REVIEW: Marillion and the Positive Light – Tales From the Engine Room (1998)

TALES FROM THE ENGINE ROOM_0001MARILLION and the POSITIVE LIGHT – Tales From the Engine Room (1998 Big Eye)

Remix projects: Often dicey, usually over-indulgent cash-grabs. I always give Marillion the benefit of the doubt where integrity is concerned. In the liner notes, singer Steve “H” Hogarth says that the art of the remix at its best is to produce a cerebral trip, and I think that was the aim here. He refers to this as a “reconstruction” and that sounds about right.

Having just completed the This Strange Engine album, Marillion handed over the master tapes to The Positive Light (Marc Mitchell and Mark Daghorn) for creative reconstruction. The duo had impressed them with some early work on “Estonia” so they decided to go all-in. That track is the first on the CD, Tales From the Engine Room. It’s a swirly, heavenly version but not a drastic departure. Hogarth’s vocal isn’t chopped to bits, the melodies remain the same, and the overall structure is unchanged. It is as if the body of the song were played by Jean Michel Jarre instead of Marillion.

“Estonia” folds neatly into “The Memory of Water”. This experiment turns the song into a light dance number. It’s not nearly as great as the pounding “Big Beat Mix” on the Radiat10n CD.  This version just kind of circles around without going anywhere.  It’s always risky, extending a three minute song to almost ten!  Sorry Positive Light, I have to give you a D on “The Memory of Water”.

TALES FROM THE ENGINE ROOM_0002If you like long bombers then you’ll love “This Strange Engine”, all 20+ minutes of it!  That’s not too much of a stretch, since the original is over 15.  Of this one, Hogarth says, “[it] reduced me to tears.  I would advise you to listen to it on a Walkman whilst walking through the town on a Saturday afternoon.  It makes everyone move in slow motion!”  While it is cool, it has never given me that exact effect.  It really starts to swell into dramatic waves when it gets into that “tall tales of Montego Bay,” section.  A solidly trippy remix.

Onto “One Fine Day”, which was never one of the strongest tracks.  With the Positive Light, it acquires a trippy jazzy slant.  I don’t know what “Face 1004” is, except perhaps a Positive Light original?  It bears no resemblance to the fine Marillion song “Man of 1000 Faces”, but it’s a beat-heavy dance track much in the style of the rest of this CD.

The original CD ended with track 5; reissues also contain “80 Days”.  Since there’s no point in buying an incomplete version, you may as well look for the reissue.  “80 Days” is far removed from its jaunty, celtic origins.  Now replete with electronic beats and tribal singing, it is still a celebration of touring the world.

Tales From the Engine Room turned out to be an apt title for a successful experiment.  The Positive Light took the songs down to their cores without losing what made them the songs that they are.  They re-presented the tunes in a new way, in a different genre.  While this is far from an essential purchase, it will be appreciated by fans of latter-day Marillion.

3/5 stars


      1. Limp Bizkit have a remix album called New Old Songs that is really bad. Linkin Park too. Fear Factory (who arent Nu Metal per sae) had two. Most Nu Metal bands did dance music remixes as bsides too. Never been a fan, whole albums or single tracks.

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  1. I was never that fussed about this but it’s ok. 3/5 is about right. I’ve never listened to it all that often but it is more enjoyable on headphones when you’re out and about. So I kind of got where Hogarth was coming from… but it has never reduced me to tears! I quite liked when Fish went all trippy hoppy with Raingods With Zippos. That worked really well.

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    1. The connection between this and “Raingods with Zippos” is Mark Daghorn (one half of The Positive Light), who asked Fish for a contribution, which turned into a part of Fish’s own album.

      Face 1004 uses a few samples from “Man of a Thousand Faces” but I agree, it bears no real resemblance. It was apparently called “Face 1004” because it was the fourth attempt at doing something with the song!

      In case you’re wondering about all these comments… I’m currently helming the Marillion ABA thread on the Steve Hoffman forums, and finding your blog was quite a nice side-effect of this!

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  2. I’ve always found remix albums to be hit or miss. I like a few from NIN and Fear Factory, but other than that I’ve always stayed away.
    I think Linkin Park have more remix albums than original albums.

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  3. You know, actually this sounds pretty cool! I like a band as prolific as Marillion taking their stuff and reimagining it. As long as it isn’t regret about the originals, like ‘hey this is what we really meant!’ I prefer ‘hey, here’s some more ideas we had!’ Also, I would hope this is a pleasant diversion, not bogging down instead of making new music!

    Remix albums can indeed be dicey. A few other good ones that come to mind are Bjork’s Telegram, K-OS’ It’s Yours (fan remixes), NIN (as Zack mentioned), and Massive Attack & Mad Professor’s No Protection. There are others, but those are good places to start!

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    1. I think Mark are pregnant fearless musically. They’ve not been shy about remixes and letting other artists take their songs and re-imagine them. I reviewed a 2CD set a while ago called Remixomatosis….or at least I think I did. Did I? Maybe I just reviewed the single.


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