#412: Just for the record, I’m gonna put it down

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#412: Just for the record, I’m gonna put it down

By special request of Aaron at the KMA.

Marillion have 16 studio albums: Four with original poet and singer Fish, and 12 (going on 13) with Steve “H” Hogarth. (I’m not counting the album of acoustic versions called  Less Is More.) Like any band who have had more than one beloved singer, it is very difficult to try to arrange their albums in any sort of rated order. How can you compare an album like Brave to Fugazi? They are nothing alike. They share similar DNA, and the ambition to play intelligent rock music, but to say one is better than the other? I wouldn’t want to do that.

But I must. This was a request. I have to oblige.

Starting from the bottom, here are Marillion’s studio albums from weak to strong.

SOMEWHERE ELSE16. Somewhere Else (2007). Following an album like Marbles (2004) is damn near impossible. Somewhere Else has never completely clicked with me and it remains foggy in my memory.  Incidentally, the vinyl version has three live bonus tracks and a slightly shuffled song order, as well as a warm sound that benefits the listening experience.

 

HAPPINESS ESSENCEHAPPINESS HARD SHOULDER15. Happiness is the Road (2008). Consisting of a massive eight sides of vinyl (!), Happiness is the Road is broken into two albums: Essence, and The Hard Shoulder. While both discs contain memorable songs such as “This Train is My Life”, the set is too sprawling and slow to be enjoyed frequently.  (The vinyl version contains bonus live tracks from the album Happiness is Cologne.)

 

DOT COM14. marillion.com (1999). I love that the band were digging into trip-hop and writing catchy poppy songs, but as a whole the album doesn’t rank higher than…

 

HOLIDAYS13. Holidays in Eden (1991). Some like it, some consider it too commercial. I fall into the second category.

 

THIS STRANGE12. This Strange Engine (1997). I still like this mostly acoustic album (I own three copies), but it’s a departure. Iron Tom Sharpe calls this “the one that sounds like Hootie and the Blowfish”. It retains progressive moments but also stretches out into celtic folky sounds and tropical celebrations.

 

ANORAKNOPHOBIA11. Anoraknophobia (2001). A decent album, a bit long winded but a progression over 1999’s marillion.com

 

SOUNDS10. Sounds That Can’t Be Made (2012). I think Marillion really grabbed this album by the balls. It’s fearless.

 

AFRAID9. Afraid of Sunlight (1996). This middle grouping of albums on the list are really so close it’s meaningless. It’s splitting hairs to put them in a meaningful order. Afraid of Sunlight scores high due to the excellent title track.

 

BRAVE8. Brave (1994). This is where Marillion-with-Hogarth really came into their own. It is still one of the most ambitious Marillion albums and an emotional roller coaster of a concept record.  There’s also a heavy 10 minute jam released as a B-side called “Marouette Jam” that necessitates buying of the remastered 2 CD edition.

 

SEASONS7. Seasons End (1989). The most difficult album of a career is gonna be the first album with the new singer. By retaining their classic sound with a few new twists and a new charismatic frontman, Marillion successfully rode through the transition.

 

RADIAT10N6. Radiation (1998). I love this noisy reject of an album. It’s brilliant.

 

SCRIPT5. Script For a Jester’s Tear (1983). Fish finally makes his first appearance on this list with the very first Marillion album. Genius poetry but complicated tunes make this one a jagged-edged favourite.

 

MARBLES4. Marbles (2004). Marillion’s first double CD studio album, never wearing out its welcome. Like Brave, but grilled to perfection and with all the accouterments.

 

FUGAZI3. Fugazi (1984). Fugazi is not an easy album to get into, with a pugnaciously opaque second side. The first side is pure genius.

 

MISPLACED2. Misplaced Childhood (1985). The record company shit their pants when they heard that Marillion were doing a concept album for their third record. The band had written two 20+ minute pieces of music tentatively titled “side one” and “side two”. After honing it live, they unleashed Misplaced Childhood to the stunned masses.

 

CLUTCHING1. Clutching At Straws (1987). It not difficult to put Clutching at Straws as #1. It is one of Marillion’s most beloved, and Fish’s favourite. The dark poetry and sharp songwriting makes it a timeless perennial favourite, never stale, and always revealing new facets to its personality. An utter classic.

 


 

THIEVING BSIDESMarillion have numerous live albums (I lost count but well over 50 or 60) and greatest hits with exclusive material to boot. Ranking those is all but meaningless. Having said that, one essential purchase for a serious Marillion fan is their first double live, The Thieving Magpie (1988). This epic contains a full performance of Misplaced Childhood, as well as non-album cuts like “Freaks”. Another great record to own is B’Sides Themselves (also 1988), containing some of Marillion’s most memorable B-sides.  These include the 18 minute epic “Grendel”, and more concise classics such as “Tux On” and “Market Square Heroes”.

Dig into some Marillion and see what the frak you’ve been missing!

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30 comments

  1. I love lists!! This is cool. I don’t 100% agree but that’s inevitable with these kind of things! What it does make me realise is how strong Marillion’s back catalogue is. I love Marillion.com for instance but I can’t argue with where you’ve put it at all. I’d have been forced to put it down there too but it’s still a great album.

    I agree on the bottom two as well but I’d have swapped them around. And because I didn’t like those I never bothered with Sounds but, after reading this, maybe I should have… hmmm…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hate lists!

      I thought Sounds was the best album since Marbles. It’s very dense even though it’s only one CD.

      Actually Marbles got a bit of play on the weekend at Sausagefest. I heard Genie playing. And Grendel!

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        1. I think they had a hard time there for a while with record labels and whatnot but all the albums from Brave to Marbles were great I thought. I think they did start experimenting more with their style through that period so I think that might have seemed like inconsistency to some people.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I think This Strange Engine definitely threw people for a loop. They must have assumed Marillion abandoned their sound. To follow it with Radiation and .com must have really confused it more.

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  2. You’re a good man, Lebrain. You made the list even though you hate em! [And that’s the commitment Mike has for his readers, folks, solid gold right there!]

    I dig that you put quick comments for each one, too. Way more informative than me just listing the Stones and that was it!

    I’ll admit that my request was based on two things: 1) curiosity: knowing you’re a huge fan, where would you put their records in order? 2) purely selfish. Being essentially a Marillion noob (I have that comp you sent me, and Misplaced Childhood which was awesome), now I can use this as a shopping list!

    Thanks for being a good sport!

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    1. You’re getting two lists for the price of one, dude! I’ve got a second list that I’m going to try and post tomorrow to follow this one. Don’t buy any Marillion yet based on this list — wait until I get the second one up! Cheers man!

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  3. I just replied on the wrong post before …

    I think B-Sides is one of their very best LPs, some real genius tracks on there – Cinderella Search is pretty much my fave ever track by them.

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Smashin’ stuff. I’ve often wondered where to start with this stuff, though I’m very familiar with the cover of Misplaced Childhood and have picked that up a few times. Actually quite interesting to see the difference in tone with the cover art after Fish left too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well that’s a really good point I’m glad you brought up J.

      The cover for Seasons End was supposed to transitional, between the paintings and the new photographic style they were going for. So on Seasons End they used a photographic cover, but with “clues” from past albums.

      The clown face is taken from the Fugazi album — actually cut and paste from it, with a knife and glue. Same with the jester’s cap. The chameleon and the magpie are symbols Marillion used on their past covers.

      They then changed their logo going forward and pretty much went strictly photographic. I thought it was a brilliant transition.

      Fish took artist Mark Wilkinson with him, so they had to do SOMETHING…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Interesting – cheers, Mike. I think I shall start my Marillion listening with the Fish stuff (aside from being the pick of the bunch it seems, the covers are the big draw to those albums – very striking).

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    1. You know that not from the liner notes, but from the coffee you shared two weeks ago.

      I know he was so disappointed with the cover art though. Funny enough it never bothered me. When I read his liner notes I realized that their vision was much grander than the final product.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. YES, this is why you MUST buy the 2 CD deluxe of Clutching. Seriously dude. Seriously.

          Do you know what the bonus disc is on Clutching? ALL THE FREAKING SONGS FROM SEASONS END, BUT WITH THE WORDS FROM VIGIL! Incredible!

          Liked by 1 person

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