01 November 2008

Brief Thoughts toward a Marillion review

Some brief thoughts about the new Marillion album...

I am planning a far more in-depth review of the new 2-CD Marillion album Happiness is the Road for another outlet (while this is my primary outlet for writing, I do have one other site that requests some exclusivity for their material), but I would be remiss if I didn't write at least something about it here.

The new release is 2 separate discs with unique subtitles. The first volume is titled Essence and is 10 thematically bound tracks. The material is fairly mid-tempo throughout, with emotional Steve Hogarth vocalisation. Keyboards are incredibly prominent here...Mark Kelly showcases a wide range of sounds, from piano through treated organ and more traditional synth textures. Pete Trewavas and Ian Mosley are solid as ever holding down the rhythm...some have said Mosley has lost a touch off the top, but I find his playing to be beautiful in its restraint, playing deep in the pocket and adding flourishes here and there to change things up. I wish Steve Rothery was a bit higher in the mix...this is a complaint I have had for years now, and it doesn't seem to be something that is going to change. When I hear him playing, his singular instrumental voice remains as incisive as ever...I just wish there was more to be heard.

Highlights on volume 1 include "This Train is my Life," "Woke Up," the title track "Happiness is the Road," and the 'hidden' bonus track "Half Full Jam."

Volume 2 is subtitled The Hard Shoulder and is made up of additional tracks written and recorded at the same time which did not fit the themes presented on Essence. A more diverse collection of tracks in general, it still flows in the smooth mid-tempo Marillion has been exploring pretty heavily the past several albums. There's a bit more electronica ("The Man From Planet Marzipan"), some typical Marillion darkness ("Real Tears for Sale"), and the kind of quirkiness that has been a more visible bit of the band's raison d'etre for much of the Hogarth era ("Thunder Fly").

As a whole I don't think Happiness is the Road reaches the same kind of stratospheric heights the band found on albums like Marbles...yet I find it more consistent in general than much of their output since 1998. It's still too early to tell, but if I had to rank the band's studio output since 1998 right now, I'd have to say...

1) Marbles
2) Happiness is the Road

3) marillion.com

4) Anoraknophobia

5) Radiat10n

6) Somewhere Else


Mark Guenther said...

Interesting views. Could you provide a link to the longer review?

Bill K. said...

When it is posted, yes.

Anonymous said...

I agree that "Marbles" deserves # 1; but, I haven't heard the new one yet, but seen the Marbles tour, and it was great.
Hey Bill, I know Marillion had an early album called "Misplaced Childhood" but where am i thinking of in "Childhood's End?"
Does that ring a bell in Marillion's catalog? I think it was a lyric on that CD. I get the feeling you are close to that one, too, like in "kayleigh?"