A Monstrously Festive(al) Christmas

REVIEW: Marillion – A Monstrously Festive(al) Christmas (2015)

Glad tidings and joy! It’s the final day of the least popular series in the history of this site. Yes, the daily hits took a nosedive, but we have succeeded in reviewing every single Marillion Christmas CD. You’ll find a directory below. Thanks for reading if you did! Back to our regularly scheduled program next time.

MARILLION A Monstrously Festive(al) Christmas (2015 Racket Records)

The very last Marillion Christmas CD to date is another double live album. It’s actually a summer Festival gig (July 2015) with a shorter set, and two Christmas songs from December 2014 added at the end. Most of these tracks have appeared on other Christmas albums, all but “The Invisible Man”. It’s notable for focusing on long-bombers and only a couple of “hits”.

Not sure what’s up with the cover though, the band dressed as mad scientists, all but Pete Trewavas. It’s a suitable image I suppose, since Marillion are like the mad scientists of rock music.

17 minutes of “Gaza” opens the show, heavy as hell, one of the most intense Marillion songs of their 40 year history. It might be about the Holy land but it’s not what you’d call Christmas-y! Expect a driving ride through war-torn landscapes, with quieter respites strategically placed. Lightening the mood, “You’re Gone” kicks things up. The pop melodies and dance beats get the toes tapping.

“Oh fuck, now Pete’s gone,” says Hogarth between songs.  Fortunately the bassist returns!  “Power” from Sounds That Can’t Be Made follows, one of the better songs from the later years.  The only anomaly on this album is “Sugar Mice”, the sole oldie in the set.  “I prefer their old stuff”, Steve says to chuckles from the audience.  As usual, he absolutely nails the song, a passionate poem to the down and out.  The other Steve (Rothery’s) guitar solo is a song to itself, a beautiful complement to the perfect words.  “Man of a Thousand Faces” from Marillion’s “acoustic period” (This Strange Engine) is different from the other songs, performed with extra expression.  (“Bbbbbabble of Babylon”.)  The crowd loves it and keep singing well after the song ends.

Nothing but long bombers for the rest of the show.  “Neverland” (10:28), “King” (8:05), and “The Invisible Man” (15:13) represent some of the most epic Marillion music ever committed to tape.  Heavy, heavy moods!  Complex, driven songs, each one with mini-compositions within compositions.  “Invisible Man” in particular is like listening to a stream of songs, and live, it breathes.

The added two Christmas songs, from Germany and France respectively, are ones that have appeared on Marillion Christmas CDs before.  Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” is a go-to for this band.  Acoustic guitars, gentle keys and jingle bells are all it takes.  A loungey “Christmas Song” is funny for how Steve messes up the lyrics right from the start.  So it’s not the definitive Marillion version, but it’s genuine.

That’s what makes all these live performances special.  There’s no fixing.  Everything is how it went down.  There’s no point in releasing CDs of so many individual concerts if you’re going to fix them in the mix.  Whether it’s a forgotten word or a missing bassist, it’s all in.

4.5/5 stars

#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?

#458: The LeBrain 2015 Christmas Extraganza! – full report

GETTING MORE TALE #458: The LeBrain 2015 Christmas Extraganza! – full report

Scraps of turkey remain, wrapped in tinfoil, awaiting soup or sandwiches to be made.  The cranberry sauce, if not used up, has been thrown out along with a mountain of cardboard and paper packaging.  Bank balances are lower, but hearts are fuller.  Christmas has come and gone.

Here we sit on the Monday after, hopefully still on vacation, to enjoy the spoils.

The first thing I need to address personally is this:  Happy birthday to my sister Kathryn!  Kathryn requested a birthday review this year, but unfortunately I just have not had the time to do it.  I will review her request sometime in early 2016!

The first Christmas gift that I opened came in the mail from Aaron who sneakily did this even though he certainly didn’t have to!  And I know he has sent Christmas gifts to other folks in the community.  What a generous lad!  I know he loves to hear about how we react to his surprises, so I had Mrs. LeBrain record mine.  This was done on the evening of the 22nd. Thanks Aaron!

You can’t have too many Kiss shirts!  And that Flying Colors blu-ray is going to be amazing.  In fact I’m already arranging a group screening for review purposes!

On the 23rd, we had a half day at work, and a huge Christmas feast for lunch. This was catered in by a company called Platters that we’d never tried before. It was easily the best catered meal we have had in my eight Christmases at the company. Lots of laughs and handshakes, and then by 1:00, most people had taken off for the Christmas break. For some of us though, a long day was still ahead! We had taken on a job that was new to us only a week before. The job had to be completed and shipped on the 23rd, so we had a skeleton crew left, working hard to get this accomplished. I was responsible for coordinating the customs paperwork, and so I was among the stragglers. Around 5:00, the job was finally completed and I crawled home exhausted to begin my holiday. It sure felt amazing to walk in that door!

Mail had arrived, and in the box was Marillion’s latest fan club-only Christmas CD!  Free gifts given only to fan club members, I collect these things which are true rarities. I’m only missing the first two (1998 and 1999). This year is a double live called A Monstrously Festive(al) Christmas.

On December 24th, Christmas Eve, it was so warm outside that I was wearing shorts. In all my years I have never seen a Christmas without any snow. This was the first. We’ve had blizzards and mild weather but nothing like this!

Christmas in shorts

Christmas in shorts

Over the course of the next 24 hours, there were some pretty damn cool gifts given and received.  Here are the musical highlights.  All are still sealed, so as to savour every delightful moment.  As usual, I have some intensive listening to do in the weeks and months to come.  Do you see something here you’d like reviewed?

It’s a very Purple Christmas this year!  Hard Road is a 5 disc box set containing the first three Purple albums with bonus tracks, and also the rare original mono mixes, which I have never heard before.  This renders even the best remastered versions of the early Purple CDs obsolete.  I need someone to gift them to!  As for the Rainbow, and Wacken sets…this is a lot of hours of music.  Include that Flying Colors double live as part of my Purple Christmas!

The live rock continues:

Two new releases and one classic.  Many more hours of incredible musicianship to be had right here.  But what’s Christmas without some kind of crazy deluxe edition boxed set?

I originally acquired Too Old to Rock ‘N’ Roll in 2012, so I don’t know it very intimately.  I do like it though, so why not go for the whole hog?  This box set contains: the original album, the previous bonus tracks with a bunch more on top, the original quadrophonic mix transferred to DVD for the 4.0 quad experience, a TV special, bonus video features such as a tribute to the late bassist John Glascock, and lots more.  Go big or go home!

Then we have this massive Led Zeppelin book set, The Ultimate Collection by Chris Welch, including a DVD and an enormous amount of reproduction memorabilia:

Sheer overload!  When am I going to have time to go through all this?  I only have a week off!

Fortunately, I have already enjoyed these two movies, Ted 2 and Ant-Man.  Great way to enjoy Boxing Day.

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New Transformers and nerd-stuffs also arrived chez LeBrain.  My mom even bought me a selfie stick Nerd Stick.  Look at the aerial photo I took of her Christmas village!  In fact, the only snow in town could be found in her Christmas village.

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Nerd stuffs:

Finally, I needed a new coffee mug.  I need a cup that can comfortably hold 12 oz.  Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom delivered, with my brand new Vader mug.  Dark side or not, that’s just a light roast inside him.  This is actually quite a nice mug, with silver paint applications on Vader’s mask.  It’s odd to see the Disney logo on anything I own, but there it was on the box.  I believe that Lord Vader will be accompanying me as I journey through the light and dark sides of live music sets!

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I hope everyone had a merry, merry Christmas.  Next up:  the new year.  And you know what that means!  Year end lists!  Next time on Getting More Tale.

LeBrain