Six of One Half-Dozen of the Other

REVIEW: Marillion – Six of One, Half-Dozen of the Other (A Singles Collection)

Wish me luck in the Minds in Motion walk today!

This is the second of two Marillion reviews this weekend. For the first, Seasons End, click here.

MARILLION – Six of One, Half-Dozen of the Other (1992 US), A Singles Collection (1992 UK)

After the mediocre pop sounds of Holidays in Eden, Marillion were about to embark on a far more interesting journey. But not before issuing the standard greatest hits CD with two new songs attached. Marillion had released a compilation of B-sides before (B’Sides Themselves) but never a collection of A-sides. As the title implies, you get six singles with original vocalist Fish, and a half dozen with his replacement Steve “H” Hogarth. Then in addition to these 12, there are two new songs: A Rare Bird cover called “Sympathy” (an excellent dramatic piece) and a forgettable pop song called “I Walk Walk On Water”, easily the weakest song on the album.

While there are two much more complete compilations out today (Best Of, The Best of Both Worlds), I still enjoy listening to Six of One, Half-Dozen of the Other from time to time. Not too often, though.  It is a bit awkward, as they insisted on shuffling one Fish song after each Hogarth song.  Remember when Van Halen attempted that?  It didn’t work for them either.  It doesn’t flow. Really, old and new Marillion were like two completely different bands and you can’t just from “Garden Party” to “No One Can”. It doesn’t work no matter what universe you inhabit.

However, the tunes themselves are awesome, and you get most of the singles. Three are missing: “Market Square Heroes”, “He Knows You Know”, and “Punch and Judy”. However you do get all the Hogarth singles up to the time, and the most well-known and commercial of the Fish ones. Most of these tunes are really strong and would make it to my own car tape (just in a different running order). Others (“The Univited Guest”, “Hooks In You”, “No One Can”) would not. Swipe those three out for the three Fish singles I mentioned and you’d have a damn good comp. However, it would be lopsided towards Fish and obviously Marillion weren’t going to do that.

At this point Marillion were skirting dangerously close to being a pop rock band. The singles from Holidays in Eden are decidedly straightforward and geared towards 1992’s radio tendencies. “I Will Walk On Water” is hardly any better. Unbelievably, the band soon turned in the immortal album Brave which is so deep, so rich, so emotional, that I don’t even know how I’m going to review it. The music can change your life, if you let it.

In the meantime, if you want a sampler of Marillion’s most commercial moments, pick this up. However for a better overview, pick up one of the other comps I suggested. (Of note to collectors, the version of “I Will Walk On Water” released here is hard to find elsewhere, and there are some other single edits, remixes and whatnot included. The liner notes are also excellent.)

3/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Marillion – The Official Bootleg Box Set Vol 2 (2010)

Part 2 of a 2 part series!  Missed Part 1?  Click here for Early Stages: the Official Bootleg Box Set from the Fish era.

MARILLION – The Official Bootleg Box Set Vol 2 (2010 EMI)

Spanning Seasons End through to Brave, Vol 2 of the Official Bootleg Box (Vol 1 is of course the Fish years) effectively captures what some believe to be the best years of Steve Hogarth’s tenure. You will, naturally, get some repeat within the 8 discs inside. You’ll hear “Easter” more than once. You’ll hear “Uninvited Guest” more than once. It is what it is.

Here’s a breakdown of the contents herein:

  • Discs 1 & 2:  Leicester, April 24 1990
  • Disc 3:  BBC Friday Rock Show, Workington, July 13 1991
  • Discs 4 & 5:  Wembley, London, September 5 1992
  • Discs 6 & 7:  Warsaw, June 15 1994
  • Disc 8:  BBC Sessions EP, 1992-1994

Obviously the BBC stuff has a higher fidelity than the other stuff. It’s called a bootleg box set for a reason! But the other discs still sound acceptably good. They are soundboard recordings, not audience recordings. Hogarth’s voice is a bit hoarse in Warsaw 1994, but that’s the reality of a live concert setting.  A reality that I love and embrace.

BOOT BOX 2_0003The highlights are many. “Sugar Mice” is always great, regardless of who sings it. It was also nice hearing “I Will Walk On Water” and “Sympathy” during the Wembley 1992 show; both are from the then-recent Six of One, Half-Dozen of the Other compilation album. Attentive listeners will even hear Marillion strumming away on an embrionic version of “Made Again”, a full two years before it was released! You will get to hear all of Brave performed live in 1994. I liked the moment in the Warsaw show when Hogarth asks security to go easy on the fans, “they are not animals”.

Some people bitched that it’s not a full length CD, but I dug the BBC Sessions EP.  It’s just a four song acoustic EP, but it sounds amazing. Today, Marillion have a ton of acoustic work (Less = More, Unplugged at the Walls, Los Trios Marillios to name some of many), but this is the earliest acoustic set that I think I’ve heard. The only problem is, it’s mastered way louder than the other 7 discs. Kind of jarring when you have them on continuous play and you have to jump for the volume knob!

The box set includes each CD in its own fully illustrated cardboard sleeve, as well as a booklet. The box itself is slim but sturdy.

If you’re a Marillion diehard, you will obviously want to somehow save enough pennies to add this to your collection. Even though I have already somewhere in the neighborhood of…God, I don’t know? Over 50 live albums from the Hogarth years alone? Many of them 2 and 3 disc sets? I’ve lost track of how many I have, and that doesn’t include their download-only instant live albums! But this is still a great package to own, especially because the older live Hogarth albums are getting harder to find. (Don’t know how you’d get a copy of Front Row Club #1 at this point, for example.)

4/5 stars