REVIEW: Marillion – With Friends From the Orchestra (2019 2 LP set)

MARILLION – With Friends From the Orchestra (2019 2 LP set)

Marillion have released so much product at this point that it takes quite a lot to get me excited these days.  Whether it be live records, new albums, reissues, or re-imaginings of old songs, the last decade produced dozens.  Though the concept of With Friends From the Orchestra (new versions of old songs re-recorded with orchestra) left me cold, the finished product is surprisingly stunning.

The songs chosen are a mix of Hogarth hits and epics.  Each one is supplemented with a fully-integrated orchestra, upping the “wow” factor considerably.  Tracks like “Beyond You” have gone to a new level.  Previously mixed in mono (for that Phil Spector “wall of sound”) on Afraid of Sunlight, the explosive new version is three-dimensional.  Tracks that sounded incomplete, perhaps, in their original studio versions now seem fully fleshed out.  “Estonia” is a song that always needed some more vitality.  Elements that you didn’t realize were missing are now in their proper places.

The track selection is unexpected.  “A Collection” is an acoustic B-side, albeit one that gets periodic attention.  There are also a couple long-bombers.  “Ocean Cloud” is a side long epic, while “This Strange Engine” is twice as vivid as before.  As for “Seasons End”, it’s possible that 30 years later, the boys have finally laid down the definitive version.

Marillion With Friends From the Orchestra isn’t an easy album to categorize, but what it delivers are the most iridescent versions of these nine songs.  They’re not the most recognizable songs, but when you hear the end result you’ll recognize they were wise choices.

5/5 stars

 

9 comments

  1. Good to hear this is so good. A lot of the time, they just take the song and throw some orchestration behind it, but it sounds like they took their time and really did fix these to fit an orchestra. Good on them for making the effort.

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  2. You cannot fault them for having such a strong work ethic that’s for sure. But as you wrote when you collect it all it could bore you after a while but great to see you digging on this one. Especially since you are a huge fan. These guys should fly over for some V.I.P treatment!
    You are the Canadian Marillion!
    Flying the Prog Rock flag high in their honor!

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      1. I move in the highest circles Mike, my friends are all internationally successful financiers, social media influencers and jetsetters.

        Oh, okay I admit they’re all scuzzballs, freakonauts and wasteoids who spend all their time tripping off their tits on industrial cleaning products.

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