Pete Trewavas

REVIEW: Marillion – A Piss-Up in a Brewery / Christmas 2000

MARILLIONChristmas 2000A Piss-Up in a Brewery (2000 fan club CD)
MARILLION A Piss-Up in a Brewery (19 track download version released 2010)

Being a member has its advantages, and when joining the official Marillion fan club entails a free exclusive CD, you can always count on me to be on board.  Marillion’s third, A Piss-Up in a Brewery, was my first.  The original 12 track Racket Records printing (WebFree 03) is a treasure.  It was made available again to members of the Front Row Club subscription service in 2003, as Bass Brewery Museum, Burton, UK – 17th November 2000 (FRC-011).  CD has space limitations, but in 2002 a DVD of the full 19 song show was released.  Then in 2010, the audio (mp3 or FLAC) of all 19 tracks was made available for download.  Anyway you want it, you can get the complete performance as it was.

Marillion were invited to perform intimate gigs at the Bass Brewery and get their own signature beer.  They chose an acoustic format with new material, special covers and a guest.  They were hard at work on their new album Anoraknophia, “which you’ve already bought” said Steve Hogarth, referring to their innovative pre-ordering scheme.  The second gig was recorded for the fan club-only Christmas CD.

A quiet “Go!” begins and gently builds to the throbbing chorus, “Wide awake at the edge of the world.”  The second song also quietly builds from calm beginnings.  “After Me” is one of their most memorable pop melodies, infused with integrity from the start, and stripped bare in the brewery.  Then from their 1994 concept album Brave comes the single “Alone Again in the Lap of Luxury”.*  Intense songs for an intimate show.  “Lap of Luxury” smoulders, and as it burns, Steve Hogarth blasts for all he’s got.

The first big surprise of the evening was the Fish-era B-side “Cinderella Search”, albeit the shortened 7″ version and not the full-on five and a half minutes of brilliance from the 12″ single.  The amusing thing is when a spoiling audience member blurts out the title having attending the night before.  “Oh, there’s always one,” says Hogarth.  The singer had never performed the song before these gigs.  The acoustic setting alleviates any pressure to be like Fish.  It also enables them to seamlessly meld the song onto “The Space”, already popular in acoustic form.

“A Collection” is another B-side with dark subject matter.  It’s about “an uncle” with an interesting hobby, but it’s also an ironically bright tune.  “Beautiful”* and “Afraid of Sunrise”* both date back to 1995’s Afraid of Sunlight, a pair really made for the intimate setting.

New friend Stephanie Sobey-Jones on cello is invited onstage for a sombre “Sympathy”, both a single and a Rare Bird cover.   Cello also features on the new song “Number One”.  It had simple beginnings, explains Hogarth.  “I had some words, and Mark had some chords.”  Interjects Mark Kelly, “Three, actually. I’m not joking!”   The track takes a stab at the artificiality of modern pop music, but was only included on the pre-ordered deluxe edition of Anoraknophobia.  Simple, but extremely intense.  The cello stays for “Dry Land”, a favourite ballad from 1992’s Holidays in Eden (and even earlier).  The voice of Steve (Hogarth) rings true on even the most difficult note, while the guitar of Steve (Rothery) makes for a sweltering solo.

Back to 1987, and the old favourite “Sugar Mice”.*  Of all the old Fish classics, “Sugar Mice” is the one that Hogarth most easily adopts.  The scars that he is nursing at the end of the bar sounds like his own.

Yet still the humour is always there.  As they warm up for the Mexican-sounding “Gazpacho”, Mark Kelly asks “Am I in the wrong band?”

“You have been for years,” deadpans Pete Trewavas.

“Gazpacho” gets you moving as the concert enters its final third.  Away, yon darkness; the music stays largely celebratory from here, though the lyrics maintain some bite.  Elvis Presley, O.J. Simpson and Mike Tyson were mentioned as inspirations for the lively song.  Celtic sounds invade “80 Days”,* an ode to the audience who clap along to every beat.  “80 Days” was always acoustic, and “The Answering Machine”* has existed in a popular acoustic alternate arrangement for years.  The brewery crowd clearly liked both very much.

A slew of covers are encore treats.  Crowded House’s “How Will You Go” (from 1991’s Woodface) is a brilliant song and choice.  There’s one more original (drummer Ian Mosely smokes on “Cannibal Surf Babe”) before they do Carole King’s “Way Over Yonder”* and The Beatles’ “Let It Be”.*  Rothery gets a bluesy guitar showcase on “Way Over Yonger”, though Hogarth has the soul credentials too, as “Let It Be” ably proves.

For a long time, I felt that the original Christmas 2000 release of A Piss-Up in a Brewery to be one of the best Marillion live albums, period.  It’s still magnificent in its full length, though perhaps they should have just made it widely available to everyone in the first place.  Maybe it wouldn’t have been a hit, but if they were on Santa’s good list that year, you never know.

5/5 stars

* Indicates this song was not on the 2000 Christmas release of A Piss-Up in a Brewery, but only the DVD and download versions.

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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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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!

#412: Just for the record, I’m gonna put it down

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#412: Just for the record, I’m gonna put it down

By special request of Aaron at the KMA.

Marillion have 16 studio albums: Four with original poet and singer Fish, and 12 (going on 13) with Steve “H” Hogarth. (I’m not counting the album of acoustic versions called  Less Is More.) Like any band who have had more than one beloved singer, it is very difficult to try to arrange their albums in any sort of rated order. How can you compare an album like Brave to Fugazi? They are nothing alike. They share similar DNA, and the ambition to play intelligent rock music, but to say one is better than the other? I wouldn’t want to do that.

But I must. This was a request. I have to oblige.

Starting from the bottom, here are Marillion’s studio albums from weak to strong.

SOMEWHERE ELSE16. Somewhere Else (2007). Following an album like Marbles (2004) is damn near impossible. Somewhere Else has never completely clicked with me and it remains foggy in my memory.  Incidentally, the vinyl version has three live bonus tracks and a slightly shuffled song order, as well as a warm sound that benefits the listening experience.

 

HAPPINESS ESSENCEHAPPINESS HARD SHOULDER15. Happiness is the Road (2008). Consisting of a massive eight sides of vinyl (!), Happiness is the Road is broken into two albums: Essence, and The Hard Shoulder. While both discs contain memorable songs such as “This Train is My Life”, the set is too sprawling and slow to be enjoyed frequently.  (The vinyl version contains bonus live tracks from the album Happiness is Cologne.)

 

DOT COM14. marillion.com (1999). I love that the band were digging into trip-hop and writing catchy poppy songs, but as a whole the album doesn’t rank higher than…

 

HOLIDAYS13. Holidays in Eden (1991). Some like it, some consider it too commercial. I fall into the second category.

 

THIS STRANGE12. This Strange Engine (1997). I still like this mostly acoustic album (I own three copies), but it’s a departure. Iron Tom Sharpe calls this “the one that sounds like Hootie and the Blowfish”. It retains progressive moments but also stretches out into celtic folky sounds and tropical celebrations.

 

ANORAKNOPHOBIA11. Anoraknophobia (2001). A decent album, a bit long winded but a progression over 1999’s marillion.com

 

SOUNDS10. Sounds That Can’t Be Made (2012). I think Marillion really grabbed this album by the balls. It’s fearless.

 

AFRAID9. Afraid of Sunlight (1996). This middle grouping of albums on the list are really so close it’s meaningless. It’s splitting hairs to put them in a meaningful order. Afraid of Sunlight scores high due to the excellent title track.

 

BRAVE8. Brave (1994). This is where Marillion-with-Hogarth really came into their own. It is still one of the most ambitious Marillion albums and an emotional roller coaster of a concept record.  There’s also a heavy 10 minute jam released as a B-side called “Marouette Jam” that necessitates buying of the remastered 2 CD edition.

 

SEASONS7. Seasons End (1989). The most difficult album of a career is gonna be the first album with the new singer. By retaining their classic sound with a few new twists and a new charismatic frontman, Marillion successfully rode through the transition.

 

RADIAT10N6. Radiation (1998). I love this noisy reject of an album. It’s brilliant.

 

SCRIPT5. Script For a Jester’s Tear (1983). Fish finally makes his first appearance on this list with the very first Marillion album. Genius poetry but complicated tunes make this one a jagged-edged favourite.

 

MARBLES4. Marbles (2004). Marillion’s first double CD studio album, never wearing out its welcome. Like Brave, but grilled to perfection and with all the accouterments.

 

FUGAZI3. Fugazi (1984). Fugazi is not an easy album to get into, with a pugnaciously opaque second side. The first side is pure genius.

 

MISPLACED2. Misplaced Childhood (1985). The record company shit their pants when they heard that Marillion were doing a concept album for their third record. The band had written two 20+ minute pieces of music tentatively titled “side one” and “side two”. After honing it live, they unleashed Misplaced Childhood to the stunned masses.

 

CLUTCHING1. Clutching At Straws (1987). It not difficult to put Clutching at Straws as #1. It is one of Marillion’s most beloved, and Fish’s favourite. The dark poetry and sharp songwriting makes it a timeless perennial favourite, never stale, and always revealing new facets to its personality. An utter classic.

 


 

THIEVING BSIDESMarillion have numerous live albums (I lost count but well over 50 or 60) and greatest hits with exclusive material to boot. Ranking those is all but meaningless. Having said that, one essential purchase for a serious Marillion fan is their first double live, The Thieving Magpie (1988). This epic contains a full performance of Misplaced Childhood, as well as non-album cuts like “Freaks”. Another great record to own is B’Sides Themselves (also 1988), containing some of Marillion’s most memorable B-sides.  These include the 18 minute epic “Grendel”, and more concise classics such as “Tux On” and “Market Square Heroes”.

Dig into some Marillion and see what the frak you’ve been missing!

GALLERY: I am once again a Marillion Web UK member

 

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Greetings!  Last month, we took a detailed look at four of Marillion’s annual Christmas releases:

A Collection of Recycled Gifts (2014)
A Very Barry Christmas (2001)
Christmas 2002 – Santa and his Elvis (2002)
Somewhere Elf (2007)

With the exception of A Collection of Recycled Gifts, these Marillion CDs were a free gifts exclusively for members of the official Web UK club.  I ceased subscribing and collecting a few years ago when they switched format to DVD releases.  Video is way further down on my collecting priority list.   In 2014, however, I learned they switched back to CD!  A double CD in fact: a live concert recorded in Chile called (heh heh) Chile for the Time of Year!

I re-subscribed just in time to get it.  And it has arrived, along with the 48 page glossy Web UK magazine.  This is a heavy mag, printed on good quality paper.  It’s nice that some bands’ fans still value such niceties.    There are four issues per year.

Below are a selection of pics.  For more on the Web UK, and a better way of life, visit marillion.com.

 

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

NEW RELEASE

MARILLION HAPPY XMAS_0001MARILLIONA Collection of Recycled Gifts (2014 Racket Records)

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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REVIEW: Marillion – Somewhere Elf (Christmas 2007)

SOMEWHERE ELF_0001MARILLIONSomewhere Elf (2007 Racket Records Christmas CD, free to Racket Club members – webfree 10)

This is, believe it not, Marillion’s 10th Christmas album of 11 total. From 2009 to present, Marillion have issued annual Christmas DVDs (which I do not collect) instead of CDs. Of their 11 Christmas albums, I have physical copies of nine. I am missing the first two, which were later reissued for purchase in mp3 format, and that is all I have in my collection.

(Note: in 2013 they released a new digital Christmas single, “Carol of the Bells”.  This song has since been issued physically on the new “best of” Marillion Christmas CD entitled A Collection of Recycled Gifts which just arrived at LeBrain Headquarters yesterday!)

The reasons I selected Somewhere Elf to review are two: 1) The included Christmas carol is hilarious. 2) The rest of the songs are taken from an invite-only rehearsal performance at Marillion’s headquarters, The Racket Club. The set largely consists of newer songs from Somewhere Else and Marbles.  The CD also contains the annual Christmas message from the band (6:22 long), partly apologizing for the previous year’s “amateurish and shambolic” message!  This soon degenerates into joking, mistakes, re-takes and acoustic Christmas jamming, so obviously the quality level has gone up this year.

Track 2 is the official 2007 Christmas song, “Let It Snow”!  This is a kazoo-laden drunken carol with new lyrics.  “The Aylsebury roads are closed, Let it snow let it snow let it snow!”  Hogarth’s campy vocal isn’t my cup o’ tea, but it’s all clearly for laughs.  They segue into “White Christmas” before returning back to the singalong.

Found some booze in a flight case,
And I’m afraid that we’re all shit-faced,
So I guess that we’ll have to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

This one made it to one of my annual Christmas CDs that I give out to friends one year.

The live rehearsals might be more interesting to some.  The intimate setting means Marillion play mostly mellow, dramatic songs.  They commence with “The Last Century for Man”, a new song from Somewhere Else.  This is another one of Hogarth’s environmental commentaries, set to a slow dance this time.  An effective song, the seriously bummer lyrics are punctuated with the sarcastic chorus of “So God bless America, I mean it!  God bless the UK, I mean it!”  Elsewhere he says to “Climb into the car, I know that makes you happy.  The sound of your laughter will get you so far.”  Without turning this review into a debate, a song like this is a bit of a slap to the face, a wake up call.  I don’t have a problem with that.  Additionally I think it was one of the better songs from Somewhere Else.

SOMEWHERE ELF_0004“Afraid of Sunlight” is a song that doesn’t need much rehearsing, but I don’t mind hearing this bombastic ballad again.  One of H-era Marillion’s strongest songs, “Afraid of Sunlight” is a personal favourite of mine due to the quiet verses and explosive, anthemic choruses.   Hogarth is understated, and then wailing in top voice.  Then from 1997’s This Strange Engine is the old concert standby “Estonia”.  I always get a little bored during this long mellow trip, but it does benefit from this intimate setting with just the fortunate few fans.  They applaud politely between songs, contenders for the luckiest people in England at that moment.  A third long slow bomber, the title track from Somewhere Else, is another favourite of mine.  There are some Steve Rothery solos here that rank among his best.  Live, dare I say better?  This dramatic tension-filled song is one of the highlights of their recent career.

The Marbles album is represented by two excellent songs: “Neverland” and “Fantastic Place”.  Much like “Somewhere Else”, “Neverland” is a long dramatic piece with different sections and moods.  It’s not an easy nut to crack, but worth getting to know.  This live version is intense, and again Rothery is the star.  After that much drama, there can’t be much air left in the room, but “Fantastic Place” soars.  It’s a bit of a brighter number, beginning quietly, but culminating with the kind of melodic guitar work that Rothery does best.

A studio version of “Faith” was finally released on Somewhere Else, but the song saw first release on Before First Light, a live DVD from 2003.  It was one of many songs initially written for Marbles, but its lullaby quality did not fit the vibe.  “Feel inside the atoms where the science breaks down,” sings Hogarth on what amounts to a statement on reality, love, the universe and the human experience of it.  In a 4 1/2 minute pop song.  Is it any wonder why the mainstream shies away from these guys?  Too cerebral.

The set closes with “See It Like a Baby”, a rocking upbeat new track that they were hyping at the time.  Here in an acoustic guise, I think I prefer it to the original album version.  It’s a little more special, and the acoustics chime clear inside the walls of the Racket Club.  It’s also the shortest song they played at this very special gig.  I’m glad special shows get commemorated and made available to people in this way.  People who are truly fans got an opportunity to own a CD of a concert that only a handful witnessed, and will probably never be physically issued again.  That’s mana to the collector.  Since this CD was intended as a Christmas gift to the loyal, I rate it:

4.5/5 stars