REVIEW: Marillion – Six of One, Half-Dozen of the Other (A Singles Collection)

Wish me luck in the Minds in Motion walk today!

This is the second of two Marillion reviews this weekend. For the first, Seasons End, click here.

MARILLION – Six of One, Half-Dozen of the Other (1992 US), A Singles Collection (1992 UK)

After the mediocre pop sounds of Holidays in Eden, Marillion were about to embark on a far more interesting journey. But not before issuing the standard greatest hits CD with two new songs attached. Marillion had released a compilation of B-sides before (B’Sides Themselves) but never a collection of A-sides. As the title implies, you get six singles with original vocalist Fish, and a half dozen with his replacement Steve “H” Hogarth. Then in addition to these 12, there are two new songs: A Rare Bird cover called “Sympathy” (an excellent dramatic piece) and a forgettable pop song called “I Walk Walk On Water”, easily the weakest song on the album.

While there are two much more complete compilations out today (Best Of, The Best of Both Worlds), I still enjoy listening to Six of One, Half-Dozen of the Other from time to time. Not too often, though.  It is a bit awkward, as they insisted on shuffling one Fish song after each Hogarth song.  Remember when Van Halen attempted that?  It didn’t work for them either.  It doesn’t flow. Really, old and new Marillion were like two completely different bands and you can’t just from “Garden Party” to “No One Can”. It doesn’t work no matter what universe you inhabit.

However, the tunes themselves are awesome, and you get most of the singles. Three are missing: “Market Square Heroes”, “He Knows You Know”, and “Punch and Judy”. However you do get all the Hogarth singles up to the time, and the most well-known and commercial of the Fish ones. Most of these tunes are really strong and would make it to my own car tape (just in a different running order). Others (“The Univited Guest”, “Hooks In You”, “No One Can”) would not. Swipe those three out for the three Fish singles I mentioned and you’d have a damn good comp. However, it would be lopsided towards Fish and obviously Marillion weren’t going to do that.

At this point Marillion were skirting dangerously close to being a pop rock band. The singles from Holidays in Eden are decidedly straightforward and geared towards 1992’s radio tendencies. “I Will Walk On Water” is hardly any better. Unbelievably, the band soon turned in the immortal album Brave which is so deep, so rich, so emotional, that I don’t even know how I’m going to review it. The music can change your life, if you let it.

In the meantime, if you want a sampler of Marillion’s most commercial moments, pick this up. However for a better overview, pick up one of the other comps I suggested. (Of note to collectors, the version of “I Will Walk On Water” released here is hard to find elsewhere, and there are some other single edits, remixes and whatnot included. The liner notes are also excellent.)

3/5 stars

 

9 comments

  1. A very fair review of a good compilation that probably would have been stronger had they sequenced it chronologically instead of doing the back-and-forth thing between Fish & Hogarth. It worked as a great introduction to Marillion for my wife, who had never heard them before we met. To her the constant switching between singers didn’t make a difference. I haven’t played it in years, although I should at least give the two exclusive tracks a revisit one of these days. I remember them being very good if not amazing.

    Also, I disagree with your assessment of Holidays In Eden as “mediocre pop sounds.” They certainly courted the charts a bit more, but I liked that they went a little more straightforward since they were never going to adequately follow-up the amazing Seasons End with more of the same. I don’t love everything on that album, and it certainly pales a bit in comparison to the albums that bookend it, but it’s still a more than solid collection and Hogarth really made his presence felt.

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    1. Yeah, I’ve been harsh on Holidays in the past for sure. I acknowledge that. I definitely feel that of the first 5 or 6 Hogarth albums, it’s the weakest. At least, it’s my least favourite of that period.

      There’s no question that’s where Hogarth made his presence seriously felt though. Absolutely true. By the time of Brave they were totally gelled already.

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  2. I remember when Halen did that singer-swap track listing and it was ass. Dumb idea. I did like what Pearl Jam did with theirs, two discs, one of the fast stuff, the other of the slow stuff. Nice! Anyway, after reading this, I would skip this collection and go for one of the others you mentioned. I want to get into this band and wouldn’t know where to start, so a good singles comp just might do the trick. I’ll have to look into how much the Crash Course varies from these sets.

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    1. Personally I think you might be better off getting studio albums. It’s hard to take a band like Marillion and listen to selected tracks, because they don’t record songs, they record albums. Having said that, they have so many great singles it’s win/win.

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