The second Marillion Christmas CD was sent out the year of marillion.com, a pretty good if misunderstood experimental studio album. Marillion began to incorporate elements such as dub and loops. They were also getting the hang of this special fanclub Christmas CD idea. Where the first was a mixed bag, the second is one of the their best.
Opening with a hauntingly beautiful “Gabriel’s Message”, the mood is set. Steve Hogarth’s enviable golden pipes are front and center. Heavier instrumentation begins to ebb and flow halfway through, and a cool carol is ended. If you think Trans-Siberian Orchestra is cool, you’re going to love this. It’s better.
Let the rarities commence, with the single edit of “The Answering Machine” from Radiation, unavailable on commercial CD. Still an enjoyable song, with its cacophony of noise and keyboards lending it a unique progressive flavour. The next two songs are real treats. “Interior Lulu” and “Tumble Down the Years” were both recorded for Radiation, but held back for marillion.com because they didn’t quite fit. For the first time, the Radiation mixes are included here. (Not for the last time, as Marillion soon issued extensive “making of” albums for their later catalogue.) If Radiation had included them, it would have been a far more mellow album. Both tracks are quite different from the final versions. “Tumble Down the Years” has a more rock and roll vibe.
Up next, a “Technopop Remix” of “Memory of Water”, a runner up for the “Big Beat Mix” that went out for CD singles and bonus tracks. It’s not as iconic, and never really sounds like Marillion the way the “Big Beat Mix” does, and it’s far too long (10:02). There are then three acoustic tracks: “Abraham, Martin and John”, “Runaway” and “Estonia” originally done for a cancelled French EP. You can find acoustic versions from this period on the album Live From the Walls, but these ones sound properly recorded in a studio. “Abraham, Martin and John” is so good it will bring tears to your eyes. An absolute treasure.
Hey remember on the 1998 CD, when Marillion included some instrumental “Karaoke” versions for a contest? One of the winners is on this CD, the Cradley Primary School’s lovely version of “Beautiful” (the Dave Meegan mix). They must have had some cool teachers at that primary school! It’s pretty cool hearing the kids singing those words.
Heaven only knows that we live in a world,
Where what we call beautiful is just something on sale.
People laughing behind their hands,
While the fragile and the sensitive are given no chance.
Finally, the annual Christmas message from the band is placed at the end of the CD instead of the start. They’re not as goofy (or drunk) on this instalment, as they run through the tracks and wish us all a Happy Christmas. Thanks, guys!
- Happy Christmas Everybody! (1998 – Webfree 1)
- marillion.christmas (1999 – Webfree 2)
- A Piss-Up in a Brewery (2000 – Webfree 3)
- A Very Barry Christmas (2001 – Webfree 4)
- Santa and His Elvis (2002 – Webfree 5)
- Say Cheese! Christmas With Marillion (2003 – Webfree 6)
- Baubles (2004 – Webfree 7)
- Merry Xmas to Our Flock (2005 – Webfree 8)
- The Jingle Book (2006 – Webfree 9)
- Somewhere Elf (2007 – Webfree 10)
- Pudding on the Ritz (2008 – Webfree 11)
- Chile for the Time of Year (2014 – Webfree 17)
- A Collection of Recycled Gifts (2014 – Compilation with new Christmas material)
- Christmas Tour 2014 – Live at the Forum (2014 Abbey Road “instant live”)
- A Monstrously Festive(al) Christmas (2015 – Webfree 18)