A Collection of Recycled Gifts

#800: It’s Beginning to Look Like Marillion Christmas

GETTING MORE TALE #800:
It’s Beginning to Look Like Marillion Christmas

Immediate apologies to probably a large percentage of readers.  There are two kinds of people:  those who like Christmas music, and those who do not.  Those in the “not” category will probably be dropping in droves this December, as I announce the latest review series here at mikeladano.com.

It’s an interesting matter of fact, but Marillion have a total 15 Christmas themed albums.  That’s an incredibly large number!  Most were only available (for free) to fans of the Marillion Web fan club.  Over the last few Christmases, I’ve reviewed a number of them (linked below).  In 2019, I finally acquired the only two I had been missing.  I didn’t get into Marillion early enough to get the first two, but I was on board by the third.  Now, two decades later, I decided to bite the bullet and pay Discogs prices, which were not all that bad ($30 US each).  And now I have them all!

For a short while, Marillion switched from releasing Christmas albums to Christmas DVDs, which I do not collect.  In 2014, CDs resumed for a short additional run.

  • 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)

Now that I actually have them all, I’d like to get them all reviewed too.  After all, I can really only do that kind of thing once a year — in December.  Starting with Webfree 1, I’m going to work my way down the list.  And if this doesn’t interest you at all, that’s cool.  I get it.  That’s the thing about personal projects.  This is more about me than you, I’m afraid.  But there’s plenty of reason for you to stick around, too.  Many of these Marillion “Christmas” albums have minimal Christmas content.  Chile for the Time of Year? That’s just, flat-out, a double live album.  It was recorded in May!  It boasts some of Marillion’s best known songs (“Kayleigh”, “Easter”, “Cover My Eyes”), and also a number of key later progressive epics (“Gaza”, “Ocean Cloud”, “Neverland”).  If it were not one of their annual Christmas fanclub freebies, it would fit in any other time.

If you’re a diehard, or just remotely curious about Marillion, I’ve done my best to write for both of you.  These CDs are going to expose to you to variety of Marillion songs.  Hits, deep cuts, and stuff you never heard of before.  And you won’t find a series this detailed anywhere else.

As I buckle in for what looks to be a chilly season, I wish you all the very Merriest of Christmases.  It matters not if you celebrate it.  As the world pauses together this season, I hope you have nothing but warmth and happiness in your life.  Perhaps a hot drinky-poo or a pipe by the fire is all you desire.  Might I recommend a Marillion Christmas to nail the vibe just right?

REVIEW: Marillion – A Collection of Recycled Gifts (2014)

NEW RELEASE

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It has been a Very Marillion Christmas this year at mikeladano.com.  We’ve already taken a detailed look at three of their prior Christmas albums, all fan club-only releases.  They were:

2001: A Very Barry Christmas
2002: Santa and his Elvis
2007: Somewhere Elf

Marillion stopped making Christmas albums in 2009, instead releasing Christmas DVDs.  This year, however, the band has released A Collection of Recycled Gifts (Happy Christmas from Marillion).  This collection compiles all of their Christmas songs, a period from 1999-present, all of them long out of print.  It’s important to note that not all of Marillion’s Christmas releases had Christmas songs on them.  The first, 1998’s Happy Christmas Everybody!, had only a Christmas message with a CD of new song previews and karaoke mixes.  2001’s A Piss-up in a Brewery was a special live acoustic performance with no Christmas songs, and was later reissued as its own standalone concert DVD.  So those releases aside, A Collection of Recycled Gifts contains a song from each Christmas CD, along with some that are new to CD, and one that is brand new, period.  A brilliant gift to the fans.

Brand new is Marillion’s cover of “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”, a John Lennon classic that very few can cover without sounding like douchebags.  Marilllion seldom sound like douchebags, and this version featuring the backing vocals of the band’s kids works without a hitch.  It’s rich and warm like a good cup of hot chocolate on a snowy Christmas night.  “War is over, if you want it.”  I’ll drink to that.  I’d like that.

All the way from 1999’s marillion.christmas is the carol “Gabriel’s Message”.  The interesting thing about a CD of this nature, that spans a decade and a half of recordings, is that you end up with a vast variety of material as you’ll see.  “Gabriel’s Message” begins as a purely vocal performance until it turns dark and gothic with chugging guitars and haunting keyboards.  Great unique version, but not one for Christmas dinner with the family, unless it’s the Addams Family.  In that case, proceed.

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A huge U-turn takes us to “The Christmas Song”, also known as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”.  Marillion take Nat King Cole’s cue and perform it as a jazz standard.  This one is new to CD.  It was originally released as a video on a 2013 Christmas DVD called Proggin’ Around the Christmas Tree.  “Stop the Cavalry” from 2003’s Say Cheese is fun and goofy, a contrast to the previous tunes.  Maybe it’s just me, but I had never heard this song before.  It’s not a favourite of mine, so onto “That’s What Friends are For” from 2006’s The Jingle Book.  I’m not sure what the Christmas connection is with this song, but Marillion aren’t making anyone forget anyone else’s version.  It too falls under the “fun and goofy” category, as does “Let It Snow”.  We talked about this one a bit before in my review for Somewhere Elf.  This one, I love!  “I’m afraid we’re all shit-faced,” indeed!  By choosing such a naturally fun and familiar song, and then doing it up as a drunken jaunt in the snow complete with kazoos, Marillion hit the spot.

“I Saw Three Ships” is from A Very Barry Christmas.  It sounds like a twin brother to “Easter” in some respects.  Though we’re now back to soft and pleasant Christmas music, “I Saw Three Ships” is one of my favourites on the album.  Elvis is back in the house for “Lonely this Christmas” from Santa and his Elvis.  My favourite part is when they do it as a punk rock version, after the Elvis version!  Hogarth does it with Johnny Rotten’s sneer, and I love it.

Loosely connected to Christmas is “The Erin Marbles” from 2005’s  Merry Christmas to Our Flock.  This is essentially a version of Marillion’s song “Marbles” done as a drunken celtic bar jam variation on “Jingle Bells”!  It’s totally fun, though nobody at your Christmas party will understand what the words have to do with it, so fuck ’em!  Who doesn’t love a good ol’ drunken celtic bar jam?  Not me!

Getting closer to the end now, the Beach Boys are covered on 2008’s “Little Saint Nick” from Pudding on the Ritz.   Sounding nothing like the Beach Boys at all, and completely like a Marillion song with jingle bells on top, I can’t see mom and dad digging this version at all.  It bears striking similarities to “Deserve” from 1999’s marillion.com, and other Marillion songs such as “This Strange Engine”.

Finally 2013’s “The Carol of the Bells” has been given a CD release.  I bought this one on mp3 download last year, but I will always take a CD over an mp3.  I love this carol and this version of it.  Marillion do this very well, traditionally, before going electric and all Deep Purple on us.  They even go Led Zeppelin and James Bond at the end!  Brilliant version that fans will absolutely love.  Although nobody has ever done it better than Peter Griffin:


“Look at the bells, look at the bells, Holy crap here comes Jesus, and he doesn’t look too happy.”

Some songs are hits, some are misses.  It is what it is, when it’s a collection of tracks that were never intended for wide release.  On the other hand, I’m grateful that the band put together a compilation CD that included tracks I didn’t have before.  The collector in me appreciates it.  Merry Christmas Marillion!

3.5/5 stars

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