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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Marillion

Marbles

Review by Steve Alspach

Aylesbury's finest come back with Marbles, their first studio 2-CD. Marbles is prog at its finest - the band knows how to write and play in a more conventional structure, but they haven't lost their knack to construct longer pieces that never meander. Fans of the band will hardly be disappointed in this top-notch effort.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
The Invisible Man
There's a sinister edge throughout this 13-minute opener, even though it runs through several movements. This is fitting since the subject of the song appears to have become invisible against his will. The 7/4 section that kicks in at around the 6:30 mark is especially harrowing.
Marbles I
The first of four short interludes in this album, this is a laid-back affair with a slight cocktail-jazz feel to it.
Genie
This is a mid-tempo number, heavy on the guitar and with some nicely understated vocals on the bridge.
Fantastic Place
Hogarth is at his most soulful on this tune that builds ever-so-gradually.
The Only Unforgivable Thing
We don't know what it is, but Hogarth runs through an imaginative litany of what it does. Mark Kelly's organ adds a hymn-like tone, and Ian Mosley's percussion keeps the song from plodding.
Marbles II
This piece sounds rather Lennon-esque with the melody and the Phil Spector-like production.
Ocean Cloud
The band pays homage to Don Allum and the Ocean Rowing Club, a group who have a penchant for rowing solo back and forth across the Atlantic. At 18 minutes this song is perhaps the focal point of the CD. It keeps moving with an ebb and flow of tempos and feelings. Like "Out of This World" from the Afraid of Sunlight album, this piece also uses actual audio clips of the subject at hand to good effect.
Disc 2
Marbles III
Leading off the second CD, this short piece is highlighted by Mark Kelly's simple melodic lines and Hogarth's slightly disturbing lyrics.
The Damage
It almost sounds like Marillion is borrowing from the Jeff Lynne songbook on this one. The lyrics come mostly from "Genie."
Don't Hurt Yourself
This is a relaxed rocker, and the lyrics basically encourage you to forget the past and live each day afresh. An interesting side note - Pete Trawavas and Steve Rothery switch roles on bass and guitar, Pete driving the song with his acoustic guitar strumming.
You're Gone
The first single pulled from the album, this song is much like a latter-day Genesis composition but without the sap quotient that plagued them in later years. This is another example of Marillion's ability to write and record a song in a more "traditional" vein.
Angelina
A smoky, late-night jazz feel kicks off this paean to an over-night disk jockey. The song doesn't pick up much steam after that, though, lending to an intimate, relaxed mood.
Drilling Holes
With its trippy lyrical imagery, bird sounds that open and close the track, and snippets of harpsichord and mellotron, the band seems to give a friendly nod to late 60s psychedelia. (Mentioning king retro-psych kings XTC doesn't hurt either.)
Marbles IV
Musically this is pretty much a reprise of Marbles I with a slight change in the chord progression.
Neverland
After a rather soulful first few verses, the band get into an extended slow funk jam on this 12-minute closer with Steve Hogarth repeating vocal lines, and Steve Rothery adding simple yet powerful guitar fills. The band ends short of the 11-minute mark to the delicate sound of wind chimes to close out this incredible, sprawling album.
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