marillion

REVIEW: Fish – Kettle of Fish 88-98 (1998)

scan_20170105FISH – Kettle of Fish 88-98  (1998 Roadrunner)

Kettle of Fish, the “best of” Derek W. Dick, is the first and only CD I’ve ever had stolen from me.

I got it cheap, something like $7 brand new, from one of our stores.  Then a year later, someone stole the CD player from my car, with the Fish CD inside.  Emotionally distraught, I sought to replace it right away.  The best I could do was $30 for a replacement copy shipped from Fish’s official site.  How crushing.  I wondered with bemusement what the thieves thought of Fish’s progressive rock poetry.  I imagine they tossed the disc into a snowbank.

While Kettle of Fish is no replacement for Fish’s debut solo album Vigil In a Wilderness of Mirrors, it is a fine collection of the man’s first decade as a solo artist and an enjoyable listen through.  It also boasts a nice colourful booklet with all the relevant singles covers, photos, lyrics and liner notes by Derek W. Dick.  Incidentally my original copy was missing pages.  I wonder if that is how it ended up in our store?  A defective run, sent off to a clearance somewhere, that eventually found its way into one of our warehouses.  Missing pages notwithstanding, it’s an excellent packaging job.

Since the album is made up of singles (and two new songs that we’ll get to), you will always find that critical deep album cuts are missing.  “Vigil” was not a single, but it’s one of Fish’s greatest achievements.  There’s no “The Company”.  “I Like to Watch” is missing in action.  Instead the CD is arranged to give roughly equal time to all of Fish’s output to date.  Tracks from Internal ExileSuits, Yin, Yang and Sunsets On Empire are given fair representation.

Some of the best tracks are the lesser known variety.  “Brother 52” is hip and modern, yet still obviously Fish.  The loopy drums are perfect for the track, lending it a 90’s groove with a rock integrity throughout.  The spoken word parts of “Brother 52” are sometimes distracting, but are by and large incorporated as part of the song.  A vibrant violin solo goes for the kill and that’s all she wrote.  The Celtic jig “Internal Exile” is another immediate favourite.  The lyrics evolved from a song Marillion were working on for their unfinished fifth LP called “Exile on Princess Street”.  It was the kind of stuff Marillion were getting sick of. According to Dick, “The lyrics started to follow a more political lean with a distinctly Scottish nationalist tone. The band weren’t happy.”

I saw a blue umbrella in Princes Street Gardens,
Heading out west for the Lothian Road,
An Evening News stuffed deep in his pocket,
Wrapped up in his problems to keep away the cold.

Grierson’s spirit haunts the dockyards,
Where the only men working are on the documentary crews,
Shooting film as the lines get longer,
As the seams run out, as the oil runs dry.

The finished lyrics make you feel it. Yes the music for “Internal Exile” is bright and chipper, with a tin whistle to take your worry away. It sounds nothing like the morose music Marillion coupled it with. Maybe that’s what made all the difference.

Tracks including “Credo”, “Big Wedge” and “State of Mind” are varied and of very high quality.  You might think you put on an unknown 80s Phil Collins single if you play “Big Wedge” unannounced.  Of the two new songs recorded for the album, “Chasing Miss Pretty” is the most enjoyable.  It’s simple silly light rock for the summer time.  Fish seems to have dropped the ball a little bit on the lyrics, but “Chasing Miss Pretty” is still far more poetic than anything Jon Bon Jovi has ever written.

First of all, I caught her reflection in the window of the pharmacy store,
There I was locked up in my pick-up in the rush hour on the Delaware road.
It must have been the scent of her perfume or the glimpse of that French lingerie,
A product of my imagination, I blame it all on a hot summer’s day.

Unfortunately the other new song “Mr. Buttons” is forgettable musically and lyrically.  A song about hackers and e-crime in 1998 is going to sound quaint in 2017.

The weight of Fish’s early career casts a large shadow on everything the man has done since.  Vigil was a triumph in every way for the singer.  The early songs generally outshine the later songs.  You will find favourites in the later material, but the early stuff will probably keep you coming back for another listen.  The new songs are a nice add-on, and the packaging makes it worth a go, especially if you don’t own any Fish.  Proceed!

4.5/5 stars

 

Roger doesn't appear happy with his Fish CD.

Roger doesn’t appear happy with his Fish CD.

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REVIEW: Marillion – The Jingle Book – Christmas 2006

scan_20161213MARILLIONThe Jingle BookChristmas 2006  (2006 Racket Records WebUK membership CD)

Gather ’round the glow of your computers children, and get your hot chocolate in hand, for it is time for a look at another Marillion Christmas CD.  The Jingle Book is a doubly clever title, for Marillion’s Christmas song for 2006 was a cover of “That’s What Friends Are For” from The Jungle Book. A surprising choice, it is rather movie accurate and partly acapella.  There is also the traditional and always silly Christmas greeting from the band.  In what may also be a Marillion tradition, this short message requires multiple takes!

The bulk of the CD is a live set from Poland in 2006.  The festival setting lends this CD a different atmosphere than other live Marillion discs.  From the sonics to the feel, The Jingle Book doesn’t work like typical Marillion sets.   There are only a few long bombers, lots of singles, and no tracks earlier than Seasons End.  Decent quality audio will satisfy all but the pickiest of fans; remember this amounts to an official bootleg.

An ass-kicking “Separated Out” was chosen for opening position.  This song, among Marillion’s most energetic, would have got the crowd’s attention.  Drummer Ian Mosely is a monster on “Separated Out”, which is immediately followed by the band’s hit single “You’re Gone”.  The mosh pit vibe gives way to ethereal dance.  Floating like smoke in the air, “Fantastic Place” and “Easter” are rolled out in powerful performances.  Talking is minimal though Steve “h” does attempt some Polish.

Afraid of Sunlight is given a nod with the ballad “Beautiful”, and progressive epic “Out of this World”.  “Beautiful” is as lovely as its name, and has the feeling of celebration.  The mood darkens immediately on “Out of this World”, as there are very few positive songs about nautical disasters.  Steve Rothery’s immaculate guitar tone sings its own song, sad but hopeful.

The beat picks up with the electrifying “Accidental Man” from This Strange Engine.  As a highlight from that often overlooked album, “An Accidental Man” does not get showcased often, and this organ-heavy take is satisfying.  Boppy Beatles-y single “The Damage” (from Marbles) is sheer delight.  With genie now out of the box, “Neverland” begins a long slow climax.  As one of the most dramatic of all Marillion epics, “Neverland” haunts the air like burning incense.  Then like a halogen light, Rothery brightens it up with his un-immitatible string magic.  Consider the heart that “h” puts into his singing here, combined with Rothers’ liquid guitars, and this could be the best ever live version of “Neverland”.

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Rolling into the encores, “Between You and Me” and “Cover My Eyes” exude glee and positive vibes.  There is much common ground between the two albums those songs are taken from (Holidays in Eden and Anoraknophobia) so it is unsurprising that they work together so well in the encore position.  A brilliant pairing, crisp and refreshing like Sauvignon Blanc with a healthy avocado salad.

As with any past Marillion Christmas CD, you can’t buy this anymore and the chances of stumbling upon one in the shops are nil, even with the help of all of Santa’s elves.  However you can still download it and the others by joining the official Marillion webUK fan club.  Members receive three thick, glossy full colour magazines, the Christmas CD, and other downloadable content.  Worth thinking about, or adding to your Christmas list.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Marillion – Merry Xmas to Our Flock – Christmas 2005

scan_20161204MARILLION Merry Xmas to Our FlockChristmas 2005 (2005 Racket Records WebUK membership CD)

Every year, like the most reliable loyalty program in the world, Marillion reward their fanclub members with a special Christmas release.  Each one has exclusive music on it, some more Christmas-y than others.  The main exclusive on the 2005 Christmas release is a live set by “Los Trios Marillos”:  a stripped down trio version of the band.  Los Trios does acoustic versions, usually for radio sessions, and consists of singer Steve Hogarth, guitarist Steve Rothery, and bassist Pete Trewavas.  These 13 tracks were recorded in Washington DC for XM radio, featuring a wonderful cross-section of Hogarth-era favourites.

That’s not all, of course!  Marillion deliver their traditional Christmas message at the start of the CD, campy and tipsy.  Bonus points if you’re from North America but can still translate everything the band says.  It takes them a few takes to finally get it to their, err, satisfaction.  “We hope you have a really good Christmas, don’t get too drunk, and we’ll see you next year.”  Then, “That’s not written down at all!”  Usually these albums include a brand new studio Christmas track too, and this time it’s the celtic “Erin Marbles”.  It’s a hyperactive Irish jig with mandolin, tin whistle, squeezebox, fiddles and bodhran.  Calling this a Christmas track is a bit of a stretch, as it is basically the song “Marbles” from the same-titled album done up for fun, mixed with a medley of Christmas tunes.  There is no question it’s fun for the fans, but nobody except fans will “get it”, so it’s not really useful for mom’s Christmas mix CD this year.

The Los Trios set commences with the downer “Hollow Man” which is an abrupt change of moods.  The was recorded live with an audience, but they are so quiet during “Hollow Man” you could hear a pin drop, which makes the song that much more haunting.  It is performed solo by Hogarth only accompanied by piano.  “It’s a little early in the morning to be singing,” says Steve.  Fortunately things become upbeat if only for a little while on “Cover My Eyes”, a song that is brilliant acoustically.  If you have heard Marillion’s piano treatment of this single, then you will recognize this arrangement.  It might have been too early to sing that morning, but Steve manages just fine, including the high “pain and heaven” section that challenges every mere mortal.  Rothers and Pete join Hogarth at this point for the B-side “The Bell in the Sea”, which Steve mis-introduces having lost his place in the set list!  It’s live radio, folks.  This is the jazzy bass-oriented acoustic version that the band had been performing since at least 1998, very different from the nautical epic original.  They then return to the song that H was beginning to introduce, “Runaway” from Brave.  It was the song that kickstarted the whole concept of the album.  It is a dark and emotional band and fan favourite, but stripped down to a trio format, it is even more delicate.

The first of four songs from the most-recent Marbles is the dancey hit “You’re Gone”.  Acoustically  it is a different animal, but just as beautiful.  The focus isn’t on the beats but on the melody.  Another song that is completely altered is “Dry Land” from Holidays in Eden.  It is slowed down with a gentle electronic pulse as it rolls softly.  “Fantastic Place” from Marbles flows naturally from there, and Rothery’s solo is absolutely supernatural.  The set really moves at this point, with minimal talking.  “This is the 21st Century” from Anoraknophobia burns quietly but strongly.  On album it percolates with unusual electronic effects, but live it simmers with the hot tone of Steve’s guitar.

“Easter” is a bright light in the set.  This version starts very quiet, slow and understated.  It’s an inventive take, and it slowly builds to the resemble the original, though it ends early.  “Marbles 1” and “Don’t Hurt Yourself” are the last of the new songs presented, and the audience get right into it.  “Don’t Hurt Yourself” has to be one of the best songs Marillion has ever written, and the clapping crowd energizes it.  “Don’t Hurt Yourself” was one of many highlights on Marbles, but here it is head and shoulders the winning track.  A wonderful performance of an exceptional track.

Old favourites end the radio session:  “Answering Machine” (from Radiat10n) and “Man of a Thousand Faces” (from This Strange Engine).  “Answering Machine” should be very familiar, as this acoustic mandolin and guitar arrangement has been recorded many times before.  The handclapping crowd returns to finish “Man of a Thousand Faces” with class.  This song has always been acoustic, so this does not tread far from its roots, though it is shortened for the trio format.

You can’t buy this CD anymore and the chances of stumbling upon one in the shops are nil, however you can still download it by joining the official Marillion webUK fan club.  It is well worth it.  You get three thick, glossy full colour magazines, this year’s Christmas CD, and access to download all the old ones and much more.  Worth thinking about, or adding to this year’s Christmas list.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Marillion – Barrowlands, Glasgow, Scotland. 4 December 1989. (FRC-005)

By request of J.

Scan_20160615MARILLION – Barrowlands, Glasgow, Scotland. 4 December 1989. (FRC-005 – 2002 Racket Records)

Marillion have always been an innovative band, not just musically, but also the ways they interact with their fans.  In 1992, they started offering mail-order exclusive live albums to the diehards.  The first one, Live in at the Borderline sold out quickly.  Live in Caracas took a few years to sell out; I have an original copy of that one.  The third, Live in Glasgow, also sold out quickly.  Today I own a remastered and reissued version, Barrowlands, Glasgow, Scotland, released in 2002 as part of Marillion’s Front Row Club.

The Front Row Club was a subscription service.  Sign up for a year, and Marillion would mail you a live album every two months.  Some were single discs, like Barrowlands, and some were doubles.  They were sourced from all parts of Marillion’s history.  Subscribers could choose to opt out of releases they didn’t want, for example I didn’t need a second copy of Caracas.  There were 43 Front Row Club releases in total, and I have them all (excepting the optional Caracas).  (For a review of FRC-006:  River, click here.)

In 1989, Marillion were showing off the new guy, Steve “H” Hogarth on vocals, guitars and keyboards.  If they were to get a cold reception, Scotland would have been the place.  After all, former singer Fish was a proud Scot, and replacing a singer is always dicey.  Fortunately for Marillion, fans embraced Steve H very much, and the Barrowlands show is evidence of that.

Opening with the brand new classic, “King of Sunset Town”, it sounds like Marillion had them in the palms of their hands from the first notes.  This releases was recorded from the desk onto cassette tape, and it sounds remarkably good considering!  “Sunset Town” has the instrumental adventures that fans expect, but with a passionate vocal very unlike Fish.  Singing along, the fans were already familiar with the new material.  The drums sound amazing in the Barrowlands, and Steve Rothery’s solo had the fans screaming.

There are only eight tracks from Barrowlands — apparently, somebody forgot to flip the tape as the band played.  Instead, two songs from a show in Bradford were added to the end.

“Slàinte Mhath” (or “Slange” as it is spelled phonetically on the back cover) is a beloved fan favourite. It was one of the songs that H felt more comfortable singing.  The crowd grew quiet.  This was an important song to get right.  No worries there.  “And you listen, with a tear in your eye, to their hopes and betrayals, and your only reply is slàinte mhath.”  (Cheers, good health.)  The line is greeted with a few excited screams.  While he was nothing like Fish, H managed to raise the hair on my arms.

“Good evening Glasgow!  It’s very nice to meet you.  We waited a long time for this!”  It must have been a tremendous relief for H to be accepted in Glasgow.  Two new singles follow “Slàinte”: “Uninvited Guest” and the ballad “Easter”. These are songs that remained in the setlist for tour after tour, and they do not vary much from other live takes. It is interesting to listen to these fresh versions, new to the band as they were to the crowd. “Easter” is youthful and beautiful.

Hogarth seemed drawn towards the Clutching at Straws material. “Warm Wet Circles”/”That Time of the Night” were performed for a few tours after, and Steve did them very well.  It’s a 10 minute slab of progressive rock with labyrinthine lyrics as only Fish could write.  Hogarth nailed it.

“On promenades where drunks propose to lonely arcade mannequins,
Where ceremonies pause at the jeweller’s shop display,
Feigning casual silence in strained romantic interludes,
‘Til they commit themselves to the muted journey home.”

I mean come ON!

And that’s it for old songs.  More were played that night, but the tape didn’t get them.  Too bad, because they included “Market Square Heroes”, “Incommunicado”, “Kayleigh” and lots more.  Barrowlands goes on with “Holloway Girl”, which boils with a dark intensity.  Marillion and Mark Kelly are very good at using keyboards for texture, and this is a good example.  Also dark and powerful is “Seasons End”, introduced by the Christmas carol “Oh Come Emmanuel”.  This early warning about global warming is a reminder that this is not some new theory.  We’ve known about global warming for decades.  Marillion turned that into a pretty epic quality track.

That’s it for the Barrowlands tracks.  “Berlin” and “The Space” are added to make it an even 10.  There’s a shift in sound quality as it gets a little clearer, but it’s not obtrusive.  “The Space” is a very apt way to end a CD.

Rating something like this…it’s almost “What’s the point?”  There are 43 of these bloody Front Row Club albums.  You can’t get them anymore.  You have to look at this as a good but incomplete set of some of the earliest live Marillion with Hogarth.  When we’re talking about a band with probably 100 live albums or more, it all becomes a little hard to see the forest for the trees!

3.5/5 stars?

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#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

#433.9: Top 15 on the 15th (by Iron Tom Sharpe)

NOTE:  Because of the three Top 15 on the 15th posts today, there will be no posting for Wednesday.  A directory to all the Top 15 on the 15th posts can be found here.  Browse them all!

Getting More Tale #433.9 presents: A worldwide online event!
THE TOP 15 ON THE 15th – Guest shot by Iron Tom Sharpe

Latest to throw his hat into the Top 15 on the 15th ring is Iron Tom Sharpe, Meaford’s Greatest Athlete. One of the most knowledgeable rock fans in the country, Iron Tom is a national treasure. He is a former Record Store owner, and one of the Jedi masters who instructed me.

His message to me upon completion of his list: “Fuck that was tough…and I know I left off some big ones…I just know it…Ah fuck, The D! Max!”

There may be no Tenacious D, and there may be no Max Webster. But here is one kick-ass #Top15onthe15th.

 

WARP15. The Sword – Warp Riders

MASTER14. Metallica – Master of Puppets

PERFECT13. Deep Purple – Perfect Strangers

BONGO12. Frank Zappa – Bongo Fury

PHYSICAL11. Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

SKY10. Kyuss – Sky Valley

FAIR9. Van Halen – Fair Warning

PHASES8. Willie Nelson – Phases and Stages

CLOSE7. Yes – Close to the Edge

POWERSLAVE6. Iron Maiden – Powerslave

ACTION'5. Fu Manchu – The Action Is Go

ALRIGHT4. Steve Earle – I Feel Alright

MISPLACED3. Marillion – Misplaced Childhood

II2. Queen – Queen II

MOVING1. Rush – Moving Pictures

 

 

Almost made it:

  • Orange Goblin – Time Traveling Blues
  • Crosby Stills & Nash – CSN
  • Pink Floyd – Animals
  • Motorhead – Another Perfect Day
  • Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell

 

And finally…an extra bonus.  Iron Tom’s Top 5 Live!

5. Iron Maiden – Live After Death

4. Jimi Hendrix – Band Of Gypsys

3. Supertramp – Paris

2. Dire Straits – Alchemy Live

1. Eric Clapton – Just One Night

#433.5: Top 15 on the 15th (by Uncle Meat)

Getting More Tale #433.5 presents: A worldwide online event!
THE TOP 15 ON THE 15th – Guest shot by Uncle Meat

This is an event spanning many sites and writers in the World Wide Web.  I will link to as many as possible; my own Top 15 can be found here.  A few months ago, the challenge was thrown down to all comers:  List your top 15 albums of all time!  The date September 15 was chosen for the deadline.

Uncle Meat laboured hard on his Top 15, eventually whittling it down from a list of 31 great records*.  Without any commentary, here they are.  His only requirement:  No live albums.

RUST15. Rust in Peace – Megadeth

SCREAMING14. Screaming For Vengeance – Judas Priest

EARTHQUAKES13. Little Earthquakes – Tori Amos

CLOSE12. Close to the Edge – Yes

CONSOLERS11. Consolers of the Lonely – The Raconteurs

CLUTCHING10. Clutching at Straws – Marillion

REIGN9. Reign in Blood – Slayer

MINDCRIME8. Operation: Mindcrime – Queensryche

WHALE7. Whale Music – The Rheostatics

MISPLACED6. Misplaced Childhood – Marillion

MOVING5. Moving Pictures – Rush

ROXY4. Roxy and Elsewhere – Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

PET3. Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys

HEMISPHERES2. Hemispheres – Rush

CORAZON1. El Corazón – Steve Earle

* For shits and giggles, here are the rest of The Meat’s albums that didn’t make the final cut.

  • White Pepper – Ween
  • Sky Valley – Kyuss
  • Harvest – Neil Young
  • Heaven and Hell – Black Sabbath
  • Fireball – Deep Purple
  • Somewhere in Time – Iron Maiden
  • Tenacious D – Tenacious D
  • Queens of the Stone Age – Queens of the Stone Age
  • Dogman – King’s X
  • American II: Unchained – Johnny Cash
  • Sheer Heart Attack – Queen
  • Noisy Nights – Uzeb
  • White City – Pete Townsend
  • Van Halen – Van Halen
  • Let There Be Rock – AC/DC
  • Kristopherson – Kris Kristopherson

#426: The History of the Holy Grail

KNIGHT

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#426: The History of the Holy Grail

I don’t know when I started referring to this list as my “Holy Grail” items, but the idea is simple.  I wanted to create a wishlist of musical items that would be my ultimate, most sought after records and CDs.  For example, there is a rare Iron Maiden EP called Live!! +one.  It was released in Japan in 1980, and featured two exclusive recordings still unavailable anywhere else:  “Sanctuary” and “Drifter” from the Marquee show.  In 2014, I found a copy in Mississauga.  Should I have bought it?  It was $100.  It was not in the budget that time.  Will I ever see it again?

Those are the kinds of things I’m referring to as Holy Grails.  The kinds of things that you see only ever one or twice in your time as a fan.  When you find a Holy Grail item, how much are you willing to pay?  I paid $300 for a copy of the rare live album marillionrochester on eBay.  I don’t think I’ll ever do that again though.  That was a once in a lifetime buy.  (Only 2000 copies of it were ever made, which were sent directly to fans who donated to their 1997 American tour fund.  It will never be reissued.)

In the digital age, curating a Holy Grail list has never been easier.  My solution today is simple.  I have entrusted my Holy Grail list to Aaron over at the KeepsMeAlive site.  There, he has created (and continues to update) several bloggers’ personal lists as the Master Grail Search List.  Using this list from our smartphones, we have hunted for items for others, too.  The increased range provided by the Master Grail Search List has resulted in a couple scores.

While searching one of my hard drives, I discovered what is probably the very first Grail list I ever made, and it is over 10 years old now.  Apparently I wasn’t calling it a Grail list yet (like I said, I don’t know when we started using that term), but below is my 2005 “Ultimate All-Time Want List”.  I have since found a number of these…but have also added many more to my list!  Check out the list, with added notes from today in [red].


CHICKARA

Date: 2005/06/11

ULTIMATE ALL-TIME WANT LIST

To be modified and added to periodically.

In no particular order:

  • KISS – Chikara (CD or LP)

[I should have bought this when I had the chance in ’96 at Dr. Disc in Hamilton!  I blew it.]

  • marillion – Web Christmas 1998 CD
  • marillion – Web Christmas 1999 CD

[Still missing these two.  I’ve downloaded them from their official site, which is nice, but not as nice as an original CD.]

  • Metallica – The 5 1/2 Year Anniversary Box Set LP

[Saw this one at Flying Monkey Music in Waterloo in 1997, priced around $120.  I should have bought it.  Scott, our Heavy Metal Overlord has a copy, but he is also apparently immune to my Jedi mind tricks.]

  • Tommy Shaw – Girls With Guns CD

[Hahaha, what!?  I don’t remember wanting this!]

[I mean, sure, I’ll take it, I like that one song…it’s a great music video too, all one continuous shot with no edits…but the CD is certainly not a Holy Grail item anymore!]

  • KISS – Alive III (Japanese CD)

[No longer needed, since the release of Kiss’ comprehensive Alive! 1975-2000 box set!]

  • Iron Maiden – “Wasting Love” (CD single)
  • Iron Maiden – “Hallowed Be Thy Name” (CD single)
  • Motley Crue – Generation Swine (limited edition Japanese with bonus track “Song To Slit Your Wrist By”)

[FOUND, FOUND, and FOUND!  All of these came from eBay.  None were cheap, but I had a budget threshold for each under which I was willing to pay.]

  • Black Sabbath – “The Shining” (12″ single)

[No longer needed, due to the excellent Sabbath deluxe edition of Eternal Idol.]

  • The Sultans Of Ping F.C. – Casual Sex in the Cineplex CD

[FOUND by Aaron in 2012!  Holy Grail lists work!]

  • ZZ Top – Chrome Smoke & BBQ (limited edition CD box set)

[FOUND, quite easily, and very soon after I made this original list.  I just went down to Best Buy and bought it.  Hey, sometimes it’s the simple way.]

  • KISS – Instant Live CDs (ALL of them)

[Three have been FOUND!  I would still love “all” of them, but I’m not made of money!]

SWINE_0001


I’m actually surprised to see so many items crossed off this decade-old list!  Surprised, and pleased.  I know how much I wanted some of these items, such as those Iron Maiden CD singles.  That Motley Crue import also dogged me for years.

The internet helped me gain access to many of these.  It has also broadened my realization of what lay in the nooks and crannies of a band’s discography.  When I made this list 10 years ago, I didn’t even know about Maiden’s Live!! +one EP.  I didn’t know that the same band’s Best of the Beast 6 LP box set had one exclusive bonus track (“Revelations” live) that was tucked away unnoticed.  As I have crossed items off my list, two more sprang forth in their place!

Thanks to Aaron’s Master Grail Search List, the never ending quest continues!

REVIEW: Marillion and the Positive Light – Tales From the Engine Room (1998)

TALES FROM THE ENGINE ROOM_0001MARILLION and the POSITIVE LIGHT – Tales From the Engine Room (1998 Big Eye)

Remix projects: Often dicey, usually over-indulgent cash-grabs. I always give Marillion the benefit of the doubt where integrity is concerned. In the liner notes, singer Steve “H” Hogarth says that the art of the remix at its best is to produce a cerebral trip, and I think that was the aim here. He refers to this as a “reconstruction” and that sounds about right.

Having just completed the This Strange Engine album, Marillion handed over the master tapes to The Positive Light (Marc Mitchell and Mark Daghorn) for creative reconstruction. The duo had impressed them with some early work on “Estonia” so they decided to go all-in. That track is the first on the CD, Tales From the Engine Room. It’s a swirly, heavenly version but not a drastic departure. Hogarth’s vocal isn’t chopped to bits, the melodies remain the same, and the overall structure is unchanged. It is as if the body of the song were played by Jean Michel Jarre instead of Marillion.

“Estonia” folds neatly into “The Memory of Water”. This experiment turns the song into a light dance number. It’s not nearly as great as the pounding “Big Beat Mix” on the Radiat10n CD.  This version just kind of circles around without going anywhere.  It’s always risky, extending a three minute song to almost ten!  Sorry Positive Light, I have to give you a D on “The Memory of Water”.

TALES FROM THE ENGINE ROOM_0002If you like long bombers then you’ll love “This Strange Engine”, all 20+ minutes of it!  That’s not too much of a stretch, since the original is over 15.  Of this one, Hogarth says, “[it] reduced me to tears.  I would advise you to listen to it on a Walkman whilst walking through the town on a Saturday afternoon.  It makes everyone move in slow motion!”  While it is cool, it has never given me that exact effect.  It really starts to swell into dramatic waves when it gets into that “tall tales of Montego Bay,” section.  A solidly trippy remix.

Onto “One Fine Day”, which was never one of the strongest tracks.  With the Positive Light, it acquires a trippy jazzy slant.  I don’t know what “Face 1004” is, except perhaps a Positive Light original?  It bears no resemblance to the fine Marillion song “Man of 1000 Faces”, but it’s a beat-heavy dance track much in the style of the rest of this CD.

The original CD ended with track 5; reissues also contain “80 Days”.  Since there’s no point in buying an incomplete version, you may as well look for the reissue.  “80 Days” is far removed from its jaunty, celtic origins.  Now replete with electronic beats and tribal singing, it is still a celebration of touring the world.

Tales From the Engine Room turned out to be an apt title for a successful experiment.  The Positive Light took the songs down to their cores without losing what made them the songs that they are.  They re-presented the tunes in a new way, in a different genre.  While this is far from an essential purchase, it will be appreciated by fans of latter-day Marillion.

3/5 stars

#413: Just for the record, Meat’s gonna put it down (Guest shot)

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#413: Just for the record, Meat’s gonna put it down

By special request of Aaron at the KMA, yesterday I ranked all the Marillion studio albums in order of preference (see #412: Just for the record, I’m gonna put it down).  It’s not an easy thing to do, because any band with two distinct phases (and lead singers) is going to have lovers and haters of both, as well as fans who can accept both equally.

During Sausagefest weekend 2015, I discussed my already-completed list with Uncle Meat, who also wanted to take part.  He has his own feelings about Marillion’s discography.  In fact he only listed six albums.  Meat is very much a “Phase One” fan, a follower of Fish who had a hard time accepting the changes that occurred after Seasons End.  It’s important to note that Seasons End was mostly written (musically) with Fish.  After that album, the band had to come up with new material for the new singer, and that is when they started to write very differently from before.  It’s not Steve Hogarth’s fault, in Meat’s eyes, just the way the band wrote for and with him.

Here are Uncle Meat’s top Marillion albums, without commentary.  He’s going top down:

MISPLACED1. Misplaced Childhood (1985)

CLUTCHING2. Clutching at Straws (1987)

FUGAZI3. Fugazi (1984)

SCRIPT4. Script For A Jester’s Tear (1983)

SEASONS5. Seasons End (1989)

6. Vigil In A Wilderness of Mirrors – Fish (1990)

How’s that for a “Big Wedge”? More Marillion tomorrow!