from the virus’ perspective. The lyrics also have a quiet little Scottish reference — look up “first footing” and how heavy 15 stone is, and tell me if you think it’s a shot at Fish.

“Seasons End”, Marillion’s first song about global warming (but not the last) is both lyrically and musically great. I have always enjoyed when they opened shows with this song, prefaced by “O Come Emanuel”.

Side two of the original LP began with a pair of songs I’m not too keen on, the dark “Holloway Girl” and the sax-laden “Berlin”. Some people love both, but I believe these two songs only build the tension.  It is the next song that steals the second side.   “After Me” is a bright one, a song that coulda woulda shoulda been a single.  Its music goes back to the Fish days, but the vocal melody is 100% Hogarth.

Next, “Hooks In You” is a short firecracker of a rocker and very out of character for Marillion. Its simplicity is such that it was chosen as the first single/video. Personally to me is it the most skip-worthy on the album.  It doesn’t have the longevity that the rest of this album possesses.  Whatever magic similar tracks from the past such as “Incommunicado” have, is missing from “Hooks In You”.

Finally the original album closes with “The Space…”, a longer progressive epic. I quite like “The Space…”, always have, and the band still play it live today. In fact it was recently done on their acoustic album Less Is More. Great song with interesting cryptic lyrics.

As on all Marillion remasters, the bonus disc here is loaded with treasures. “The Bell in the Sea” is a B-side and quite possibly the first song that the H-fronted Marillion have done on the subject of water — someone once said that H’s lyrics were all about “death and water”. This song could be the first of many in the water category. Another great B-side, the poppier “Release” (quite similar to “After Me” in direction) is a total winner. The rest of the disc is rounded out by a 12″ mix of “Uninvited Guest” and six demos. One demo is “Uninvited Guest” which means you have to hear this unremarkable song three times.

Personally while I always enjoy getting bonus material on albums like this, I find the demos to be tedious because they are similar to the album tracks in arrangement, but demo quality in fidelity. So, not really something overly interesting to listen to. If you want more remixes and live B-sides, be sure to check out Singles Box Set 89-95 which has them all and then some!

A remarkable reboot for a band that they had written off. The next challenge was to learn to write with the new singer. But that’s another album….

4.5/5 stars

 

39 comments

  1. I think this is a good album. I agree with you on the merits of each song but I find the patchiness too much to award anything over 3/5. I like Berlin a lot but it took hearing a live version for the song to finally make sense to me. I think they made a mistake sequencing it after Holloway Girl. The songs are too similar in mood and it almost sinks the album. I think of this as a promising debut.

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    1. Good point about the sequencing, it could have been done very differently. Or, they could have used those tracks as B-sides and put Release and Bell in the Sea on the album.

      This is definitely one of my favourite Hogarth albums overall. Marbles, Radiation, Seasons End & Brave. Actually I just played Sounds That Can’t Be Made last night and enjoyed it more than ever.

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      1. It’s one of their weakest in my opinion but given the quality of their catalogue I wouldn’t read too much into that. Some of my favourite Marillion songs are on there. I suppose they were trying to figure out their direction post – Fish so fair play.

        Still not heard Sounds… I think I’m kind of over Marillion these days.

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        1. OK so now we’re only apart by 1 point. I’m satisfied.

          Tom and the boys saw Marillion in Kitchener on this tour. He made a display box of his souvenirs from that night — Ian’s drumstick, tickets, autographs, and photos of the guys. They played pool with the band after the show! Tom said, “I couldn’t understand a word Mark Kelly said, so I just kept nodding my head.”

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        2. I got into them later on but I remember seeing photos of him then and thinking “Marillion’s new singer looks like a twat”. I might have tried listening to them sooner if it hadn’t been for those bloody gloves!

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        3. Oh yeah! What was that all about? For a while I thought he’d actually got a really daft tattoo.

          I got into them just as Anoraknophobia came out but the first album I bought was Brave. I’d been intrigued since Radiation and heard songs I’d liked but it took me a while to finally try them out. I already had Fish stuff but that just seemed like a different band altogether…

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        4. I thought it was a daft tattoo as well, I was relieved to read on the website it was just paint. I guess if you’re bald and you miss having hair to style, face paint, works?

          It worked for that guy with the tree on his face on Jon’s site.

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  2. Seeing The Space live blew my mind… Saw them in 5 different venues for that tour… Stages (Kitchener)… Highlands (Cambridge)… Diamond Club (TO) King
    swood (Wonderland) and Kiplings (London)

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    1. Stages was where all those guys met them … I didnt meet them. I left with Jacob Moon that night. I saw 3 of those 5 shows….Kingswood .. Highlands .. Stages. For the Highlands show Jacob Moon and i purchased cucumbers and brought them to the show for Garden Party. When the show was done a drunk Cam Crossley showed his appreciation for the show being over and grabbed the cucumber out of my hand and whipped it at Moselys drum kit .. Yep …that happened….

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        1. That’s so awesome. I know Mrs. LeBrain also has some kind of history with Jacob Moon. She met him initially at a church, and she had his CDs long before we met.

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  3. These videos aren’t available in my country. What the hell? I can watch all the Avril Lavigne videos I want but can’t check out this band you recommend? Damn Youtube!

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  4. Really good review Mike.

    I wasn’t impressed with ‘Hooks In You’ when I bought it before the LP came out and it took me a while to buy the album. Partly because I felt a bit disloyal to Fish by buying it too – seems daft now, but there you go!

    I don’t own a copy anymore but I loved ‘Easter’, ‘Seasons End’ and ‘King of Sunset Town’. I really liked the artwork to, as you say a fresh start for a new band.

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    1. One cool thing in the CD is a commentary by the guy who did the artwork for this and the accompanying singles. Really interesting how the bits were added in. Usually cutting with a blade, actual bits of album covers and placing them in! The Jester’s sleeve bell for example, the clown picture in the water. For the remastered CD, they gave the clown picture a shadow in the water.

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  5. Pretty close to a perfect record is Seasons End (not sure why I wrote that in quasi-Yoda verse), and I agree with pretty much everything you wrote (although I really like “The Uninvited Guest”). It took several listens when it first came out for me to latch on to the new Marillion (and Hogarth’s voice), having been a pretty big…if not yet obsessive…Marillion fan since ’85, but after the 3rd or 4th spin it hit me and I probably consider myself more of a Hogarth-era fan now. For me this album comes down to “The Space,” a majestic tour-de-force for Hogarth. They did a phenomenal version of it when I saw them on the Holidays In Eden tour in New York.

    Seasons End is one of 3 or 4 post-Fish albums I would choose to recommend to a Marillion newbie. Can you guess what my other choices would be?

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    1. Kamer i seem to resonate toward your opinions . I am someone who saw Mariillion (with Jacob Moon.. who is who got me into the band) .. on the Clutching at Straws tour and has not easily slid into the Hogarth era. Seasons End is a complete exception. I realize the depth and briilliance of Brave … but still i believe the only complete Hogarth album is Seasons End. I am sure this opinion is bathed in my preference for more progressive tones in my music … but thats just the way it is. Easter is a treat .. i find the uninvited guest to be a treat as well. I very much agree with LeBrain that After Me is something very special .. A perfect storm of post- Fish Mariillion …

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      1. A perfect storm indeed, Uncle Meat. I’m a huge fan of progressive music from all eras, and Marillion was certainly at the top of that genre during the ’80s. I completely understand why a lot of fans never really embraced the Hogarth era, but his voice & songwriting are right in my musical wheelhouse. I’m probably as big a fan of melodic pop/rock, as well as quirky artists like XTC, 10cc, Adrian Belew (who straddle the lines of prog & straight-ahead rock), which probably explains why I’m just as passionate about both eras of Marillion. It also explains why I have a ridiculous ever-growing music collection that constantly has my wife shaking her head (yet she’s already pre-ordered the three Zeppelin box sets for me, since they’re coming out a few days before my birthday).

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        1. oh it has nothing but positive conontations .. believe me .. i love the Little River Band .. my dad used to play Reminiscing and Lady all the time when i was very young and i love those songs to this day .. Also .. a band called Ambrosia did a song called You’re the Biggest Part of Me .. which to me defines 70s cheese rock to me in a way that….. that song is one of my favorite songs of all time

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        2. I’m a HUGE Ambrosia fan. They were a rare band that had mellow pop hits on the same albums that contained brilliant progressive music.

          As for your dad playing you “Reminiscing” and “Lady,” how young are you? I was a pre-teen & teenager when those songs were released.

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  6. This is why i am such a sucker for Paul McCartney … and Band on the Run is my favorite song of all time … I may have a Metal heart .. but melody is king.. Period ….

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  7. They wouldnt let me comment on your actual post .. but i love that you can appreciate Ambrosia ….. i am 44 .. Sleeper Catcher … with them playing poker on the album cover … constanly playing.

    great album … but yes that Ambrosia song has a huge place in my heart as what i truly love musically … such an interesting branch for a Metal and Prog guy as myself .. But from your reaction it sounds like there is a prog side of Ambrosia that i have not been privy to?

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  8. I only just recently heard this band thank to you (that Crash Course CD) and I liked what I heard. I’m gonna take your word for it, on all of this. I’m not anywhere near the point of being able to comment on individual albums. Yet.

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