Marillion have always been a fan-friendly band, offering up special rarities for the most dedicated. In 1998, fan club members received the very first Marillion Christmas CD. It’s one of the least satisfying of what turned out to be a long-running proposition, but since it was the first, we’ll let it slide. At just 30 minutes, Happy Christmas Everybody is also the shortest. Most of the music consists of “Karaoke mixes” for a contest they were running. Record your own vocals, send it in, and win!
The first-ever “Christmas Message” track from Marillion explains the origin of the CD, as the guys crack up themselves in the background. This is mixed into “The Christmas Song”, a festive version of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” by Marillion. (A standalone song would have been better.)
Exciting at the time, the next tracks are excerpts from the next Marillion album, marillion.com. Hey, it was 1998, what are you going to do? Jethro Tull had an album called J-tull.com. Regardless of the title, this CD had sneak previews of “Interior Lulu” (two snippets) and “Tumble Down the Years” from the next album. The mixes are not the final ones from the album, which is interesting to fans, but they’re so damn short. They’re also samples of very mellow sections of songs, which may (or may not) have given false impressions of the new album.
The four Karaoke mixes are all but full length, with one done by Marillion producer Dave Meegan himself. The instructions are so quaint. “We’re inviting you all to make tapes!” Tapes! Just mail them in! It’s a little odd to hear landmark pop rockers like “Cover My Eyes” without the massive hook of the lead vocals! All you get for vocals are some backing tracks on the chorus. Fabulous drums on that track, by the way Mr. Mosley. “No One Can” is cool because you can hear the backup instrumentation a lot more without the syrupy singing. “Beautiful” is the one by Dave Meegan, and as such it’s the most listenable. He mixed in new elements, making it more like an interesting instrumental arrangement. The more recent “These Chains” is probably the least appealing of the Karaoke songs due to its minimalist approach.
We’ll cut Marillion some slack. It was the early days, their first Christmas CD, and the exclusive mixes are appreciated even if the album previews are not. There aren’t any really usable Christmas songs on this album, a problem they’d fix next time out.