marillion

REVIEW: Marillion – Unplugged at the Walls (1999)

On the 25th of June 1998 a strange thing happened.

A group of like-minded people arrived at England’s sea and airports and made their way to a small town on the Welsh border.  The came from Brazil, Mexico, North America, Australia, Japan, Israel, Germany, Holland and Spain.

They came to have dinner.

…they also came to see a band.

 

MARILLION – Unplugged at the Walls (1999 Racket Records – Racket 10)

What’s your favourite acoustic album?

We all know the big “unplugged” performances, but between the cracks fell the web-only release Unplugged at the Walls by Marillion.  Only available via their website, this remarkable album was recorded while Marillion were working on their 10th record Radiation back in 1998.

While recording in Oswestry, Marillion struck a deal with the “best restaurant in town”, the Walls.  Now independent, every penny counted.  In exchange for free meals, Marillion agreed to play some acoustic sets at the Walls.  The idea grew and people came from all over the world to hear new songs and tunes that had never been played acoustically before.  They stripped down and re-arranged songs, added some surprises, and the result is one of the best Marillion live albums ever made.  Out of over 100!

Sampling tracks from the five Hogarth-era albums, no oldies were to be found.  Plenty of singles though:  “Easter”, “Alone Again in the Lap of Luxury”, “Hooks in You”, “Eighty Days”, and “Beautiful” which opens the set.

While Marillion have always been top-notch musicians, in an unplugged setting such as this, Steve Hogarth is the standout performer.  Whether whispering or letting it all out, Hogarth is never less than spellbinding.  He is always in complete command, with every ear on him.

The highlights are many, but Marillion’s version of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees” may surpass the original.  That’s all because of Hogarth.  Nobody can touch him.  He gets more intense as the song builds.  When he sings “I could blow through the ceiling,” you truly believe it.  The track is so good that they eventually used it as the B-side to “These Chains”.

“Abraham, Martin and John” (Marvin Gaye) is a track Marillion have since released on other live albums, but this gentle version is fantastic.  This one sports some beautifully warm electric guitar tones courtesy of Steve Rothery.  Marillion also cover “Blackbird” (The Beatles, but you knew that) and do a damn respectable job of it.  Instead of birds chirping, you get the sound of diners cheering!

The new songs premiered that night were the already-acoustic “Now She’ll Never Know”, and “The Answering Machine” which, over the years, has been popular both electrically and acoustically.  “Now She’ll Never Know” is the quietest song of the night.  “Answering Machine” meanwhile is one of the most upbeat.

They also tackled the surf-rocker “Cannibal Surf Babe” which did just fine unplugged and stripped to the basics.  “The Space” received a completely new, jazzy arrangement.  They played this version many times over the year, but it’s a bit of a slog compared to the rest.  The closer “Eighty Days” is jaunty and receives a massive response from the crowd, as does “Gazpacho”.  Appropriately enough, the Walls had gazpacho on their menu that night.

Speaking of which, the menu is included as part of the booklet.  It does indeed sound like the best restaurant in town!  “Salad of black pasta with marinated seafood and prawns.”  Wow!

This album was reissued in 2018, giving everybody a chance to get one.  You should.

5/5 stars

 

This Is Your Life, Jacob Moon on the LeBrain Train + musical performance of “Someday”

The LeBrain Train reunites old friends — it is what we do!  Whether it be Mike Fraser and Andy Curran, or members of the community at large, we enjoy bringing people together.  We also enjoy improvisation, both in our music and in the live show.  This time, flying by the seats of our pants, we reunited Jacob Moon with old friends from his past.  By the stories told, you can call this episode This Is Your Life, Jacob Moon.

Watch as Meat, Trevor and Jacob relive their favourite memories, musical and otherwise.  Observe as Meat forgets how to count up to eleven.  Enjoy as Jacob performs some of his favourite impressions.  Ed Grimley?  Check.  Tom Waits?  Check.  Nigel Tufnel?  Top ten!

In a LeBrain Train first, Jacob gave us the show’s first full musical performance.  Steve Earle’s “Someday”, live by Jacob Moon, is a LeBrain Train exclusive musical performance!  He also gave us a partial version of “Downtown Train” with some hilarious impressions.

We took viewer questions and a celebrity guest question from Andy Curran.  Discussion subjects included:

  • The making of “Subdivisions”
  • Musical adventures with Trev and Eric
  • “Christmas Goalie”
  • Playing a Rush song in front of Rush
  • Playing the Marillion weekend
  • Looping and technical stuff
  • Streaming live

Thank you Meat, Trevor and especially Jacob Moon for an awesome Saturday show.  Jacob, I am honoured and flattered to have you play live on my little show!  I cannot thank you enough.

 

REVIEW: Marillion – Fugazi (2 CD remastered edition)

MARILLION – Fugazi (1998 EMI 2 CD edition, album originally released 1984)

Fugazi: Military slang meaning “fucked up situation”, coined during the Vietnam war.

Or: The making of Marillion’s second album.

After rolling through a couple drummers including Jonathan Mover, Marillion finally settled on Ian Mosely, the British veteran who is still in the band today. They settled in to record the “difficult” second album, which was dubbed Fugazi. It is a challenging listen, probably the most challenging of the original four. As such it tends to fall by the wayside today, despite the inclusion of the excellent single “Assassing”.

“I am the assassin, with tongue forged in eloquence. I am the assassin, providing your nemesis.”

It was a pointed statement at the ex-drummer Mick Pointer, from his former friend, lead vocalist Fish.

Lyrically, Fugazi represents the very best of Marillion of any era.  Both “Jigsaw” and the included B-side track “Cinderella Search” contain lyrics of great depth, beauty, emotion, and layers upon layers of interpretation. I like Fish’s use of homonyms, such as “Swam through the nicotine seize”.

Musically, this is a dense album that takes multiple listens to appreciate. Side one of the original album was catchier, with the two singles (“Punch & Judy” being the second) and the lullaby-like “Jigsaw”. Side two was more challenging, with longer heavier songs: “She Chameleon” and “Incubus” are good examples. Incidentally, Fish considered “Incubus” to be his greatest lyrical achievement, once again using homonyms. “I, the mote in your eye.”

The bonus disc contains the stellar B-side “Cinderella Search”, a song that goes through multiple sections before culminating with its powerful ending. “I always use the cue sheets but never the nets, never the nets, nevertheless.” Other B-sides include a remix of “Assassing” and the re-recorded version of “Three Boats Down From The Candy”. (I prefer the original.) This disc is rounded out by four demos of some of the more challenging songs.

The cover art is loaded with brilliance courtesy of Mark Wilkinson.  He put just as much thought into the art as Fish did into the lyrics.  Wilkinson and the band provide enlightening liner notes. You’ll want to make sure you read them. Did Mark Kelly really see a ghost? Find out inside.

5/5 stars

Fugazi is expected to be upgraded to a multidisc deluxe edition including 5.1 mix this summer- 2021.

REVIEW: Marillion – Christmas 2020 (single)

MARILLION Christmas 2020 (2020Racket Records CD single)

For those who love the numbers (hands up, both of you), here are some Marillion 2020 statistics for you:

  • This is the third Marillion single in 2020, after the “Easter” and “Made Again” home recordings.
  • This is the sixteenth Marillion Christmas CD.  A full list of them can be found at bottom.

This year it’s a simple two-track CD single, instead of a live album, and it’s better that way.  Not that a double live CD isn’t a fine way to spend Christmas, but this just feels more…Christmas-y.

Both tracks are produced by Michael Hunter.  “All I Want for Christmas is You” features jingle bells, and the full band givin’ ‘er.  Nice to hear Marillion just rocking!  This is what I want to hear this Christmas — a party.  Ian Mosely doesn’t get to pound a simple one out like this much anymore.  This is good time Marillion Christmas dance party track — and there are not many of those!  They even managed to squeeze in a so-cool Steve Rothery guitar solo without losing the fun.

For the sentimental type, enjoy a lovely “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.  Hard to believe Marillion haven’t covered this one yet, but they have now!  They do it with piano, keyboards and light accompaniment.  It’s done just the way you want to hear it, around the fire after the kids have been tucked in.  Listen for Steve Hogarth’s Christmas message at the end.

Two Christmas songs done so perfectly that even a Grinch-like curmudgeon can enjoy them.  What else do you want for a free Christmas CD?

5/5 stars

Marillion Christmas CD collection

REVIEW: Marillion – Crash Course – An Introduction to Marillion (2001 first edition)

MARILLION –  Crash Course – An Introduction to Marillion (2001 Racket Records, first edition)

Here is an interesting gimmick.  Starting in 2001, Marillion began compiling “Crash Course” CDs, offering them for minimal cost on their website.  The idea was that you could buy this CD for next to nothing, and send it off with to someone else with the intention of getting them into Marillion.  After the original discs were gone, they revamped the tracklisting in 2002, and again in 2006, 2008 and 2017 with new songs.  Let’s have a listen and see what Marillion thought their most immediately appealing material was 20 years ago!

Since their new album was the crowd-funded Anoraknophobia (a new idea at the time), one of those songs leads the pack.  They chose “This is the 21st Century” which I recall them really pushing at the time.  I still am not sure why that was one of the songs chosen to push.  It’s 11 minutes long and not very commercial.  It’s also quite slow and mellow and takes some time to absorb.  You’d think they would have gone with one of the singles — “Map of the World” is the track I personally put on my mix tapes when trying to get someone into this band.  That’s not to say “This is the 21st Century” is an inferior track.  It’s complex and demonstrates Marillion’s recent fascination with loops.  Instead of making them cheesy, Marillion made them trippy.  This one song is a lot to digest and new fans might be baffled by lyrics like “A wise man once said a flower is only a sexual organ, beauty is cruelty and evolution.”  And some macho dude in camo pants is absolutely going to be triggered by the line “He had denied his feminine side,” but I don’t think that guy was ever going to be into Marillion anyway.

The far more obvious song “Rich” from marillion.com is an underrated gem.  “Dot Com” as they call it is an overlooked album.  Marillion really dove into a commercial deep end with some songs, while going full acid trip on others.  “Rich” is pure pop, with a bangin’ chorus.  “No tears, no lies, no pain, no doubt, no darkness, no confusion!”  That’s how modern Marillion makes me feel.  “Rich” is an uplifting song.  “So talk about failing, to fall is not to fail.”  Get rich right now, says Marillion.  Mark Kelly has a hefty keyboard hook that anchors the song, while the verses slowly sway with a 2000s groove.

The oldest track is “Afraid of Sunlight” from 1995.  They were trying to stay away from things that sounded too dated.  No worries of that with “Afraid of Sunlight”, a timeless song if Marillion ever had one.  It is so basic, with one little melody that runs through, but then it absolutely explodes on the dramatic chorus.  If this track doesn’t win ’em over, nothing will.

Back to Dot Com and “A Legacy”, the song that opened the album.  Once you get past the slow opening, this song punches hard.  The distorted vocals are so 90s, but that’s nothing…wait until you hear “Under the Sun” from 1998’s Radiation.  That album was all about noise; everything banging and cranked up loud.  It’s also my favourite song on this disc.  From the haunting keys to the crashing chords, “Under the Sun” kicks all the asses.

Would this disc have appealed to newbies in 2001?  Some, certainly.  But like anyone, I think I could have done better!  There is no point rating a CD like this so we’ll just call it:

5/5 Barrys 

 

REVIEW: Marillion – “Made Again (2020)”

MARILLION – “Made Again (2020)” (2020 iTunes)

It wasn’t that long ago, in this sad year, that Marillion gifted us a new version of “Easter” from their lockdown spaces.  Now, from the landmark Brave album, they’ve re-recorded the hopeful “Made Again”.

“I have been here many times before, in the life I used to live…”

Poignant.  We’re all grieving for the lives we used to live, some more than others.  I’m tiring very quickly of virus-themed songs, like that damn “I know there’ll be better days” ad I keep hearing on the TV.  It’s having the opposite effect on me and making me very bitter.

Since “Made Again” was written in 1994, it doesn’t have the stench of 2020 all over it.  We know the lyrics are being repurposed but it’s not so bad knowing their old origins.

“Like I woke up from a bad dream, to a brand new world.”

Unlike “Easter” this is a bit more of a complete arrangement, not abbreviated and without shortcuts.  You can buy the track for 99 cents on iTunes or watch the video on YouTube.  The video was painstakingly assembled from the at-home performance videos and fan footage sent in from all over the world.

We all need some optimism.

“I woke up from a deep sleep,
I woke up from a bad dream,
To a brand new morning,
To a brand new day,
Like the whole world has been made again.”

I hope so, guys.  I hope so.

5/5 stars

#829: Freestylin’ 6 – A Wasted Candy Script for Chaos

GETTING MORE TALE #829: Freestylin’ 6 – A Wasted Candy Script for Chaos

Buy local! That’s the mantra these days. The last time we went “Freestylin’“, I explained that I was going to try and buy as much of my music from Encore Records.  Having consumed the four albums I ordered last time, I decided to order four more!  Like before, I tried to (mostly) focus on albums I’ve never heard before.   At the same time I also wanted to pick up some music that people have been recommending to me.

First into the shopping cart:  Love/Hate – Wasted in America.  Your Heavy Metal Overlord was pleased that I enjoyed their debut album, Blackout in the Red Room, and so commanded me to acquire their second, Wasted in America.  Encore had in stock the Rock Candy reissue with two bonus tracks:  “Castles From Sand” and “Soul House Tales”.  I trust HMO with my dollars — he has rarely, if ever, steered me wrong.

My second purchase was Nita Strauss’ debut CD Controlled Chaos.  If you didn’t know, Nita plays lead guitar with Alice Cooper.  This one came highly praised by John over at 2loud2oldmusic.  “Nothing short of spectacular,” he said.  Funny enough, the last time he inspired me to purchase an album, it was another guitar instrumental:  Joe Satriani’s Shapeshifting.  I am looking forward to hearing a guitarist that, aside from live performances playing someone else’s songs, I’ve never really had a chance to listen to.  If Nita is as much of a beast in the studio as she is live, this oughta be a good album.

Uncle Meat has been telling me to buy some Cars studio albums for ages.  All I owned to this point was a Cars anthology called Just What I Needed.  Meat specifically recommended Panorama, but Encore had the expanded edition of Candy-O for just $16.99.  Maybe I’ll get Panorama next.  There is no point in getting the versions without the bonus tracks.  This one has a number of alternate versions, one B-side, and one previously unreleased song called “They Won’t See You”.

Because I ordered four CDs the first time I ordered from Encore, I randomly decided that I had to get four again this time.  My fourth was a re-buy, but a pretty mega re-buy.  The nice thing about this one is that it doesn’t replace the version I already own.  Rather, it complements the earlier version.  EMI already did a pretty excellent job when they reissued the Marillion catalogue in the 1990s.  Each of the first eight albums was stuffed with bonus discs packed with rarities and unreleased material.  My new copy of their debut, Script for a Jester’s Tear (4 CDs + 1 Blu-ray) duplicates only one track from the EMI original!

For the 2020 box set version of Script, the entire album is remixed, meaning I will need to hang onto my original.  The Market Square Heroes EP is also remixed.  The only song duplicated over both versions is “Charting the Single”, but here it is in a fresh 2020 remastering.  Discs three and four are an unreleased concert, Live at the Marquee Club.  “But I have that already!” you protest.  Do you?  No.  The concert on the Early Stages box set was recorded December 30, 1982.  This one was recorded the day before, December 29th!  While the setlist is identical, the concert is a completely unreleased one.

Finally the Blu-ray disc has the usual music videos and hi-def audio tracks, but most importantly it also has Script remixed in 5.1 surround.  It even includes the entire Recital of the Script live video (81 minutes)!   In other words, this version of Script is packed to the gills, yet amazingly without rendering your old copy obsolete.

Guitarist Steph Honde told me that the official Marillion website is sold out and he hasn’t been able to find a copy anywhere.  Fortunately the Marillion store says they will have more this week.

Thanks to Mark at Encore Records for keeping the rock rollin’.  This has been so important to my mental health.  I have always ordered new music to give myself something to look forward to in the mail.  The only difference in this new reality is that I sanitize the parcels thoroughly.  After too many weeks of no new music, ordering from Encore has been awesome.

Wonder what I’ll order next time?  Recommend four CDs to me.  If Encore carries them, there’s a possibility I might end up buying your favourite album next.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Marillion – “Easter” (2020 Version)

MARILLION – “Easter” (2020 video recorded in quarantine)

Count on Marillion to bring the light in the dark.

It has been over 30 years since Steve Hogarth and the Marillios first serenaded us with “Easter”.  As a surprise gift in 2020, they’ve re-recorded the track from isolation.  All five guys with their home setups recorded and filmed their parts for a new video.

“As it’s Easter Weekend, Mark [Kelly] had the cool idea of us virtually-getting-together to record a new version of Easter in our homes. Hopefully it will put a smile on your faces.”

It’s poignant, watching the guys play from their personal spaces, unable to connect in person just like us.  While “Easter” has always contrasted light and shade, this time the contrast is sharper, though that may simply be in the minds of the listeners.

A bare acoustic version with a shortened and re-arranged ending (probably due to necessity), “Easter” soothes.  Even under these circumstances, Marillion pulled together a new recording of an old classic and did it quite well.  (Meanwhile behind closed doors they continue to write for their next studio LP.)  If Marillion can use technology to stay connected and celebrate creativity and ingenuity, then so can we all.

Happy Easter.

5/5 eggs

 

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

 

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