Over the years I have heard lots about Marillion (both good and bad), but I will be willing to admit that I have not really heard anything of Marillion outside of the single. Not a bad thing or a good thing, just a fact in my musical life. The main reason for doing this blog is that one of the newest members of the team (and head honcho of Alternation on NE1.FM (the show which I also appear on)) Barry Wilson is off to see a Marillion tribute band in the next few days. So for that small fact alone, I have decided to pick an album at random. The one I have picked is the one from which I know at least one song - Holidays In Eden. This is their sixth album over all and their second with singer Steve Hogarth. It was released in 1991 and had three singles released from it. It was a top ten hit album in the UK and was also re-released in 1998 with an extra disc. The version on Spotify is the two disc version, but I will be only looking at the main album and not the extras.
The album starts with "Splintering Heart" which has a very progressive opening, slow keyboards, pulsing bass, minimal drumming, floating guitars and then the vocals drop in. The build is something that has been emulated/used by other acts over the years (Nine Inch Nails, Dream Theatre, etc) to great effect. As opening tracks go, it is just setting out the stall. The music is well played and I can see why Marillion have always had a loyal following. Next is the single "Cover My Eyes (Pain & Heaven)", which is a re-working of a song called "Simon's Car" from the singer's original band - How We Live. It was a top 40 hit back in the day and is the more obvious attempt at a modern rock hit. Even after twenty years, I still get little shivers up my neck with the song and whilst it is an obvious choice for a single (and slightly cheesy) I still find it very enjoyable. Following next is "The Party", a tale about underage drinking and the effects of the night on the person. It is an interesting song, with a great guitar and drum solo in the middle. It is purposely build for drama; it is also well crafted and delivered as well.
After this is "No One Can" which was the second single released from this album. I have memories of watching this performed "live" (i.e. mimed) on a garden show where there were no speakers or wires in the middle of a garden. It is a slow ballad in the typical 80's modern rock style. It didn't really do anything for me then and that has not really changed in the intervening years. A decent song, yet it is not a song that I would put on out of choice. "Holidays In Eden" is the fourth track on the album, it is straight out of the progressive rock book and very catchy. For the life of me, I cannot see why this one was not released as a single and that "No One Can" was picked ahead of it. It is not the obvious track, but for that reason it is a much better option. "Dry Land" is next and it was the third single and yet again you can tell why it was released as a single. It is an obvious attempt at the AOR market that does not sit well with the more progressive material on this album. You cannot deny it is a prog band making the music, but the obvious attempts at taming that side of the band does not work for me.
"Waiting To Happen" is a slow acoustic driven ballad that morphs into a pure prog classic and it does not come a moment too soon for me. To begin with I thought it was going to be another exercise in AOR beige, but it became a lot more than that. I love the performance on this song and it is one of the highlights of the album. "This Town" starts off with sirens and has a more hard rock mood to what has been played before. It is another track which is a little by the numbers, but I cannot fault what the performance on offer here or the track itself. It is very enjoyable and does not have any pretence about it. Together with "Cover My Eyes (Pain & Heaven)" and "Waiting To Happen" it is one of the best tracks on the album. "The Rake's Progress" is a natural coda to "This Town". It is the slow decent and ending of the story which began in the last song; which brings us to the end song - "100 Nights". The last three songs are all interlinked into one song if the truth be told. There is no gap between them and if it was released as one song I have a feeling it would tremendous. But they are all good in their separate parts, "100 Nights" is the best of them and ends the album on a progressive high.
The conclusion I have came to whilst listening to this album was that I found that the singles (apart from "Cover My Eyes (Pain & Heaven)") spoil what could have been a brilliant prog album. Take two of them out of the equation and it would have elevated this good record to higher levels, it is a shame that it was released just as grunge started to take over the world ;probably one of the reasons why it was not the international hit that the band (or their record label) wanted at the time. But with being said, this is not a bad album, it is quite a decent record and after I get my crash course CD from the band (if you go to it, they will send you a CD with random songs from their back catalogue for free) I will be looking at more of their records. In prog we trust.....
7 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check
Top track - Cover My Eyes (Pain & Heaven)
You can purchase one of the versions of the album from Amazon here (including some box sets with it in)
You can visit the band's website here - it also has an excellent webstore!
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Here is the Deezer link for the album