REVIEW: Marillion – Chile for the Time of Year (2014)

MARILLION – Chile for the Time of Year (2014 Racket Records)

The first Marillion Christmas CD release since 2008’s Pudding on the Ritz doubled down!  It was an unusual but special treat:  a full-on double live album.

Recorded May 16 2014 in Santiago Chile, it has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, except that it was that year’s fanclub gift to the fans.  With that in mind, it could be their Christmas release with the widest appeal.  No carols here for the Grinches and Scrooges to complain about.  Just two CDs of progressive music from the Sounds that Can’t Be Made era.

It was the final date on Marillion’s Latin American tour, and it sounds as if they pulled out all the stops.  “Gaza”, a cinematic 20 minutes of swirling rock, is a hell of a way to open such a show.  Bass runs, samples and guitars coagulate into a mass of music, breathtaking in construction.  That’s a lot to digest, and so an easier pill to swallow follows.  “Easter” (wrong occasion, lads!) is one of Marillion’s best known hits, liquid and energizing.  It and the ballad “Beautiful” each serve to refresh your ears and prepare them for bigger musical challenges ahead.

“This is a song about, and called…’Power'” whispers Steve “H” Hogarth just before another weighty progression.  The dancey “You’re Gone” lightens the mood again, as the band wisely don’t let things stay in one groove for too long.  “You’re Gone” was a charting single for the band, but as far as accessible pop rock goes, I think they have better tunes in the pocket.  Like “No One Can”, or “Cover My Eyes” elsewhere on the album.  These longstanding classics from Holidays In Eden have aged well, though the high notes on “Cover My Eyes” have to be supported by the audience.

“Man of a Thousand Faces” is always an interesting song, coming from Marillion’s acoustic “Hootie” phase (as Tom Morwood calls it).  It’s adds variety to the concert setting, and is certainly as dramatic as Marillion before and since.  But it’s the first song from the Fish era that really stirs the soul.  “Warm Wet Circles/That Time of the Night” is a song Hogarth has always done well.  As the years passed, he became more comfortable with the Fish songs, and that is audible.

Plenty more early songs follow on the second disc, making this live album a really fine sampler.  “Uninvited Guest” and “Hooks In You” from Seasons End were both popular singles in their time, and some diehards love when they resurface in the set.  Others think Marillion has better material these days.  Neither song was on 2012’s Sounds Live, a much more serious and less upbeat listening experience overall.

Once “Hooks in You” has crashed its final chord, the balance of the album is made of epics and old Fish classics.  “Ocean Cloud” and “Neverland” (16 and 10 minutes long respectively) are the epics, both slowly pulsing with vivid life.  The way each twists and turns makes neither a bore.  “Neverland” is the album closer in fact, ending it in dramatic fashion.

Before we get there, Marillion lay down four Fish classics in a row:  The timeless trio of “Kayleigh” – “Lavender” – “Heart of Lothian”, and the poignant ballad “Sugar Mice”.  All singles, all tracks forever linked to Fish.  But Steve is the Marillion singer now, and he’s been singing those songs almost as long as Fish himself.  His versions have their own quirks and personalities, and we live in a world where they can all coexist with Fish’s.

I love when Hogarth says, “We dedicate this song to all the Kayleighs in the audience!  There’s bound to be a couple!”  Indeed, they’d be in their 30s today.

Merry Christmas Marillion and thanks for the CD.  For those who hate Christmas music, this is the one for you!  In fact, as a pure live Marillion album, it’s better than most (and they have a lot)!

4.5/5 stars

 

22 comments

  1. Ashamed to admit that it took me until just now to realize that this was the band that did the “Misplaced Childhood” album. Until this point, I thought they were some C-grade ’90s band I’d never heard of based on their terrible Christmas album covers from around that period (definitely not their music, of which I listened to none while you were reviewing, or else I would have figured out who they really were a lot sooner). Wow, this is a total mind-blower. I didn’t even know these guys still existed, but I am an American, so to us, it’s basically like they never did in the first place.

    When you commented yesterday that they were so unpopular that your views were getting cut in half, I wasn’t surprised because I thought this band was obscure. Now I am surprised that more people don’t care about Marillion. “Kayleigh” was a pretty big hit in England. Not at all here in the States though, where it was their only song to chart, and it peaked at 74. Ouch.

    And for the record, I’d didn’t even know “Kayleigh”. I just saw it in the review and thought it was slang for something, and not a name, so I searched it just to be informed, then saw it was a song from that album. Just goes to show how popular they are here I guess. The only reason I know them at all is that album cover for “Misplaced Childhood”. I’ve heard that record before, but I don’t think I remember any of it. Poop. Maybe I should check these guys out?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Still haven’t cracked the code for h area Marillion. Have tried and own a few cds but I can’t seem to able to listen to any of them all the way through. Nice to see/read your passion them.

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    1. That’s a full time job – I can see them workshopping Xmas puns for months on end in a rented rehearsal space somewhere. I bet the title is the sole reason they went to Chile in the first place.

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  2. This sounds like a really good fan gift. Much better than a bunch of novelties.

    Fish is doing another farewell tour next year! It’s only about 10 months since I saw him on his final tour!

    Liked by 1 person

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