Review – Marillion – Holidays In Eden – 2022 Remix Deluxe Edition – by Leo Trimming

‘Holidays in Eden’, first released in 1991, is the latest edition in Marillion’s series of deluxe re-releases. This was a release for which their record company E.M.I. had high expectations of the band after Steve Hogarth’s debut album with the band in 1989. ‘Seasons End’ was relatively successful, but crucially for E.M.I. it did not spawn any great singles success which would have helped it ‘cross over’ from the niche rock market, as ‘Kayleigh’ had so memorably done in the mid-80’s. Therefore, the pressure was on for Marillion to become more commercial although the band were largely more interested in writing more ambitious pieces than three-minute radio hits. Out of this tension developed an album which certainly divided opinion at the time, but which also produced some classic Marillion songs, particularly the stark brilliance of Splintering Heart, which remains to this day a staple of their tours, often opening shows with a dark grandeur.

So let’s put this album in context – It is a common perception that most bands have a ‘difficult second album’ (and Marillion certainly did so with ‘Fugazi’ with Fish in 1984!!), but uniquely somehow Marillion contrived to have a ‘second difficult second album’ as ‘Holidays in Eden’ was a far from smooth process for Steve Hogarth’s sophomore album with the band. What the band were finding is that working on the next release with Hogarth was simply not flowing in the same way as their experience with ‘Seasons End’. Writing sessions at Stanbridge studios near Brighton were lengthy and frustrating, producing little material. ‘Seasons End’ had already had a lot of the music formed with sessions with Fish that never reached fruition. Lyrically, John Helmer had also written significant contributions, so when Steve Hogarth joined it felt deceptively easy to hone this material with some added material, such as Hogarth’s ‘Easter’, into an excellent album. Their second album with Hogarth was much more of a challenge, starting more or less from scratch. Hogarth and the band were discovering they had very different approaches to song writing and it took them some time to adjust to each other. Indeed, at one-point tensions grew to the point that Hogarth was effectively ‘sent home’ as his more rapid, business-like song-writing style just was not matching the rest of the band who were rather more into improvised jamming over long periods, looking for that elusive spark amidst hours of often fruitless playing. However, after that ‘break’ Hogarth returned two weeks later with a whole new song for the band, ‘The Party’ very much in the Marillion mould. Additionally, in his absence the rest of the band returned to material they had originally demoed in 1988 with Fish in ill-fated sessions at Dalnagar Castle in Scotland and eventually out of those ideas grew the closing suite of ‘This Town / Rake’s progress / 100 Nights’… but it was clear that generally things were not quite flowing second time around.

The band attempted to recreate their happy memories of the recording of Season’s End, returning to Hook End Manor in Oxfordshire – but they do say ‘never go back’. Marillion found this was not such a magical experience, partly because it was in winter and not a glorious summer as it had been for the previous album, and possibly because E.M.I. were not being quite so ‘laissez-faire’ with funding their rather extravagant life in the country! Marillion’s previous producer Chris Kimsey was not available so E.M.I. put forward Chris Neil as their next producer, who had previously starred as Jesus on the West End in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’… and rather more curiously had also been the lead in a cheap early 70’s sex comedy film ‘Adventures of a Plumber’s Mate’! In the music industry he was rather more well known for great success with pop acts like Shakin’ Stevens, Dollar and Sheena Easton. In the period leading up to ‘Holidays in Eden’ he had also produced Mike and the Mechanics for their massive hit album and single ‘The Living Years’, so it seems evident that E.M.I. had aspirations for Marillion to similarly have success as a chart friendly soft rock band. Chris Neil’s association with the main ‘Mechanic’ Mike Rutherford of rock behemoths Genesis certainly made him a palatable and quite enticing option for the band. Chris Neil also told them that his son was a massive Marillion fan, so he really did not want to mess them up. On the other hand, he also knew that the record company were expecting him to produce three hit singles off the album to project the band onto the next level and match their previous mid-80’s chart successes. Hence, out of that tension between Marillion’s progressive leanings and a record company’s desire for ‘hits’ was born the curious creature of ‘Holidays in Eden’.

It is probably fair to say that fan reaction at the time was mixed. Jon Collins in his fine Marillion biography ‘Separated out’ shared that the Dutch Progressive Rock Page reported that on the ‘Holidays in Eden’ tour at the Ahoy in Netherlands ‘a substantial part of the audience booed when Steve Hogarth announced they would be playing quite a lot from the new album’. In contrast, notable fans such as guitarist Janick Gers of Iron Maiden has said that ‘Holidays in Eden’ is one of his most favourite albums and apparently Formula One Racing driver Jacques Villeneuve used to listen to the album while practising for races! Pete Trewavas wisely said in the fascinating accompanying Blu-ray ‘Pain and Heaven’ documentary, for some fans who had started following Marillion with ‘Seasons End’ or ‘Holidays in Eden’ this album may well be one of their favourite Marillion albums as ‘these albums end up becoming other peoples’ really.

So how does it sound over 30 years later?

There will probably be two sorts of potential listeners considering this album – those that have bought it previously and are interested in the musical ‘extras’, the remixed sound, and the packaging. There will be others who may be discovering Marillion more recently who may know little about this album and wonder whether it’s worth buying?

The short answer is a qualified ‘YES’ – in truth this album was too hamstrung by compromises to be considered as one of their best albums, but there is enough quality in the original material and the extras to satisfy punters old and new. Unlike the flawed and rushed original mix of ‘Fugazi’, which the deluxe edition remix transformed wonderfully, this remix of ‘Holidays in Eden’ does not have the same transformative effect, as the original version was pretty well produced and mixed. However, this remix does add a new dimension to some of the songs and there is much else to attract longer term followers. A little more information on the tracks may help new listeners, and may provide some insights for long-time fans.

The more progressive elements of Marillion are well represented on this album with ‘Splintering Heart’, ‘The Party’ and the closing ‘This Town’ suite. ‘Splintering Heart’ started out rather differently in the demos, beginning much more heavy with a wall of wailing guitars, as can be heard rather spectacularly on the Blu-Ray with an early version recorded live at the Moles club. Chris Neil in Steve Hogarth’s ‘Corona Diaries’ podcasts has shared that he felt that the original version did not have enough dynamic range as an album opener so he suggested a different spookier intro, which rather belies the notion that he was just there to make them sound more ‘poppy’. Steve Rothery and Mark Kelly spent quite some time devising the atmospheric opening sequence of loops and synthesisers – it helped transform a fairly standard rock song into a classic, dripping with menace as ‘h’ sings with such feeling over the extended intro until the jaw dropping moment when he sings ‘but not as much as this…’ and the whole band crashes in like an avalanche, with Rothery’s guitar screeching like a banshee. The piece drops again into a more contemplative, shimmering section based on guitar samples Hogarth used to trigger with his white midi-gloves for live renditions of the ‘Seasons End’ song ‘Berlin, apparently one of the few times that something emerging from a Marillion gig soundcheck has evolved into a song. The song rises to a crescendo with Rothery seemingly wringing the neck of his guitar with pain filled guitar sounds and one can really imagine someone’s heart shattering. Hogarth has previously shared in the 1998 remaster version that he wrote the lyrics in a rather icy Toronto in 1990 and that he was ‘imagining a heart shattering from its own hardness… or coldness’. Splintering Heart continues the fine Marillion tradition of brilliant album opening songs and it remains a sure fire way to start a Marillion gig all these years later.

The more Progressive flavour of the album continues with ‘The Party’. Hogarth had started work on this during the ‘Seasons End’ writing sessions but largely finished it whilst he was on his aforementioned ‘break’ during the ‘Holidays…’ sessions. This song goes totally against the idea by some fans at the time that Hogarth was the pretty ‘pop boy’ trying to commercialise Marillion – as Hogarth wrote in the 1998 remaster sleeve notes ‘if Splintering Heart and The Party are pop songs, I’ll eat my pink telecaster!’ Indeed in the ‘Pain and Heaven’ documentary Pete Trewavas described ‘The Party’ as ‘quite classically Marillion. ‘The Party’ is a recollection of teenage parties, drawn from Hogarth’s adolescent memories of dubious underage drinking and the sexually charged atmosphere pervading such gatherings. Some of the lines were also inspired by another party – Hogarth’s experience with Magic Mushrooms after a memorable ‘Mexican Party’ at Stanbridge studios! ‘The Party’ starts quite simply with Steve Hogarth singing about a girl buying a bottle of cider over a simple Kelly piano motif, initially mirroring the naivety of a young girl going to her first party. The rising tempo and power of the music evokes the developing drama with ‘strange aromas, and noises and candles, that was where he found her’. Chris Neil recently shared in ‘The Corona Diaries’ podcast how impressed he was with Hogarth’s lyrics for ‘The Party’. He loved the lyrical story with its plot and nuances, describing Hogarth’s songs as ‘one act plays’. The rest of the band provided the backdrop for this drama as the trippy middle section in which ‘she never felt like anything like this before’ gives way to a distorted, guitar solo and great rumbling bass work and dissonant drumming, evoking how she would have been feeling after her first drug experience. Hogarth screams in anguish before the inevitable ‘come down’ over a plaintive piano and Hogarth’s voice conveying the feelings of the girl after losing her virginity in less than romantic circumstances. In some ways there are echoes of the much more celebrated classic psychodrama ‘Incubus’ song from ‘Fugazi’, and in my view ‘The Party’ is a highlight of ‘Holidays in Eden’, and rather an underestimated gem in the Marillion songbook. Curiously, Hogarth also shared with ‘Prog’ magazine that the teenage party upon which this story is based was also the first time he ever heard ‘The Yes Album’ by Yes which he says ‘changed my whole idea about music’– sounds like quite a party!! (😊)

The album is closed with the 12 minutes progressive rock three act play comprising ‘This Town’, ‘The Rake’s Progress’ and ‘100 Nights’. During the early writing sessions the band were struggling to find a creative spark so they returned to material from the abortive Dalnagar sessions in 1988 with Fish, and they found the basis for this closing epic.’ ‘This Town’ rolls in on a police siren , a wave of Mosley’s drumming and some gritty guitar from Rothery. Kelly’s keyboards rise as they reach the rousing chorus. Rothery’s guitars get dirtier as the story descends into corruption and Hogarth’s vocals become more strident, and after the final chorus Rothery’s guitars reach skyward conversely just as the narrative takes a decidedly darker  descent:

‘This Town takes us down, takes us down, I feel like I’m losing you to This Town,

The morning breaks and I watch you awake and This Town takes you down away from me again.’

The semi-autobiographical but mainly fictional story focuses on how a couple move to a city to make their fortune. However, they discover that cities can corrupt, and it starts to tear them apart as they follow their own ambitions. The short middle bridge in the suite, The Rake’s Progress, takes a very different direction musically with muted dreamy synth tones, subtle bass pulses, restrained rolls and splashes of toms and cymbals and eerie guitar phrases conveying a sinister, shadowy world in which our main protagonist transforms from being the jilted broken heart into a manipulative, cynical gigolo. The title is also a play on words as ‘The Rake’s Progress’ is a series of paintings by C18th painter William Hogarth (no relation!) about a young man’s descent into drunken debauchery and eventual insanity.  

The final piece of this suite is the dark brooding ‘100 Nights’ which chimes in on a simple echoing guitar motif and synth accents with our anti-hero manipulating all around him without compunction. Hogarth sings with deceptive gentleness, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, ruining a relationship with cool indifference. Rothery’s screeching guitar break almost screams out the real corruption at the heart of this story and Hogarth’s vocals rise in power with the whole band. ‘100 Nights’ seems to just fade away with a rolling guitar riff and echoing vocals on a subtle bed of keys, drums and bass – maybe it signifies that the main protagonist will drift on exploiting others endlessly, but it is rather disappointing as a finale. In the documentary Mark Kelly comments that in his view ‘we skimmed the surface of it in terms of what we could have done with it instrumentally’ which seems to confirm the nagging feeling that this was a lost opportunity with a great foundation which was not fully explored or expanded enough. Kelly has also said that Chris Neil worked very quickly and that his no nonsense approach rather limited musical experimentation, especially for the keyboards, except notably his inspired suggestion for the start of ‘Splintering Heart.’ For a producer with an ear for hooks and hits it is probably not too surprising that when it came to helping the band fashioning more ambitious extended pieces, he was rather less motivated or instrumental in realising those sorts of musical visions.

This is perhaps borne out by the interesting lineage of ‘This Town’ which can be traced on the deluxe edition as the Blu-Ray includes a very early demo version at Stanbridge, and then a later live demo at the Bath Moles club, through to the recorded album version. What is notable about the Stanbridge demo, recorded without the producer, is that it has a distinctly staccato and rockier feel much in the vein of classic songs by The Who – indeed Ian Mosley shared in the documentary that it was known as ‘the Who number’ in the Stanbridge sessions. The later Moles Club version seems to take it further into heavier territory with great energy. In that context it is easier to understand some of the disappointment expressed by both Ian Mosley and Steve Rothery in the documentary about the loss of that energy and feel in the final recorded version. Steve Rothery did remark that the new remix does restore some of the ‘meat it lacks on the original’ album version. It is also notable that now if Marillion play the ‘This Town’ suite they embellish it sonically and with much more power as if making up for not having done so originally.

Mark Kelly in his entertaining autobiography ‘Marillion Misadventures and Marathons : the Life and Times of Mad Jack’ describes ‘Holidays in Eden’ with the old football analogy as ‘an album with two halves. The pop approach of our singles… and, so not to scare the horses and some of our older fans, the longer episodic pieces…’ Before venturing into the ‘Pop half’ there is one halfway house in the shape of the far more straightforward rock of title tune ‘Holidays in Eden’. Based on a John Helmer lyric about going on holiday and losing your identity ‘Holidays in Eden’, begins with birdsong and a jet plane before launching full tilt into the main riff with crashing drums, banks of keyboards and power riffs before receding into jangling guitars and soft drumming on a synth bed. The rolling anthemic refrain precedes some meaty organ work from Kelly and the whole piece bounces along rather jauntily before some steepling guitar lines at the rather apt mid-song break ‘You wake up one morning, wondering who you are’, which may have crossed the minds of the band during this recording process as they sought to find their new identity.

The song ploughs on with the same rock driven pattern with a rising Rothery guitar and Kelly keyboard crescendo and a rather abrupt ending and a muted ‘well, that was a laugh, wasn’t it?’ heard in the background. It’s a straightforward engaging piece of rock/pop but it seems to have disappointed the band. Written by the rest of the band whilst Hogarth was on his ‘break’, in the 1998 remaster notes he suggests the music could have been a lot wilder to reflect the primal elements of the story. Pete Trewavas shares this reservation stating that it ‘should have been more than it was’. Similarly, Rothery states in the documentary that their live version gives it more energy and rawness, and in his view the remix has restored some of that edge.

Chris Neil had a brief from E.M.I. to find three hit singles. The first obvious candidate was ‘No One Can’, based on a chord sequence by Mark Kelly upon which Hogarth wrote a touching love song for his wife and shared memories with his children, about distance not mattering if you are in love. Mark Kelly considers it a good pop song although felt a little frustrated that for Neil the main focus was always about the vocals, which are lushly arranged with Hogarth sounding gorgeous, but no real room for any musical experimentation or embellishment, except a short clean and compressed guitar interlude. There are definite echoes of the smooth jangling chimes of The Police’s ‘Every Breath you take’, but alas despite extensive radio play at the time and a stylish video it did not really penetrate the higher reaches of the U.K. charts. It is probably the most commercial song the band have ever produced and certainly caused some consternation with some older fans at the time, but looking back now it just feels like a pleasant, pretty pop song – indeed, as Hogarth has said in his ‘Corona Diaries’ podcasts it definitely sounds like a hit from 1992… but it wasn’t!

The first single off the album was the rather more upbeat pop/rock of ‘Cover My Eyes’ (Pain and Heaven)’ which was not even a song before Chris Neil joined them to produce the album. He suggested marrying a distinctly U2 or Simple Minds like guitar riff and vocal melody by Rothery with a verse from an old song by Hogarth’s previous short lived ‘How We Live’ band, called ‘Simon’s Car’. Apparently, the lyrics are partly inspired by the glamourous 60’s British film actress Eleanor Bron, probably embodying all such unobtainable beautiful women, as reflected in the beautiful women populating the rather stylish pop video. It is a fun piece of rollocking pop/rock with an anthemic ‘hey, hey, hey’ call echoing a certain Simple Minds refrain. The band roll along to great polished effect with Rothery sounding suitably heroic on guitar. One curiosity about this song is that for some strange reason Chris Neil brought drummer Roland Kerridge into the studio to sample Ian Mosley’s drums so they could be played on an electronic kit, which was quite the fashion at the time. Mosley plays the drums on this song but they are all electronic, hence their rather ‘shiny’ and ‘bright’ sound – they sound ‘OK’ but why sample drums electronically when you have a drummer of the class of Ian Mosley in the studio? Chris Neil has since had the good grace to admit that this probably not his best idea!

There was still one more ‘single’ Chris Neil needed to fashion for the album to satisfy the label, so he suggested that Marillion cover ‘Dry Land’ from the only ‘How We Live’ album. Hogarth explains in the documentary that this felt rather awkward and weird for him as it was ‘not something I would have pushed for myself’, thereby squashing further the notion that it was Steve Hogarth who was pushing the band in a poppier direction. Nevertheless, Hogarth gives a great vocal about the sexual tension of thinking there may be something going on with someone you like, but not being quite sure. ‘Dry Land’ is very close to the original ‘How We Live’ version – indeed , it’s almost a carbon copy! Marillion smoothly lay out a bed of softly chiming guitars and string synths underpinned by a cool bass and drums foundation. The main variation to the original is Rothery’s delightfully tasteful guitar solo, which surprisingly Rothery states is the solo he is most proud of on the whole album.

Every Marillion album has at least one ‘hidden gem’ which seems to not quite gain the attention it may deserve in comparison to other more celebrated songs. For me on this album it is Waiting to Happen, and it was pleasing to note in the documentary that Steve Rothery feels it is one of his favourite songs from the album and ‘it’s what I would have wanted from the whole album’. Apparently, the band were considering dropping it, but Chris Neil wisely encouraged them to persist with the song which was eventually beautifully realised. It starts gently on a pillow of acoustic guitars and softly undulating synths upon which Hogarth sings with such grace about the magic and beauty of Love just below the surface in our lives. Hogarth shared that this lyric was based on a memory of lying in bed in his house unable to sleep ‘I lie awake at night, listening to you sleeping, I hear the darkness breathe’ and such is the gentleness of the words and music you almost feel you are in the same room. Out of this soft cocoon the spirit and music build to the bright sunburst of the chorus. Steve Rothery inevitably crowns this gem with a short but lovely guitar solo. The balance of the restrained verses and the celebratory choruses is the real power of this song, and Hogarth excels himself with some beautifully poetic imagery… insomnia never sounded so glorious!

Despite the attention Chris Neil and the band skilfully paid to these three ‘pop’ elements of the album none of them reached far up the charts, and from that album onwards it was clear that E.M.I. were losing patience with the band. Similarly, after the experience of being guided in a direction with which they were not totally comfortable Marillion were determined that in future they would remain in full control of future albums. Being typically Marillion they next moved almost 180 degrees from the ‘poppiest’ album of their career to one of their most progressive and ambitious releases, ‘Brave’ in 1994… but their days with E.M.I. were numbered. The main flaw with ‘Holidays in Eden‘ is that it simply tried too hard to satisfy conflicting aspirations, chart pop success versus expansive progressive rock pieces, and frankly it was largely unsuccessful on both counts. That does not make it a poor-quality album – there’s some great songs on here, and none of them are below standard. However, that unresolved tension resulted in diluting the focus with significant compromise and undermined the cohesiveness and feel of the album. The consequence many point to that arose from ‘Holidays…’ is the very different ‘Brave’ which was clearly a reaction to this one, but interestingly in the documentary Pete Trewavas intelligently draws a link to their great ‘Afraid of Sunlight’ album in 1995. He feels that what Marillion were trying to do on ‘Holidays in Eden’ was an album like ‘Afraid of Sunlight’, but ‘we just didn’t know how to do it’, which is a fascinating thought.

That’s the album – so what do you get with the deluxe edition, particularly if you are already familiar with the original album?

There is not the revelatory experience akin to the remix of ‘Fugazi’ for this remix, but it is definitely crisper and more impactful. It is perhaps significant that the songs which benefited most from the remix were the more ambitious, expansive pieces. Splintering Heart’s sinister programmed intro is more resonant and chilling, and The Party is noticeably sharper, with Pete Trewavas’ bass definitely and pleasantly higher up in the mix. ‘Holidays in Eden’ clearly has more ‘balls’ sonically. The remix for the shorter, more pop oriented pieces seem less obvious in impact, but in truth none of these changes are startling which is a testament to the quality of the original production. Of course, some with high end music systems will probably be able to detect the tiniest differences and pick up on them, but to most mere mortals with standard equipment the differences are not enormous, but definitely do improve some of the songs.

Discs 2 & 3 of the deluxe edition contain a brilliant recording of the band at Hammersmith Odeon in 1991 – it’s a fantastic recording of a great gig. Marillion may have gone through some changes and challenges in their career, but they are never less than great on stage. There is a healthy mix of old and new material, and it was clear that by this time Hogarth was growing into the skin as the new Marillion vocalist. Unexpected gems include the sinisterly delicate ‘A Collection’ and two deep cuts from ‘Misplaced Childhood’. The material from ‘Seasons End’ sounds particularly effective in this show, especially ‘King of Sunset Town’ and ‘The Space…’, as they had more time to ‘bed in’ with the band.

The main attraction of the deluxe edition are the extras, including the ‘Pain and Heaven’ documentary in which each band member and the producer are interviewed individually. This may have been a covid issue, but interviewing them singly does seem to free up some band members who may not speak so much in a group interview. There are some fascinating insights from the band members into the album, although it is interesting to note that Steve Hogarth has admitted in the ‘Corona Diaries’ podcasts that the director Tim Sidwell had to re-edit the film as they were so self-critical that ‘it comes across everyone thought the album was a huge mistake’!! (😊) To be honest, you still sort of get that sense underlying Steve Rothery’s contributions, but it would be unfair to completely dismiss the album when one considers the quality of some of the songs already described.

In addition, the Blu-ray includes the album in 5.1 Audio which reveals the album in more satisfying surround sound clarity. The B-Sides and Bonus tracks from the 1998 remaster are also included on the Blu-ray, although I know some fans without that previous version will be disappointed that these tracks are confined to the Blu-ray on this edition. There are 4 videos of the band, including the great ‘crunchy’ original Stanbridge demo of ‘This Town’. The Blu-Ray also features the glossy videos for the three aforementioned singles – these are definitely ‘of their time’, but are fascinating insights into the ‘Pop machine’ E.M.I. wanted Marillion to join… but they resisted… and are still going strong over 30 years later.

Finally, one of the best elements of the deluxe edition is ‘Rockpalast’ video of their gig in Germany in 1991. What is clear is that this is a highly professional and confident live outfit with impeccable musicianship. Needless to say, they all look SO much younger, and Hogarth is impossibly handsome as their dynamic front man – no wonder E.M.I. wanted him to feature in the videos. It’s a television recording, but the quality on Blu-ray is fine and the crowd seem to lap up the show.  What is rather different to the Hammersmith show is the extended encore section with five Fish era songs, perhaps with a German TV audience in mind, which Hogarth handles with aplomb.  Somewhat unexpectedly they break into Cliff Richard’s ‘Summer Holiday’ during ‘Garden Party’ and ‘Sugar Mice’ is presented acoustically without Rothery’s guitar solo. The deluxe edition is presented in the usual attractive book form with Sarah Ball’s original striking beautiful blue illustration given more space – this as the first Marillion album to ditch the classic Marillion logo as it seemed clear they wanted to break from that image. The book and lyrics are decorated inside with some gorgeous artwork from Simon Ward and there is an interesting essay by Rich Wilson.

‘Holidays in Eden’ will never be regarded as one of the great Marillion albums. It showed a band at the crossroads, looking for a new direction but still not sure where to go at the time and pulled in different directions. Nevertheless, it is a significant album which strangely did influence their next step and underlined to the band the importance of artistic freedom when writing their music. Look back and wonder what might have happened if one of those singles had been a big hit – what would we have missed? Look back and see a band evolving towards a different future – clearly there was ‘Something Waiting to Happen.’

TRACK LISTING:

CD One –  Holidays in Eden 2022 Remix

  1. Splintering Heart                                     (6.45)
  2. Cover My Eyes (Pain & Heaven)           (4.04)
  3. The Party                                                  (5.37)
  4. No One Can                                              (4.46)
  5. Holidays in Eden                                      (5.23)
  6. Dry Land                                                    (4.45)
  7. Waiting to Happen                                  (4.55)
  8. This Town                                                  (3.19)
  9. The Rake’s Progress                                (1.54)
  10. 100 Nights                                                 (7.47)

CD Two –  Live at Hammersmith 30th September, 1991 (pt 1)

  1. Splintering Heart                                      (6.47)
  2. Garden Party                                             (7.13)
  3. Dry Land                                                     (4.51)
  4. The King of Sunset Town                        (8.12)
  5. The Party                                                   (6.08)
  6. Easter                                                         (6.34)
  7. The Space…                                               (7.50)
  8. Holloway Girl                                            (4.05)
  9. A Collection                                               (3.14)
  10. Waiting to Happen                                  (5.08)

CD Three – Live in Hammersmith 30th September, 1991 (pt 2)

  1. Cover My Eyes (Pain & Heaven)            (3.55)
  2. Lords of the Backstage                            (1.51)
  3. Blind Curve                                                (4.15)
  4. The Uninvited Guest                                (4.25)
  5. This Town                                                  (3.44)
  6. The Rake’s Progress                                 (2.15)
  7. 100 Nights                                                 (4.46)
  8. Slainte Mhath                                           (5.10)
  9. Holidays in Eden                                      (4.47)
  10. Hooks in You                                             (3.15)
  11. No One Can                                               (4.56)
  12. Berlin                                                          (8.14)
  13. Kayleigh                                                      (3.52)
  14. Incommunicado                                        (5.11)

Blu-Ray Disc

‘Holidays in Eden’ 2022 Stephen Taylor Remix – 5.1 Audio Version:

  • Same Track listing as CD 1

B-Sides & Bonus Tracks   (1998 Remaster Bonus Tracks):

  • Sympathy
  • How Can it Hurt
  • A Collection
  • Sympathy (Acoustic version)
  • I Will Walk on Water (Alternate Mix)
  • Splintering Heart (Live at Moles Club)
  • You Don’t need Anyone (Moles Club Demo)
  • No One Can (Moles Club Demo)
  • The Party (Moles Club Demo)
  • This Town (Moles Club Demo)
  • Waiting to Happen (Moles Club Demo)
  • Eric
  • The Epic (Fairground) (Mushroom Farm Demo)

Film – ‘Pain and Heaven’  (Approv 85 Mins)

The Story of Holidays in Eden  (Documentary)

‘Rockpalast’ Live show – German TV 1991.

Order direct from Marillion here:

marillion.com | Racket Records Store

Review – Marillion – An Hour Before It’s Dark

“No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious & charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

With ‘An Hour Before It’s Dark’, Marillion release one of their most upbeat albums of their career while, at the same time, they once again do not shy away from uncomfortable topics, reflect on their own behaviour, and put their finger in the wounds of time. 

The band’s 20th studio album, Like its predecessor, 2016’s critically acclaimed and chart-topping album ‘F*** Everyone And Run (F E A R)’, was recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios. But, whereas it’s predecessor was more a dark and condemning comment on the government and the bureaucrats who ran the country, this new release deals with the pandemic in a much more hopeful and enriching manner leading to the band calling it their most upbeat album in quite a while.

There’s no getting away from it, a new Marillion album is always a great occasion and a cause for celebration but the release of ‘An Hour Before It’s Dark’ coincides with us hopefully seeing the pandemic diminishing rapidly and a sense of normality returning to everyday life and mirrors this new found feeling of optimism and promise.

I’d been one of the lucky ones who saw the band on their ‘Light At The End Of The Tunnel’ tour (in fact, I saw them on at the first gig in Hull) so my appetite had been whetted by already hearing the wonderfully dramatic Be Hard On Yourself, albeit in a live setting. Nine minutes of intense but fast paced music with Steve Hogarth’s distinctive vocals at the centre of this impressive track, it certainly opens the album in style. Reprogram The Gene delivers a powerful missive with the hard edged guitar and drums driving the song along, aided and abetted by a sharp suited bassline and keyboards. Steve Rothery has been given free reign to deliver some mighty power chords and Ian Mosley delivers an utterly mesmerising performance behind the drum kit. There’s a determined and catchy feel to this song and it resonates throughout the album as the short, sweet instrumental, Only A Kiss segues into the second single from the album, the irrepressibly infectious Murder Machines, a song that was born in the challenging times of lockdown and social distancing and has become so much more than just a mirror of our times, more than a song that deals with the precious as well as dark sides of human relationships. Steve Hogarth is in fine voice, especially on the buoyant chorus and Rothery’s guitar just sings perfectly.

Three songs into the album and I’m already hooked, it’s a record of, and for, its time, emotive and emotional and that is felt throughout the wistfully brilliant The Crow And The Nightingale, a nostalgic nod to Leonard Cohen and one of my favourite tracks on the album, one that just flows beautifully and shows the band’s thoughtful and contemplative side impeccably. That reflective tone carries on into the sublime Sierra Leone, another great song that sees the band in a storytelling frame of mind. This is a set of musicians who are playing at a ridiculously high level and delivering some of their best songs of a long and illustrious career, a band who are comfortable with themselves and their music and it is really obvious. This track builds gradually, the tempo increasing almost imperceptibly, before Rothery’s guitar breaks out, accompanied by Hogarth’s ever more dynamic voice. There are lulls as it ebbs and flows elegantly, always holding your attention, a fine piece of music indeed.

This superb and entrancing album comes to a close with one of Marillion’s finest ever tracks. In a long career of superlatives Care has to be right there at the top, a three part song that plumbs the depths of despair before rising through to end in promise and optimism. Pete Trewavas shows he is still one of the best bass players around and Rothery’s guitar is just transcendent, he really is at the top of his game. Mark Kelly delivers some bewitching keys throughout the album but none more so than here. This track really showcases the band’s impressive song writing abilities. Impassioned and passionate and, ultimately, uplifting, it is, possibly, the most perfect song they have ever written.

I have been a fan of Marillion for over three decades and, in a career of superlatives, ‘An Hour Before It’s Dark’ can truly be seen as one of their most accomplished albums. It is an outstanding piece of music that the band should be incredibly proud of and, even though we are only in February, it will take something amazing to knock it off the top of my album of the year list.

Released March 4th, 2022

Order from the band here:

Marillion Album 20 Official Pre-order Store (ear-music.net)

Marillion – ‘The Light At The End Of The Tunnel’ Tour – Live At Hull City Hall – Sunday, November 14th, 2021

“Live is Life…”

Life came full circle at Hull City Hall on Sunday evening, 14th November 2021. I first saw Marillion at this venue on the 9th July, 1990 and, thirty-one years later, here I was, about to watch one of my favourite bands on the first gig of their ‘The Light At The End Of The Tunnel’ tour.

It’s been a long time since Marillion last played live to their loyal fans, as Steve Hogarth said at the start of the gig, over 700 days! and you could sense the excitement in the venue beforehand. For the only time in living memory, the queue for the merch stand was way longer than the queue for the bar!

Antimatter

The support act was a duo called Antimatter and their short set was an excellent appetiser for what was to follow. Powerful vocals with electric and acoustic guitars made for a great listen and the audience were very appreciative.

The atmosphere in Hull City Hall had been building to a crescendo as the band came onto the stage full of vigour and enthusiasm and an honest joy at playing in front of a live audience again.

I saw the band last at the Royal Albert Hall nearly two years ago, in November 2019 and they just seemed to be so up for this gig, Steve Hogarth was laughing and smiling had a great rapport with his band mates, Pete Trewavas was bounding around the stage with obvious energy, Ian Mosley was a powerhouse behind the drum kit, Steve Rothery patrolled his corner of the stage in his usual stately manner and Mark Kelly was dominant, raised at the back of the stage behind his impressive bank of keyboards.

Steve Hogarth explained that the setlist would be a sort of greatest hits that the band had collaborated on and the concert opened with a blistering version of Sounds That Can’t Be Made and followed it up with the iconic King, Hogarth central on the stage with his guitar raised in tribute. There was a fizzing intensity and power to the band’s performance this evening and, while the venues acoustics may have not been up tot he standard of some of the modern arenas, it certainly did not effect the enjoyment of the enthusiastic crowd.

A rather emotive version of Beautiful had a lump in my throat and a scintillating rendition of one of my favourites, You’re Gone, had the whole hall in thrall. It’s been so long since we have been able to enjoy live music that everybody in the room was obviously enjoying themselves immensely, standing up and cheering and whistling at the end of every track.

The party was in full swing and Mr Hogarth was evidently enjoying himself as the band ran through really strong renditions of The Party, Bridge, Living With The Big Lie and Runaway, every song raising the roof even higher. Steve Rothery’s guitar playing just blows me away every time and the power and precision of Ian Mosley’s drumming has to be seen in a live setting, the man is just a machine!

Steve Hogarth is a most engaging frontman and has a very special rapport with the audience, his utter joy at being out at the front of the stage was obvious to all, no more so than when introducing Be Hard On Yourself, the first single form the forthcoming new album ‘An Hour Before It’s Dark’ and, according to Steve, ‘It’s going to be a belter…”.

Well, Be Hard On Yourself was an absolute belter in itself and Steve was in fine vocal form, delivering a finely tuned and stirring vocal, ably backed by Pete Trewavas, the band building in confidence as every song was performed. Fine performances of Berlin and The Release led into my favourite song of the evening, an utterly spellbinding arrangement of perennial favourite, the haunting and electrifying Neverland that closed out the set.

Of course there was going to be an encore, the crowd demanded it with their hands, voices and feet (all in a good natured fashion, of course!) and the band returned to rapturous applause to deliver a rather fantastic version of every part of The Leavers, a phenomenally compelling and powerful piece of music that always makes it mark. We weren’t happy with just that song though and, as the band left the stage again, the noise levels rose to a crescendo before we were treated to a rocking, fun, sing-along version of Garden Party that brought the house down and finished things on an ultimate high!

Nearly two years of frustration and pent up energy were released in considerable style at Hull City Hall tonight and it will be a gig that will live long in my memory, oh what a night…!

Setlist:

  1. Sounds That Can’t Be Made
  2. King
  3. Beautiful
  4. You’re Gone
  5. The Party
  6. Bridge
  7. Living With The Big Lie
  8. Runaway
  9. Be Hard On Yourself
  10. Berlin
  11. The Release
  12. Neverland

Encore:

  1. The Leavers: I. Wake Up in Music
  2. The Leavers: II. The Remainers
  3. The Leavers: III. Vapour Trails in the Sky
  4. The Leavers: IV. The Jumble of Days
  5. The Leavers: V. One Tonight

Encore 2:

  1. Garden Party

Interview With Steve Hogarth – 29th September, 2021

Legendary British progressive rock band Marillion embark on a UK tour, ‘The Light At The End OF The Tunnel’, in November 2021, ahead of their recently announced 20th album ‘An Hour Before It’s Dark’ and I sat down to chat with frontman Steve Hogarth about the upcoming live gigs…

Progradar: Hi Steve and thanks for talking to me, I am coming to see the band play on the first night of the upcoming tour, Hull City Hall, on the 14th November and, in a strange kind of synergy, the first time I ever saw Marillion was at Hull City Hall on the 9th July, 1990, so you’re talking 31 years ago!

Steve Hogarth (SH): Blimey! Do you know, I think that was the last time we were there.

Progradar: I’m pretty certain it was too! You know what, I saw you twice before lockdown, at the Royal Albert Hall in 2019 and I also saw you at the York Barbican in 2018, I can remember the songs better, obviously, from the last two but the one that sticks out most in my mind was that one, going back all those years ago. I even remember that Little Angels were the support band, a local band from Scarborough.

SH: Yeh, they were good, I remember them.

Progradar: It’s funny how you can remember these things from all those years ago. Are you looking forward to getting back out there again and playing in front of a live audience?

SH: Yes, very, very much, I think it’s all the more precious because it’s been denied us, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. I think, for the audience and the band alike, it will be quite something to walk back on stage in Hull. I’m looking forward to it immensely, yes.

Progradar: I went to see Keane at the open air theatre in Scarborough and it just threw it down with rain all through the gig but I just didn’t care, it was spine tingling to see live music again. I am so excited about seeing you guys in November, I’ve been a fan for over thirty years. The ‘Seasons End’ album and tour are where I really got into the band so, to actually think I’m going to get to see you guys where it all started for me, over thirty years ago is a quite a spine tingling thought actually.

Do you find that there is a difference in audiences in the UK and audiences when you go to the continent or all they all pretty much the same?

SH: Yes there is, audiences even vary from one part of the UK to another, to be honest. To be fair, about 18-20 percent probably travel, so there are people in the UK that are moving around. In that sense the geography is not as important but there are certain hotspots in the UK, Manchester, Liverpool are always terrific, Birmingham and London are usually good. Cardiff is a bit of a slow burner, they’re usually quiet but they go nuts at the end. You get used to the kind of dynamics of what to expect from a crowd, after a few years.

Across in Europe, again, certain parts of Germany, you know you are going to have an amazing show. We’ll have a great show in Cologne and Munich, we’ll usually have a great show in Hamburg. Not so much in Frankfurt and Hanover and, if you go over to France, we’ve always had amazing shows in Paris, it’s just about my favourite place to play on earth. Lyon will be good but not that same electric thing you get in Paris.

Over in Holland, it’s only a small country so it doesn’t vary quite as much there but playing Utrecht and Amsterdam is also special as well.

Progradar: I get a strong impression that Marillion fans have a real affinity with the band and you have a real affinity with the fans, do you agree and do you think it helps when you do the live gigs?

SH: Yes, absolutely, like a family. It’s not ‘us and them’ anymore, it’s very much ‘us and us’, we’re all in this thing together. Way back, at the end of the 90’s, when we (together) invented crowdfunding and we found a way to move forward by having fans pre-order the albums we hadn’t even finished yet, that’s almost become a commonplace thing now but it didn’t exist before we did it. That brought us closer together with the fans, it kind of gave us common cause, in a lot of ways.

The feeling of trust when somebody sends you their hard earned money, sometimes quite a lot of it! We are selling these packages where you don’t get much change out of fifty quid, they buy them with no guarantee at all that we won’t just go to Rio and have a party with their money. There’s a lot of faith and trust there and responsibility on us not to let anybody down, that’s pulled us closer together (with the fans) as well.

Progradar: I think for a lot of fans, you genuinely feel involved in what’s going on with a new album. A lot of bands involve the fans in what’s going on so they do feel invested and that helps when you come to the live stage. Fans feel they are going to see people they know, to a certain extent, play a gig. I feel you will have the goodwill from day one of a tour as 70-80 percent of them will have been fans from day one.

SH: Yes, I’ll probably recognise half of the front row just from all the years of doing it and seeing people. Bit by bit, we, as musicians, become conscious of who’s listening to us, I recognise people at the front and it is very much a family now.

Progradar: Do you get many fans who literally pay to go to every gig on a tour?

SH: It’s quite common to see and to get a message from someone to apologise for missing one like, “I’m sorry I couldn’t get down to St Austell”, and we’re like ” I’m not bloody surprised!”. We do, there are people that will travel to all of the shows and wear that like that a badge of honour, there are people who have even travelled around Europe as well! Similarly, Ive met people from all around the world who’ve travelled miles for a show, Americans who’ve just flown in for one gig and flown out again.

A few years ago we did a show at Shepherds Bush Empire and I met a couple of guys in the alley by the back stage door from Venezuela! I asked them what on earth they were doing there and they said we’d come to see you! So, when people are prepared to do that, it’s extremely mind blowing.

Progradar: I’d imagine it’s pretty humbling when you think they could have spent the equivalent of six months salary just to see one concert?

SH: It is humbling, it’s extremely humbling, it makes my head swim. I don’t think I’ve ever travelled more than sixty miles to see a band in my entire life! I can’t imagine getting on a plane and going to see somebody.

Progradar: Like I say, I saw you at the RAH in 2019 and, apart from having the most uncomfortable seats of any venue I’ve been to, it was an amazing gig, do you find that there is a difference in the atmosphere when you play the bigger venues to when you play the smaller ones?

SH: You can’t really generalise because you can amazing gig in a little club and you can have an amazing gig in a football stadium and every size in between. Each venue, and the space of that venue, has its own character. My job is to walk out there on the stage, get a feeling for it and wring it out like a cloth, get the very best out of that space that I can. That’s part of my job, although it’s not necessarily a conscious process to be fair, part of my job is to go, right, what can we do with this then?

Royal Albert Hall, November 2019, Picture is Author’s Own.

Progradar: I’ve been to concerts where they’ve really dragged and I’ve been to gigs, like the RAH and York Barbican gigs, where the time has flown by and I haven’t wanted to leave. We won’t call it working the audience as you say it is not a conscious process but, you certainly look like you’re enjoying it when you’re up on stage?

SH: Yes, to be honest, it’s dead easy to do when you’re meeting those waves of affection that I’m very fortunate to meet. It doesn’t make my job very difficult at all, all I’ve got to do is kind of bounce it back and see it for what it is, not take it for granted. Just go with what is special about a show from one moment to another, the vibration in the hall, I’ve kind of got to have my radar up, to pick that up and acknowledge it.

Progradar: I would imagine that, even if you played the same set list in two different venues, you’re still going to have two different events, two different concerts?

SH: Totally, yes!

Progradar: So, the new album, which you’ve had a bit of fun with, the fans guessing the album name, there were some quite interesting ones that came up in the Facebook group, some humorous ones as well!

SH: Yes, my favourite was ‘All Hard Bastards In Doncaster’, that really creased me up!

Progradar: You said that you are probably going to play one or two tracks from the new album, are you excited about giving the new music an airing in that live setting?

SH: Yes I am, because a lot of the stuff on this new album is really quite upbeat and will work really well live. In the end, we decided we would only play one track. When I say one track, it is about ten minutes long, it’s the equivalent of three of anyone else’s.

Progradar: Long gone are the days of tracks like Hooks In You, three and a half minute radio friendly stuff!

SH: Never say never but, we haven’t written a three minute song for quite a while now, it takes us three minutes to get to verse one these days. We’ve got a song called Be Hard On Yourself and I can tell by the nature of how we wrote it that it is going to be great live, it’s really going to kick arse! I’m looking forward to giving that an airing for sure.

Progradar: I’m really looking forward to hearing it, I have been prevaricating but finally got around to ordering the double vinyl today, especially when I saw it was the last day to get your name in the credits! I don’t know about you but, I grew up on vinyl and cassette tapes, then sold it all to make way for CDs and now we are buying vinyl reissues and remasters at ten times more than we we paid for them when they first came out in the 70’s and 80’s!

I have bought good quality pre-owned copies of ‘Holidays In Eden’ and ‘Seasons End’ and boxsets of ‘Marbles’ and ‘Brave‘. If you pushed me I would say that ‘Marbles’ is my favourite Marillion album, closely followed by ‘Seasons End’.

SH: Great, what’s your favourite track on ‘Marbles’ then?

Progradar: Funnily enough, I have just been listening to it in the car, it’s Fantastic Place, it’s one of my all time favourite Marillion songs. You played it live in York with a couple of my other favourite Marillion songs which are Seasons End and Easter but I absolutely love Fantastic Place.

SH: That’s a feather in my hat because I wrote two out of the three of those songs.

Progradar: There’s also Steve Rothery’s guitar in that song, it has no edges, do you know what I mean? It’s smooth and the solo just bleeds emotion. Leading on to the next question, you’ve also said you are going to play what you consider to be the best of your catalogue. With so many albums behind you, how do you pick the tracks on the setlist? Is it a democratic process, do you get a massive list and then just whittle it down?

SH: Yes, more or less. We all get a vote each, make a list, whatever wins gets chosen. We did decide for this particular tour that we would play what we all personally felt were our most important songs. Anyone who comes hoping to hear a couple of obscurities will probably be disappointed but anyone who’s hoping to hear the really big songs, they’ll be delighted because that is what they are going to get.

Progradar: So I can sort of live in hope that I am maybe going to hear one of my favourite three on the 14th November?

SH: You certainly can, for sure.

Royal Albert Hall, November 2019, Picture is Author’s Own.

Progradar: Not being a musician, I find this quite fascinating, are there songs that you like off studio albums that you think wouldn’t work in the live experience?

SH: There’s certainly a couple, yes. The Fruit Of The Wild Rose has always been very tricky live because, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, it kind of goes into a groove at the end that is set down by an acoustic guitar, playing a loop and then it kind of kicks off with a guitar solo overlapped and we just don’t have enough guitar players in the band to do both! I’m not a good enough acoustic guitar player to be able to lay that loop down while Steve solos, Pete probably is but then I’m not a good enough bass player to cover the bass duties!

So there are one or two that kind of came into the world as studio works and are a bit of a struggle. I mean, we have still done them but they’re trickier things to roll out.

Progradar: I don’t want to put you on the spot as there’s hundreds of songs you’ve written but, are there a couple of songs that you particularly enjoy playing live yourself?

SH: Yes, for sure, I really like to sing The Invisible Man, that’s one of my favourites to perform. What else would I look forward to doing? I enjoy playing Gaza, I enjoy playing A Few Words For The Dead, to be honest. Seasons End and Estonia, they’re both great to play.

Progradar: I remember Seasons End at York Barbican in 2018, my friend Iain Sloan came down from Scotland, he lives near Edinburgh and is a guitarist in an Americana band call The Wynntown Marshals. We were stood together, almost in tears, it was one of those moments you’ll remember forever.

You said you enjoy playing in Holland and that leads me on to my next question, are you intending doing Marillion Weekends again?

SH: Yes, we absolutely are, we had to keep kicking it down the road. The thing about Port Zelande is that we promote the entire thing ourselves and we’re about half a million quid in the whole before anyone turns up. If, god forbid, the Dutch government decided to lock the country down, it would cost us more money than we could stand to lose, to be honest. So we had to keep postponing it and we moved it to next spring and then we decided we couldn’t even risk that. We moved it again, I think it’s booked in for March 2023 now, it’ll happen but we’ve just got to get through this strange pandemic that seems to be a bit slow to leave.

Progradar: I’m 54 this year and none of us are as young as we used to be. You’ve been touring for donkey’s years, do you find it more tiring now or does just getting out on that stage just infuse you with energy?

SH: I can’t remember, it’s so long ago! I am two years older than the last time I did it so there is a part of me thinking I hope I’m up to this? I’d better get out on the bike and get myself sorted out a bit. I’m going to find out, it may come as a terrible shock!

Progradar: Do you keep fit before you go on a tour, do you do anything extra?

SH: I’ll do a little bit, I won’t do enough because I’m a lazy sod but I should really. I mean, I can’t just expect to remain fit, I’ve got to make the effort. I live in a three storey house so I’m up and down the stairs and get a few steps in but I’m going to have to do a bit more.

Progradar: I really appreciate your time Steve, it’s been brilliant talking to you, just one final question before we sign off. It’s a question I ask everyone who I interview, do you prefer writing and recording and album or do you prefer playing the material live?

SH: Playing the material live, night and day, for me. I hate writing, I hate most of recording, once you get beyond a certain point then it does start to become exciting but that takes such a long time. Whereas to play live is the point of it for me so, hands down, I prefer playing live.

Progradar: I’ll just tag a little bit on the end of that, when you’re on tour, can you hit the same level of enthusiasm at the last gig that you had at the first?

SH: Absolutely, no problem at all, I love it!

Progradar: That’s brilliant, I really appreciate your time and I am so looking forward to seeing you at Hull City Hall on November 14th!

SH: Thanks for your time and thanks for your support man!

Marillion ‘The Light At The End Of The Tunnel’ tour starts on 14th November at Hull City Hall.

Pre-order Marillion’s 20th album, ‘An Hour Before It’s Dark’ here:

marillion.com | Racket Records Store

TRANSATLANTIC reveal ‘The Absolute Universe’ 2022 Tour Dates for North America & UK/Europe!

TRANSATLANTIC – the Prog Supergroup of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas – are pleased to announce tour dates for North America and UK/Europe to take place in 2022.  The tour will be in support of the group’s epic release ‘The Absolute Universe’ which was released earlier this year in multiple versions.  The North America dates kick off April 15th in Glenside, PA and concludes with performances at Morsefest 2022 and Cruise to the Edge.  Meanwhile, the Europe/UK dates take place in July beginning with the ARTmania festival in Romania.

Mike Portnoy had this to say about the upcoming tour:

“Between releasing our latest album in the middle of a worldwide pandemic & shutdown, and the already difficult task of trying to align our different schedules even in the most normal of circumstances, it was uncertain if Transatlantic would ever get to play any shows in support of The Absolute Universe. 

“But now with the world slowly re-opening and the band already committing to a few one-off appearances in 2022 (Cruise To The Edge, Morsefest and a Festival in Romania), we’re excited to announce we were able to wrangle up some headlining shows surrounding these one-offs! (April in North America and July in EU/UK) 

“These are the ONLY shows we will be doing in support of The Absolute Universe so if we can’t make it to your area, it may be worth traveling to come see us and share these special shows with us. While we wish we could do a full proper tour, getting to play ANY shows for this album is an unexpected treat that we weren’t sure would ever happen…so better late than never!” – Mike Portnoy. 

North America dates:

April 15th • Glenside, PA – Keswick Theater

https://www.axs.com/events/409822/an-evening-with-transatlantic-tickets

April 16th • Montclair, NJ – Wellmont Theater

https://www.ticketmaster.com/event/02005AFEFC0F7014

April 18th • Quebec City, Quebec – Palais Montcalm

https://palaismontcalm.tuxedobillet.com/main/transatlantic

April 19th • Montreal, Quebec – M Telus

https://www.ticketmaster.ca/event/31005B03CBCC1934?lang=en-ca&brand=mtelus

April 21st • St Charles, IL – Arcada Theater

https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/4311193/transatlantic-stcharles-the-arcada-theatre?_ga=2.14751414.123937637.1628201559-79101957.1628201559

April 23rd • Los Angeles, CA – Belasco Theater

https://www.ticketmaster.com/event/09005B05AF17211D

April 24th • Berkeley, CA – UC Theatre

https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/4360146/an-evening-with-transatlantic-berkeley-the-uc-theatre

April 29th & 30th • Cross Plains, TN – MorseFest 2022

May 2nd to 7th • Cruise To The Edge 2022

https://cruisetotheedge.com/book-now/

UK/Europe dates:

July 22nd – Sibiu, Romania – ARTmania Festival 

July 24th – Cologne, Germany – E Werk

https://www.myticket.de/de/transatlantic-the-absolute-universe-2022-tour-tickets

July 25th – Tilburg, Netherlands – 013

https://www.ticketmaster.nl/event/272933?CAMEFROM=013&brand=nl_013web

July 27th – London, England – O2 Forum Kentish Town

https://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/event/1F005AFE183A8DE7

July 28th – Paris, France – Olympia (ON SALE ON AUG 18TH)

www.olympiahall.com/evenements/transatlantic/

Representing the band’s first new music since 2014’s ‘Kaleidoscope’, with ‘The Absolute Universe’ the band have done something unique and created two versions of the record: ‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’ & ‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’.

The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’

Available as:

Single CD Edition, Gatefold 2LP+CD, or Digital Album 

 ‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’
Available as:
2CD Edition, 3LP+2CD Boxset, or Digital Album 

The full list of formats is below, and you can order now here: https://transatlantic.lnk.to/TheAbsoluteUniverse 

Watch the previously released video clips for the album below:

‘Looking For The Light’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvhvY-vUkLI

‘The World We Used To Know’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xULvfo6rpvE

‘Overture/Reaching For The Sky’: https://youtu.be/SP5HwWbCQvg   

‘The Absolute Interview’ series was also launched, which saw each member of Transatlantic interviewed by one of their musical peers, with Ross Jennings (Haken), Ted Leonard (Pattern-Seeking Animals, Spock’s Beard, Enchant), Nad Sylvan & John Mitchell (It Bites, Lonely Robot, Frost*) taking part. Watch the full series here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLfMBXSLZAyyf9kipocjOullLWwQyRX8Cw

Watch a short snippet from the making of documentary here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=964kfA1EX4s 

Review – Transatlantic – The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version) by John Wenlock-Smith

This February sees a new album from the Neal Morse/Mike PortnoyTransatlantic realm of progressive activity entitled ‘The Absolute Universe’. This is a little different though in that this album exists in two main versions, this review covering ‘The Absolute Universe – Forevermore (Extended Version)’.

We are informed that each of the albums are different entirely. Rather than being just extended versions, these are different animals that share the same DNA. So it will be interesting to do what we used to do in English at school i.e., compare and contrast them.

This 2CD or 3 vinyl version has more tracks and an additional 30 minutes running time over the single CD/2 vinyl version titled ‘The Absolute Universe – The Breath of Life (Abrdiged Version), both are housed in Digipak sleeves with seriously impressive artwork and graphics. For Transatlantic money is apparently no object, seeing as they are a flagship group for InsideOut, one of their ‘jewels in the crown’ and a proven seller. This album will probably sell in copious amounts and I’m sure both versions will be highly sought by the faithful.

The album starts strongly with Overture, a thunderous 8-minute mini saga all on its own. Unsurprisingly it is everything that you would want and expect, it certainly impressive sounding and a good set up for all that follows. The album has several themes, Neal Morse states that some of it is autobiographical about his own ego in his early years and also comments about the state of America, along with thoughts about how the world is handling the current pandemic.

Heart Like A Whirlwind is a sprightly little number with a jaunty keyboard sound and some sweet guitar embellishments from Roine Stolt. Transatlantic really bring their choruses to life here and Neal Morse is also on great form, in fine voice and really belts this one out. This is a class song by any standard. Higher Than The Morning has Roine singing along with some great bass from Pete Trewavas and delivers another fine chorus along with some more great guitar from Stolt.

This release has a mixture of pieces, some longer, some shorter but all woven together in a symphonic Tour De Force, it is an album that needs time to appreciate all that it contains and is seeking to convey to you, the listener.

The tracks continue to impress with some seriously good playing throughout as things proceed. We come to the final track of Disc 1,The World We Used To Know, which is another lengthy workout track where the whole band can show off their fantastic ensemble playing, a sinewy snaking guitar line from Roine sitting perfectly alongside some powerfully evocative piano from Neal Morse. The song is looking back fondly to how things were and a yearning for those times to return once again, a sentiment that is probably common to us all at the moment!

Disc 2 opens with The Sun Comes Up Today, it offers stacked vocals before Neal offers some great Mellotron sounds for Roine Stolt to solo over. Exceptional, strong Hammond work from Neal is offset by elegant riffing from Roine, subtle running bass from Pete and energetic thunderous drums from Mike Portnoy who is spot on here. It has another strong chorus and is a fabulous shorter song. This leads into the brief prelude to Love Made A Way, that we will hear as the final track of the album, all propelled by acoustic guitar from Roine and some smooth keyboards from Neal. The interestingly titled Owl Howl then follows with a very meaty riff (that is not unreminiscent of Steve Morse’s work with Deep Purple), with Roine asking “Blackbird, Blackbird What Have You Done?”. Without lyrics, it’s hard to discern what the song is on about but it is certainly one of the harder hitting tracks on here with some interesting sounds and timbres deployed. All in all, a very interesting song with great growling bass and some odd keyboard moments. It actually makes for a song that is fairly odd overall but certainly entertaining, I must add!

Overall, the playing throughout the entire album is strong and impressive, I especially like the interplay between Neal and Roine and also enjoy the rhythm section who support all the fireworks that the others create so admirably. I’ll say one thing, this album is certainly musically challenging, like all the best albums tend to be.

Solitude is the next track, it is about being alone and appreciating the moments as the author is asking questions about how things are now. This song also includes a refrain of the Love Made A Way theme in it and very effectively used it is too. Belong opens with wailing and crying noises before Roine’s liquid guitar opens the music in tandem with Pete Trewevas’ elegant bass, strong organ sounds abound on this shortish track. Lonesome Rebel is next and is another acoustically led piece with Roine on vocals. This one is strong on imagery in the lyrics, politics are in a mess, Roine sings, as he assesses the state of the world.

Looking for The Light (Reprise) begins with an exciting organ solo, backed with some superb bass, powering the track along ferociously. This song is really an instrumental that gives rein for each member to play wildly and express their own talents. Having said that, there are vocals towards the latter part of the song but, mainly, this is soloing by all the band members. We lead into the penultimate track, The Greatest Story Never Ends, which carries on in a similar vein to Looking For The Light, although the vocals come in pretty much right from the off. There is more impressive organ on this one, sounding both full and epic and, again, some good guitar/keyboard interplay here too. It is all extremely exciting, one wonders how this album will translate to the live arena, it certainly has great promise for a lively and engrossing show.

The album closes with the full version of Love Made A Way, opening with gentle piano and guitar runs from Roine Stolt. This is a more ‘Christian’ Neal Morse composition as he sings about how God has changed his life for the better. I know that this might put some folks off, however, the whole song is full of optimism and gratitude. It also has more of that epic chorus and fine guitar runs from Roine whose instrument is wailing throughout the song, and indeed the whole album and he delivers a typically fine, histrionic guitar solo 2/3rds of the way through. This leads us to a very ELO sounding closing section with lots of climbing peaks and cymbals crashing, before everything ends on fading synthesisers and then silence…

This is an album that will make you smile and will definitely tide you over until lockdown has finished, giving you hope for the coming days, being Transatlantic to the max. You did not really expect anything else really, did you? You knew this was going to be wonderfully over the top excess surely? This is what we want and expect from the band and if that is what you get then it will not disappoint in any aspect!

If symphonic progressive rock is your thing, then this album, in whichever form you like, is most definitely for you. Get ready for a great listening experience, hopefully coming to a stage somewhere near soon too, very highly recommended indeed!

Released 5th February 2021

Order from Burning Shed (when back in stock!) here:

The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version) (burningshed.com)

TRANSATLANTIC – launch video for ‘Overture / Reaching For The Sky’/ first single from ‘The Absolute Universe’

TRANSATLANTIC – the Prog Supergroup of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas – are pleased to announce their fifth studio album ‘The Absolute Universe’, set for release on the 5th February 2021. Representing the band’s first new music since 2014’s ‘Kaleidoscope’, with ‘The Absolute Universe’ the band have done something unique and created two versions of the record: ‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’ & ‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’.

Today they have launched the video for ‘Overture / Reaching For The Sky’, taken from ‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’. 

Mike Portnoy comments: “’Reaching For The Sky’ is the first single off Transatlantic’s latest Magnum opus ‘The Absolute Universe’. It’s a great introduction to this epic album as it sets the tone in traditional TA style: proceeded on the album by an extended Instrumental Overture and then launching into this upbeat first song.

I love that it features one of my favorite qualities of the band in the sharing of the lead vocals…in this case: Neal singing lead on Verse 1, myself singing lead on Verse 2, Pete & Neal sharing the Chorus with myself and Roine on backups and Neal taking the glorious Bridge…all leading to Roine’s distinctive guitar solo. 

 Also interesting is that this version exclusively appears on the Abridged 1CD Version of TA5 (“The Breath Of Life”) while the Extended 2CD Version of TA5 (“Forevermore”) opens with the alternate version ‘Heart Like A Whirlwind’ which has different lead vocals and lyrics .”

Each album will be available on CD, LP & Digitally. But there will also be what has been called ‘The Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition’, which collects both versions together in one lavish package that includes 5LP’s, 3CD’s & a Blu-ray that includes a special mix that combines both versions into a third unique version in 5.1 surround sound with visuals and a behind the scenes documentary. All editions have artwork created by Thomas Ewerhard featuring the airship by Pavel Zhovba. 

As Mike Portnoy explains: “We’ve got two versions of this album. There is a two CD presentation, which is 90 minutes long, and a single one – that’s 60 minutes. However, the single CD is NOT merely an edited version of the double CD. They each contain alternate versions and even in some cases, new recordings. We wrote fresh lyrics and have different people singing on the single CD version tracks as compared to those on the double CD. Some of the song titles have also been changed, while others might remain the same, but compositionally what you’ll hear has been altered. You must appreciate that what we have done is unique. We revamped the songs to make the two versions different.” Pete Trewavas adds: “We did write some new music for the single CD, what’s more, there are also differences in the instruments used on some of the tracks across the two records.”

The full list of formats is below, and you can pre-order now here: https://transatlantic.lnk.to/TheAbsoluteUniverse

The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’

Available as:

Single CD Edition, Gatefold 2LP+CD, or Digital Album 

Track-listing:

1.     Overture

2.     Reaching For The Sky

3.     Higher Than The Morning

4.     The Darkness In The Light

5.     Take Now My Soul

6.     Looking For The Light

7.     Love Made  A Way (Prelude)

8.     Owl Howl

9.     Solitude

10.  Belong

11.  Can You Feel It

12.  Looking For The Light (Reprise)

13.  The Greatest Story Never Ends

14.  Love Made A Way

 ‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’

Available as:
2CD Edition, 3LP+2CD Boxset, or Digital Album

Track-listing:

Disc 1:

1.     Overture

2.     Heart Like A Whirlwind

3.     Higher Than The Morning

4.     The Darkness In The Light

5.     Swing High, Swing Low

6.     Bully

7.     Rainbow Sky

8.     Looking For The Light

9.     The World We Used To Know

Disc 2:

1.     The Sun Comes Up Today

2.     Love Made A Way (Prelude)

3.     Owl Howl

4.     Solitude

5.     Belong

6.     Lonesome Rebel

7.     Looking For The Light (Reprise)

8.     The Greatest Story Never Ends

9.     Love Made A Way

‘The Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition’

Limited Deluxe Clear 5LP+3CD+Blu-Ray Box-set – contained within a foil-finished lift-off box with extended 16-page LP booklet & 60x60cm poster. Includes both versions of the album over 5LP’s and 3CD’s, plus a Blu-Ray with 5.1 mix & documentary. 

Blu-Ray Track-listing:

1.     Overture (5.1 Surround Mix)

2.     Reaching For The Sky (5.1 Surround Mix)

3.     Higher Than The Morning (5.1 Surround Mix)

4.     The Darkness In The Light (5.1 Surround Mix)

5.     Take Now My Soul (5.1 Surround Mix)

6.     Bully (5.1 Surround Mix)

7.     Rainbow Sky (5.1 Surround Mix)

8.     Looking For The Light (5.1 Surround Mix)

9.     The World We Used To Know (5.1 Surround Mix)

10.  The Sun Comes Up Today (5.1 Surround Mix)

11.  Love Made A Way (Prelude) (5.1 Surround Mix)

12.  Owl Howl (5.1 Surround Mix)

13.  Solitude (5.1 Surround Mix)

14.  Belong (5.1 Surround Mix)

15.  Lonesome Rebel (5.1 Surround Mix)

16.  Can You Feel It (5.1 Surround Mix)

17.  Looking For The Light (Reprise) (5.1 Surround Mix)

18.  The Greatest Story Never Ends (5.1 Surround Mix)

19.  Love Made A Way (5.1 Surround Mix)

20.  The Making of The Absolute Universe (Documentary)

Initial tracking began in September 2019 when the band met up in Sweden to write and arrange the new material. As Portnoy explains: “Over a period of 10-14 days, we mapped out the songs. Then we all went back to our home studios and did the recording. That’s the way we always do it. At one point, though, it was suggested that instead of doing what was by that time going to be a double album, we should just be content to do a single CD.”

“What happened was that everything kept expanding and expanding,” recalls Stolt. “Therefore we decided it made sense to make it a double album. It was Pete and Neal who then came out and said they felt this would be too long, and we should reduce it to one…But we were already recording, and it didn’t seem feasible to cut it back. There were so many pieces that each of us loved in what we were planning and didn’t want to lose. That’s when we ended up in discussions over the best way forward.”

This album also marks a return to the concept album for Transatlantic. “Well, the idea of Transatlantic deciding to do a concept record this time around won’t shock anyone, right?” laughs Portnoy. “What we have is essentially one giant composition, split into chapters. The storyline is about the struggles facing everyone in society today.” “We didn’t start out with the idea of this being conceptual,” admits Stolt. “The way things work with us is that we have a load of ideas, and these are developed spontaneously when we meet up. Everything happens in the moment.”

So, how does this new ground-breaking album compare to Transatlantic’s previous four albums?

“I always try not to compare albums as much as possible,” insists Morse. “It’s very difficult when you’re trying to be creative, because your natural instinct is to constantly compare. But in order to create you have to kind of step away from that. Having said that, I would say this would have more in common with ‘The Whirlwind’ album  (the band’s third, from 2009) than others that we’ve created.” 

For Trewavas, ‘The Absolute Universe’ is a momentous project.“I think it is right up there with the very finest albums we’ve done. As the others have said, it compares very well to ‘The Whirlwind’, which I believe represents Transatlantic at our best. As on that album, we took our time to write and arrange everything, and that shines through. I am very excited for people to hear it.”

Transatlantic were originally formed in 1999, releasing their debut album ‘SMTPe’ the following year as well as its follow-up ‘Bridge Across Forever’ in 2001. Following a 7-year hiatus, the band reconvened to record and release the much-acclaimed epic 77-minute, single-track album ‘The Whirlwind’ followed by a world tour in 2010 which included an appearance at High Voltage Festival in London where they were joined by legendary Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. The band’s fourth album ‘Kaleidoscope’ arrived in 2014, going on to win ‘Album Of The Year’ at the Progressive Music Awards.

TRANSATLANTIC – invite you to enter ‘The Absolute Universe’ on fifth studio album

TRANSATLANTIC – the Prog Supergroup of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas – are pleased to announce their fifth studio album ‘The Absolute Universe’, set for release on the 5th February 2021. Representing the band’s first new music since 2014’s ‘Kaleidoscope’, with ‘The Absolute Universe’ the band have done something unique and created two versions of the record: ‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’ & ‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’.

As Mike Portnoy explains: “We’ve got two versions of this album. There is a two CD presentation, which is 90 minutes long, and a single one – that’s 60 minutes. However, the single CD is NOT merely an edited version of the double CD. They each contain alternate versions and even in some cases, new recordings. We wrote fresh lyrics and have different people singing on the single CD version tracks as compared to those on the double CD. Some of the song titles have also been changed, while others might remain the same, but compositionally what you’ll hear has been altered. You must appreciate that what we have done is unique. We revamped the songs to make the two versions different.” Pete Trewavas adds: “We did write some new music for the single CD,” adds Trewavas. “What’s more, there are also differences in the instruments used on some of the tracks across the two records.”

Each album will be available on CD, LP & Digitally. But there will also be what has been called ‘The Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition’, which collects both versions together in one lavish package that includes 5LP’s, 3CD’s & a Blu-ray that contains a 5.1 surround sound mix with visuals & a behind the scenes documentary. All editions have unique artwork created by Thomas Ewerhard. The full list of formats is below, and pre-orders start on the 20th November:

‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’

Special Edition CD Digipak

Gatefold 2LP+CD

Digital Album

‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’

Special Edition 2CD Digipak

3LP+2CD Boxset

Digital Album

‘The Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition’

Limited Deluxe Clear 5LP+3CD+Blu-Ray Box-set – contained within a foil-finished lift-off box with extended 16-page LP booklet & 60x60cm poster

Initial tracking began in September 2019 when the band met up in Sweden to write and arrange the new material. As Portnoy explains: “Over a period of 10-14 days, we mapped out the songs. Then we all went back to our home studios and did the recording. That’s the way we always do it. At one point, though, it was suggested that instead of doing what was by that time going to be a double album, we should just be content to do a single CD.”

“What happened was that everything kept expanding and expanding,” recalls Stolt. “Therefore we decided it made sense to make it a double album. It was Pete and Neal who then came out and said they felt this would be too long, and we should reduce it to one…But we were already recording, and it didn’t seem feasible to cut it back. There were so many pieces that each of us loved in what we were planning and didn’t want to lose. That’s when we ended up in discussions over the best way forward.” 

This album also marks a return to the concept album for Transatlantic. “Well, the idea of Transatlantic deciding to do a concept record this time around won’t shock anyone, right?” laughs Portnoy. “What we have is essentially one giant composition, split into chapters. The storyline is about the struggles facing everyone in society today.” “We didn’t start out with the idea of this being conceptual,” admits Stolt. “The way things work with us is that we have a load of ideas, and these are developed spontaneously when we meet up. Everything happens in the moment.”

So, how does this new ground-breaking album compare to Transatlantic’s previous four albums?

“I always try not to compare albums as much as possible,” insists Morse. “It’s very difficult when you’re trying to be creative, because your natural instinct is to constantly compare. But in order to create you have to kind of step away from that. Having said that, I would say this would have more in common with ‘The Whirlwind’ album  (the band’s third, from 2009) than others that we’ve created.” For Trewavas, ‘The Absolute Universe’ is a momentous project.

“I think it is right up there with the very finest albums we’ve done. As the others have said, it compares very well to ‘The Whirlwind’, which I believe represents Transatlantic at our best. As on that album, we took our time to write and arrange everything, and that shines through. I am very excited for people to hear it.”

Transatlantic were originally formed in 1999, releasing their debut album ‘SMTPe’ the following year as well as its follow-up ‘Bridge Across Forever’ in 2001. Following a 7-year hiatus, the band reconvened to record and release the much-acclaimed epic 77-minute, single-track album ‘The Whirlwind’ followed by a world tour in 2010 which included an appearance at High Voltage Festival in London where they were joined by legendary Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. The band’s fourth album ‘Kaleidoscope’ arrived in 2014, going on to win ‘Album Of The Year’ at the Progressive Music Awards. 

Marillion – Release Video of Lockdown Version of Made Again

We had the idea to do a ‘lockdown’ version of Made Again for you all.

Unbeknownst to us, our manager Lucy made a call (via social media) to ask fans to send in videos of themselves, in the hope of replicating the ‘Made Again Stage Invasion’ (at our Marillion Weekend in 2013) to surprise us!

Lucy and Tim Sidwell (from Toward Infinity), then came clean to us of their plan and added our ‘at home’ videos and recordings into the mix.

So here is a beautiful video of hope from around the world.

A better way of life? For sure.
We hope you all enjoy it.

We will be making announcements about our Marillion Weekends that are due in 2021 at some point next week.

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy.

“Like a bright new morning, Like a bright new day, I woke up from a deep sleep,

I woke up from a bad dream, To a brand new morning,

To a brand new day, Like the whole world has been made again”

h, Ian, Mark, Pete and Steve
Made Again will be released as a Charity Single over the next few weeks.

Review – Marillion – Afraid Of Sunlight – Deluxe Edition Re-Release

Today sees Leo Trimming helping Progradar ‘catching up’ with the most recent deluxe edition re-release before the imminent deluxe edition of ‘Script for a Jester’s Tear’ in April!

Marillion’s great series of re-releases in Deluxe editions continues with ‘Afraid of Sunlight’, first released in 1995. This was the last album Marillion made for EMI, but what a way to bow out as it’s one of the highlights of their career. Indeed with the previous album , the magnificent and chilling ‘Brave’, the mid 90’s could be regarded  as one of the greatest peaks in their whole career… and yet it was born in a difficult period  for the band .

To put this album in context Marillion had been with EMI records since 1982 and had achieved considerable commercial success in the mid – late 80’s with  Fish, including a string of hit singles and albums around the world. The transition to new singer Steve Hogarth was inevitably quite tricky. Their first Hogarth era album , ‘Season’s End’, had been high in quality, but it had not really resulted in quite the commercial success for which EMI was hoping. Follow up album ‘Holidays in Eden’ , perhaps under pressure from the label, had clearly been intended to sound a little more mainstream and ‘pop’. However, Marillion simply were not having the same sort of chart success that they had enjoyed in the 80’s, and the pressure was mounting. What did Marillion do then? Perhaps typically for this band they did what they felt was true to them and did exactly what they wanted to do, not what others wanted of them. They withdrew to a French chateau studio and spent many months creating one of the artistic highlights of their career in the long form fully segued concept album ‘Brave’… one can only imagine what EMI thought when hearing a concept album, which was late and over budget, focusing on a strange tale of abuse and suicide – ‘Lavender’ and ‘Kayleigh’ it ain’t! 

By 1995 relations with EMI were very strained. In the excellent booklet packaging which houses this 4 CD & 1 Blu-Ray release, packed with great artwork and interesting pieces about the album, Hogarth reveals that their manager told them:

EMI didn’t want another record after ‘Brave’, but he’d persuaded them to do one more if we could do it quickly and cheaply and that was ‘Sunlight’ and that’s why we even wrote, partly in jest, on the sleeve, this album was ‘knocked out’…  I think it’s a great record, but after that we were gone.”

For an album that was apparently ‘knocked out’ in 3 months (which is remarkably brief in the context of their recording history) there is no sense when hearing it that it’s substandard or feels ‘rushed’. It seems at that point in their career whether an album took 18 months or 3 months Marillion could produce the goods. So what makes this an album revisiting or investing in 25 years later? 

Original Album Artwork

There will be two sorts of punters considering this album – those that have bought it previously and are interested in the musical ‘extras’, the remastered sound, and the packaging. There will be others who may be discovering Marillion belatedly, perhaps after the great success of their most recent 2016 album  ‘F.E.A.R.’, who may know nothing about this album and wonder whether it’s worth buying? 

The short answer is ‘YES’ – this album is simply one of the best albums the band have ever released. However, such punters may need a little more  information to help decide whether to invest so we will try to go through the album for new listeners. 

‘Gazpacho’ opens with sound clips of an MC introducing a World Heavyweight Boxing championship bout, and then a quote seemingly from John Lennon (but may actually be actor Bernard Hill who voiced Lennon for a documentary) ‘… I would find myself seeing hallucinatory images of my face changing and becoming cosmic and complete’. This immediately sets the scene for an album which touches on the destructive nature of stardom with references through the album to figures such as ‘Raging Bull’ Jake La Motta, Mike Tyson and O.J Simpson. This also reflects the struggles Hogarth was having in dealing with the trappings of being plunged right into the limelight as the front man with a successful Rock  band – before being called to sing for Marillion he has shared he had seriously been contemplating giving up music and becoming a milkman – quite a contrast and change in his life.

The track ‘Gazpacho’ darkly refers to stains on a Versace scarf, which may have been blood stains or ‘were they really just Gazpacho’. In a period in which blood stains were central to the notorious OJ Simpson murder case the reference is clear. This is a song which rides along on a fat juicy bass line from Pete Trewavas and a rock solid beat from Ian Moseley. Rothery takes up a sprightly melody on guitar and Mark Kelly’s keyboards fill out a surging, almost joyful theme – a strange contrast to the dark subject matter. Halfway through the song a darker force takes hold as the volume recedes to a strumming guitar initially and more sinister tones reflects the fall and anguish of the main ‘hero’.

Hogarth’s voice here is in spectacular form, rising and rising with emotion, before the song returns briefly to the theme and feel of the opening section. The extended conclusion to the song becomes more impressionistic with chiming guitars, staccato drums and garbled phrasing from Hogarth. Backed by Kelly’s keys the song fades away behind the news footage of the famous televised ‘slow chase’ of O.J Simpson’s car on the freeway… and that’s just the first song! Don’t worry – we  won’t go into such detail on all the songs, but it was worth focusing on the subtlety and imagination of a band contrasting musical and lyrical themes, gradually descending from the ‘glam’ of the opening section into much darker, denser themes reflecting the fall of the protagonist.

Cannibal Surf Babe is pure acid Beach Boys powered by a fantastic bass line (Trewavas appears to have been on fire on this album) and thumping drums (taken from the first take and never bettered, according to Moseley). Kelly’s playful, quirky keyboards spray psychedelic sounds all over the song, and you can hear exactly why the working title was ‘X Ray Jangly’ . The weirdness of The Beach Boys’ genius Brian Wilson permeates the bizarre lyrics (partly contributed by John Helmer who helped write the lyrics for the majority of the album) which Hogarth sings with maniacal glee: 

‘I was born in nineteen sixty weird, I’m your nightmare surfer babe, Mr. Wilson where’s your sandbox and your beard…’

The piece trails away with a subtle synth line, which had been part of a song called ‘Icon’ that did not make the album), with a French woman dreamily saying the concluding lyrics of the song in French. This segues into Beautiful, the only single released from the album, reaching number 29 in the UK charts. The album booklet reveals that this song was their response to a request from EMI label boss for them to do their own spin on a song like ‘Cry me a River’ (!!) – whatever the inspiration, it’s a lush, rolling rock ballad with a band in perfect sync creating a suitably ‘Beautiful’ song with touching lyrics, and a gorgeous Hammond organ from Kelly in the conclusion.

‘Afraid of Sunrise’ literally shimmers in plaintively like some sort of mirage in an understated manner with Rothery’s acoustic guitar, subtle bass and very light drumming beneath a soft synth line. Hogarth sings with great delicacy but feeling over this lovely setting. It’s easy to hear why the working title for this song was ‘Joni Mitchell’. Surreal lyrics are open to interpretation but could refer to a journey and the feelings of a driver anticipating a downfall when the next day dawns. The ‘Day-Glo Jesus on the dash’ line led to a disagreement in the band about the original album artwork.

Carl Glover had prepared the startling ‘Day-Glo Jesus’ image, which Hogarth wanted as the cover, but this was vetoed by the rest of the band, fearing it may present them as a Christian rock band. Well, it seems the band have finally seen the wisdom of Hogarth’s judgement and this re-release features the ‘Day-Glo Jesus’ in glorious technicolour as the cover image, replacing the peculiar ‘Angel Boy’ image hurriedly used for the original cover. Another curiosity about this song is that in essence it has the same musical roots as Afraid of Sunlight. The band had created both versions, and were considering cutting one. They had even considered trying to merge them together, but in the end they made the wise decision to retain them both separately as they have undoubted quality in either manifestation.

Ill-fated British water speed hero of the 1960’s, Donald Campbell, inspired one of the highlights of the album, the evocative ‘Out of this World.’ This song is deceptively complex with three distinct phases touching on this tragedy from the emotional perspective of Campbell’s wife watching on as her speed obsessed husband  killed himself pursuing his dream. Hogarth’s vague childhood memories of this famous accident are transformed from a straight narrative in to a piece revealing mixed emotions for the on looking wife. Reportedly Campbell and his wife were virtually estranged by the time of the accident such was the division caused by his obsession for speed.

The song seemingly slowly emerges from the deep with subtle guitar chimes and drums over a watery synth backing leading into Hogarth’s mournful vocals. The second phase of the piece comes after the lines ‘At such speeds, things fly’ as the song surfaces with a majestic airborne guitar solo from Rothery. ‘Out of this World’ settles its trajectory with plaintive lyrics filled with pain, Hogarth’s soulful vocals intoning ‘Only Love with Turn you Round’ repeatedly (inspired from a line in ‘Brave’ album song ‘Runaway’). This presages the third tragic phase with contemporary speech clips stating ‘Complete accident, I’m afraid…’  over a baleful synth wash acting as a stark canvas for Hogarth’s final pure elegiac vocals and there is a real sense of sinking into the depths.

It’s a remarkable and deceptively complex song showing Marillion’s ability to look at a subject from interesting and emotion filled angles – in the hands of lesser artists this would have been a straight narrative about a famous accident, but this piece transcends that story, imbued with pain and feeling. Somewhat amazingly it was hearing this song which inspired marine engineer Bill Smith to organize the project to raise the ‘Bluebird’ vessel from the depths of Coniston Water in 2001, and led to Hogarth singing the song at Donald Campbell’s funeral – peculiar what art can inspire sometimes.What can I say about ‘Afraid of Sunlight’? It’s undoubtedly one of the best songs the band have ever produced. It oozes with class and depth of feeling.

An eerie guitar line intros a haunting piano and a gentle drum pattern and soft bass… and then Steve Hogarth sings with such resonance and delicacy. It’s a truly heart breaking beginning. The meaning is obscure, but may be about the conflicted feelings of a couple unable to tell the truth to each other. They are together but in pain, perhaps lying in bed fearing what will happen in the morning – the possible implication that in the morning one of them drives away from the other… well, that’s one interpretation but great art can be interpreted in different and many different personal ways by the recipient.

The tempo and power rises magnificently with Trewavas’ bass line pulling it all together with the impactful, memorable chorus, before briefly receding again with a more reflective passage. The chorus returns and the song becomes darker and more bitter, Hogarth’s vocals reaching a great crescendo ‘It’s a matter of time’. Mark Kelly’s rising keyboards take on the melody fluidly, whilst underpinning it all along is Moseley’s rock solid rhythm.

Rothery unusually is not to the fore on this song largely but he then adds another emotional level with a subtle guitar line interweaving the emotional musical maelstrom… and then bereft the song falls to it’s knees with a coda that is drenched with feeling. Kelly’s delicate piano and synth perfectly framing Hogarth’s crystalline and ultimately falsetto vocal. I may not know exactly what it literally means but I can certainly feel so much hearing the highs and lows of this stunning song.

‘Beyond You’ is a song which showcases the significant impact producer Dave Meegan had on Marillion’s material as he recorded their sessions and jams, and helped the band build on those moments to form great songs. Meegan felt the song had a sort of Motown vibe so after the sonorous and restrained opening synth led section he suggested a Phil Spector type ‘Wall of Sound’ feel, which erupts in the refrain ‘If I was a child…’. Moseley’s echoing resonant drums swing and pizzicato keyboard strings take us right back to Detroit, before the song sinks back into Hogarth’s heartfelt tones.

The finale returns us to Spector territory featuring a fine slide guitar floating above the main melody before the whole thing fades away sadly. This is an intensely personal lyric for the singer reflecting turmoil in his own private life to the extent that he felt unable to sing it for years… it is also the song I struggled to get my head around for years with it’s juxtaposition between the clearly very emotional lyric and the almost jaunty refrains, until I realised the connection with Motown. We all know Motown artists were the masters at contrasting heartbreak with upbeat music so it fits.

This remarkable album concludes with the startling opening guitar and synth fanfare chords of the momentous ‘King’  before a melange of various voice clips about fallen heroes, particularly Elvis, Lennon and most notably Kurt Cobain who committed suicide in 1994. Marillion were the first band to play after his suicide on the Munich stage where Nirvana played their final show, which inspired the band to write this sonic and emotional powerhouse of a song. Rothery’s guitar sets up the melody supported by softly jangling percussion and understated keyboard, underpinned as ever with Trewavas finely judged bass.

Hogarth sensitively sings about the ruinous effects of fame: ‘To be cursed with your Dreams’. The song almost literally explodes with the whole band titanically pounding out the main rhythm and Kelly’s synth eerily writhes above the melee. After a brief respite the song descends in to a disturbing and dark spiral with a wildly discordant guitar from Rothery tortuously screaming out pain. The lynch pin keyboards of Kelly return gently under Hogarth’s fragile words leading into some weirdly distorted spidery guitar. The tension and power gradually rises as Hogarth bellows out the inner pain of the main protagonist. Kelly’s building keyboards leads a headlong crash for the whole band in a chaotic, deafening conclusion which sounds absolutely MASSIVE! Tragedy never sounded so powerful…

… hopefully that will help convince new listeners to ‘catch up’ with one of the finest rock albums of the 1990’s (and was named one of the ‘Recordings of the Year’ by ‘Q’ music magazine in 1995).

What about those that already have this album? Is it worth shelling out for it again?

Well, the short answer (again!) is YES!

The presentation of this album alone is worth getting it again, housed in an impressive book design with beautiful artwork images from graphic designer Carl Glover and fascinating insights in to the album and it’s creation in the accompanying various essays, including one from Bill Smith about his search for the ‘Bluebird’ inspired by ‘Out of this World.’  

Musically, the package includes the original 1995 Dave Meegan mix. Michael Hunter has remixed this deluxe edition version, but in all honesty I am hard pressed to identify any startling differences from Meegan’s original mix. This is testament to Meegan’s original fine production work, acting as ‘Marillion’s George Martin’ in pulling it all together and making it sound wonderful. ‘Out of this World’ is probably the song in which there is the most notable changes to the original – Hunter’s mix brings out different elements – it’s a fine mix, but ‘different’ rather than ‘better’. For an album recorded with decent 1990’s musical technology there is not quite the same scope for sonic improvements heard more clearly in modern remasters and remixes of earlier vintage 1970’s albums by other artists. Nevertheless, Hunter has done a fine job on the latest version.

This re-release also features the complete performance from the ‘Afraid of Sunlight’ tour show at the Ahoy in the Netherlands in 1995. Some of these songs have previously been released on their swansong EMI album, the live double album ‘Made Again’ released in 1996, which mixed songs from a few tours. It is great to hear this whole concert which features fine renditions of 5 of the 8 ‘Afraid of Sunlight’ songs, particularly an enormous sounding ‘King’, as well as the ‘Icon’ intro in to ‘Beautiful’. It is also interesting to hear Hogarth pulling off excellent interpretations of 7 songs from the ‘Fish era’. However, my personal highlights are the ever resplendent ‘Easter’, and the suite of songs drawn from the ‘Brave’ album, especially Kelly’s stunning organ work on ‘Hard as Love’ with the whole band locked and loaded, thundering along magnificently – let’s face it, you cannot go wrong with Marillion live!

The Blu-ray with this package features  beautifully produced surround sound 5.1 versions, which displays Hunter’s skill as a producer but underlies the imagination and skill of a band who can so perfectly combine delicate emotion with passages of great drama and power. If you have the technology the 5.1 version alone is also worth getting this edition.

Additionally this disc has bonus tracks originally available on the 1999 remaster. Whilst the main album is one of the band’s highlights it has to be said that these bonus tracks are somewhat lacking in quality, and include 2 earlier versions of ‘Beautiful’ with other titles. ‘Mirage’ has some interest and the acoustic demo of ‘Afraid of Sunlight’ is rather a gem, but on the whole these extra tracks are hardly essential. Similarly, the ‘Jams and Early Versions’ are curiosities which lay bare the creative processes as the band jams new ideas for Dave Meegan to capture. They are raw pieces and are interesting to hear, but it is doubtful that anyone apart from ‘Uber Fans’ will ever listen to these tracks more than a couple of times at most… but as we know Marillion are not short of ‘Uber Fans’!! 

Conversely, what is of far more interest on the Blu-ray is the 45 minute documentary film which features all the band members with fascinating insights in to how the band felt at the time when recording this album. What is clear is the unshakeable faith Marillion had in themselves as artists, even if their label were losing faith in them. History has shown that Marillion were right to retain that faith as they survived some dark days in the later 90’s to virtually create the crowd funding model and thrive. More crucially they continued to make high class albums borne out of their innate self-confidence, musical imagination and artistic integrity. The mid-90’s period produced  two of their finest ever albums… and this special set presents ‘Afraid of Sunlight’ perfectly.

TRACK LISTING:

CD One – Afraid of Sunlight  (2019 Michael Hunter Re-Mix)

  1. Gazpacho
  2. Cannibal Surf Babe
  3. Beautiful
  4. Afraid of Sunrise
  5. Out of this World
  6. Afraid of Sunlight
  7. Beyond You
  8. King

CD Two – Afraid of Sunlight  (Dave Meegan Original Mix 1995 Mix)

(Same Track Listing as CD One)

CD Three – Live at the Ahoy, Rotterdam  (29th September 1995) (Part 1)

  1. Intro  (Skater’s Waltz
  2. Incommunicado
  3. Hooks in You
  4. Gazpacho
  5. Icon
  6. Beautiful
  7. Hotel Hobbies
  8. White Russian
  9. Easter
  10. Mad
  11. The Opium Den
  12. Hard as Love
  13. The Hollow Man

CD Four – Live at the Ahoy, Rotterdam  (29th September 1995) (Part 2)

  1. Kayleigh
  2. Lavender
  3. Afraid of Sunlight
  4. Cannibal Surf Babe
  5. Cover My Eyes
  6. Slainte Mhath
  7. King
  8. Splintering Heart
  9. No-One Can
  10. The Great Escape
  11. Uninvited Guest
  12. Garden Party

Blu-Ray Disc

 Afraid of Sunlight (2019 Michael Hunter Remix) – 5.1 Audio Version:

  • Same Track listing as CD 

Afraid of Sunlight  (Jams & Early Versions):

  • Ascending Synth Groove
  • Velvet Lawn
  • Building Guitar
  • Band of Gold
  • Gazpacho  (Early Version)
  • Surfer Bass
  • Cannibal Surf  (Early Version)
  • Beautiful  (Early Version)
  • KD Lang
  • Out of this World (Early Version)
  • Afraid of Sunlight (Early Version)
  • Beyond You  (Early Version)
  • Crunchy Guitar Idea
  • Deep Purple Vibe
  • Watery Guitar
  • King (Early Version)
  • Happy Accidents

Documentary Film – Afraid of Sunlight  (Approv 45 Mins)

Promo Film – Beautiful

1999 Remaster Bonus Tracks

  • Icon
  • Live Forever
  • Second Chance
  • Beyond You  (Demo)
  • Cannibal Surf Babe
  • Out of this World
  • Bass Frenzy
  • Mirages  (Demo)
  • Afraid of Sunlight  (Acoustic Demo)

MUSICIANS:

Steve Rothery  –  Guitars 

Pete Trewavas  –  Bass 

Steve Hogarth – Voice

Mark Kelly  –  Keyboards

Ian Moseley  –  Drums & Percussion 

With:

Hannah Stobart  –  Backing Vocals on ‘Beautiful’

Wendy Paige & Barbara Lezmy  –  Backing Vocals on ‘Cannibal Surf Babe’

THANKS

Progradar would like to thank Fraser Marshall of the website: 

‘Marillion – Explanations of Song Elements’  for his permission to refer to his blog about some of the background to the songs. 

Other information is available at:

http://marillionations.blogspot.com/