“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.
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!
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…!
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?
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 boxsetsof ‘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.
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. TheFruit 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:
“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.
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?
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.
CD One – Afraid of Sunlight (2019 Michael Hunter Re-Mix)
Cannibal Surf Babe
Afraid of Sunrise
Out of this World
Afraid of Sunlight
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)
Intro (Skater’s Waltz
Hooks in You
The Opium Den
Hard as Love
The Hollow Man
CD Four – Live at the Ahoy, Rotterdam (29th September 1995) (Part 2)
Afraid of Sunlight
Cannibal Surf Babe
Cover My Eyes
The Great Escape
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
Band of Gold
Gazpacho (Early Version)
Cannibal Surf (Early Version)
Beautiful (Early Version)
Out of this World (Early Version)
Afraid of Sunlight (Early Version)
Beyond You (Early Version)
Crunchy Guitar Idea
Deep Purple Vibe
King (Early Version)
Documentary Film – Afraid of Sunlight (Approv 45 Mins)
Promo Film – Beautiful
1999 Remaster Bonus Tracks
Beyond You (Demo)
Cannibal Surf Babe
Out of this World
Afraid of Sunlight (Acoustic Demo)
Steve Rothery – Guitars
Pete Trewavas – Bass
Steve Hogarth – Voice
Mark Kelly – Keyboardsm
Ian Moseley – Drums & Percussion
Hannah Stobart – Backing Vocals on ‘Beautiful’
Wendy Paige & Barbara Lezmy – Backing Vocals on ‘Cannibal Surf Babe’
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.
“Marillion, that’s that band with that Fish bloke in, did that song called Kayleigh…?”
If you’re a fan of the very long career of UK progressive band Marillion then you’ll have heard that question many a time. They have made it fashionable to be unfashionable in an ever changing industry that rewards the latest thing, in fact they’ve made a successful career out of it.
So then, how is it that a band most people seem to think ceased to exist in the mid 80’s can sell out the holy grail of live venues for two nights? There’s two reasons really, first because of a fan base that revere and love them (almost obsessively, if last night was anything to go by) and, secondly, because they are a live experience that should be on your bucket list!
Having played the RAH two years ago with a six piece orchestra, Marillion have decided to reinvent some of their tracks that they feel fit especially well in that format and are releasing an album (Marillion With Friends From The Orchestra) at the end of this month.
So it made sense to go out on a UK tour to promote the album and play in venues that would give the format some stunning backdrops? Of course it did!
The evening started with a short support set of cleverly crafted singer songwriter material from the talented Harry Pane, whose short but enjoyable acoustic guitar and double bass material was warmly received by the building audience.
However it was the main event that everybody had come to see and as the six piece orchestra walked on to the stage, followed by the band, the anticipation of the audience could literally be felt.
Marillion launched into an intense version of Gaza with frontman Steve Hogarth prowling the stage like a tormented soul, his on stage persona and antics are always an integral part of the band’s superb live shows.
The light show and backdrop graphics added to the intensity of proceedings as the band played a set littered with their greatest songs, twenty minute plus tracks that flew by leaving the audience at times speechless and at others rapturous and raucous, the alcohol maybe giving vent to some 50 and 60 year old fan’s long years of admiration where normally they would be more reserved.
The orchestra fitted in seamlessly with the strings bringing a euphoric feel to the somber brilliance of Estonia and lifting my all time favourite Marillion track, Season’s End, to incredible new heights, Steve Rothery’s solo bringing a lump to my throat and I’m sure I had something in my eye…
A wonderfully theatrical version of The New Kings from the band’s latest album F.E.A.R had the audience hooked on every word, engrossed as Hogarth led us through the mire of the modern world and this was followed by a brilliantly spirited Man of a Thousand Faces that had the audience singing along.
This once in a lifetime experience was finished by a two piece encore starting with a rocking take on Seperated Out with an excerpt from Led Zep’s Kashmir that even had the orchestra rocking out.
Things finally came to a close with an emotive and tumultuous version of long time fan favourite This Strange Engine that ebbed and flowed superbly for over twenty minutes before bringing the house down with heartfelt applause and adulation.
Thirty years on from when Steve Hogarth joined the band, Marillion still do things there own way. They did crowd funding before it was fashionable and they put on a live experience like no other. On nights like these they are untouchable to their fans and long may it continue. Now, who’s that Fish bloke…?
“Play Seasons End, play Seasons End, please.play.Seasons.End…Fuck, they’re playing Seasons End!!”
And that, my friends, made what was already an incredible, emotive and stunning gig by one of my all time favourite bands the best gig I’ve ever been to. Yes, it was that bloody good!
Now I know I’m a lucky sod, I get to go to all sorts of live music events for free just because I write (hopefully, pretty well) about them but this was something different. I’d gone with one of my oldest friends (and a Marillion gig virgin) and we were meeting my great friend Iain Sloan of Wynntown Marshals and Abel Ganz fame (to name but two!), who had made the long journey down from North of the border, for a quiet beer or two before the show (see picture above).
York Barbican is a great venue, quite intimate while also having a very decent capacity and brilliant sound. This created a suitably intense atmosphere as the crowd built awaiting the support act Roxanne de Bastion. This talented singer/songwriter came on to a big round of applause from an already three quarters full venue.
Roxanne had broken her left ankle before the tour began but took it all in her stride as she sang her haunting and beguiling songs with more than a flavour of roots music to them. With stories garnered from personal experience she managed to keep the attention of the crowd and her voice and pared back, simple guitar and piano playing were pretty impressive. The only issue for me being that she did look slightly out place on her own in what is quite a big venue, not that this affected her performing in any way. As an appetite whetter before the main event, I was very impressed and this gifted musician is one I will be seeking out in the future.
A quick nip back to the bar to re-imbibe before the anticipated brilliance of Marillion…
A dynamic and powerful opening salvo of El Dorado got the crowd going immediately and you sensed that the band were on good form as an ebullient Steve Hogarth prowled around the stage, his animated delivery a real highlight. This was immediately followed by a seriously compelling version of Power that had electricity sparking around the venue, Steve Rothery’s superb guitar playing making the hairs on the back of my neck rise, you just knew tonight was going to be a mesmerising experience.
All of the band were playing with fluidity and an almost carefree attitude, perhaps it was because it was the last night of the tour but, for me, they were putting all of their heart and soul into every note and every word.
Captivating versions of Quartzand The Party followed as the band went through their repertoire of carefully chosen tracks from over 30 years of making emotionally charged music and the adoring audience lapped it all up. It was like being in the middle of a cult but a wonderfully civilised one. There were standing ovations at the end of every track, Marillion could do no wrong tonight…
And then they played bloody Seasons End…What a spine-tingling, jaw dropping eight minutes that was, one of my favourite all time songs played by one of my all time favourite bands and with a guitar solo that soared to the heavens and was so full of emotion that I was lost in reverie. After the rapturous applause had died down Marillion delivered a thunderous performance of Living In Fear, the second track from current album ‘F.E.A.R’, one that seems to have given the band a new lease of life and attracted quite a few new followers to these veterans of the progressive scene.
The setlist took a ninety degree turn next as a band full of the confidence of a succesfull tour traded banter with the appreciative audience, Steve Hogarth asking Mark Kelly if they could swap Out of This World for a fan suggested White Paper and, to the cheers of the audience, they did! There was a real warmth and humour evident throughout the evening, the band were relaxed and obviously enjoying themselves and that came through in the performance.
A stirring rendition of The Leavers followed by Wave and Mad ramped the atmosphere through the roof, here is a band at the height of their not inconsiderable musical powers, Pete Trewavas bouncing around the stage and engaging in some gentle banter with Hogarth while Ian Mosley was an animated demon behind the drum kit, as ‘h’ would say, a bloody impressive pub band indeed!!
The set was completed by a blistering Afraid of Sunlight and a truly emotive performance of perennial fan favourite The Great Escape that surely had more than just a few eyes moist. At the end of every track virtually the whole theatre were on their feet cheering and clapping, just lost in the wonderful moment.
You know when the band leave the stage that there is going to be an encore and what an encore it was, a poignant and evocative Easter which contained possibly Rothers’ most impassioned solo ever and then a reverently received version of Sugar Mice that left the audience emotionally charged.
At this point I left, hoping to avoid the crowds but the opening notes of Garden Party had me rushing back in to the side of the stage to experience what was a group of friends enjoying themselves and playing music that they truly love, it was just magnificent!!
This time the crowd really did go wild…
So, there you have it, Marillion live at York Barbican, music really has the power to move you and bring a lasting joy to your heart and soul and, on this night, I had my most special musical epiphany ever and it just doesn’t get any better than that.
2nd March 2018 – On 2nd April Marillion release ALL ONE TONIGHT the live DVD of their Royal Albert Hall Show filmed in October 2017. On 26th March, there will be screenings of the show in 6 Everyman Cinemas across the UK. Marillion will host the screening at the Kings Cross Everyman. Tickets available from:
On October 13 2017 Marillion played the Royal Albert Hall for the first time in their near forty year career. The show sold out in minutes, a full year before the band took to the stage at the iconic London venue. The audience, many of whom had travelled over oceans for the show, were treated to a Marillion show like no other.
In two parts, ‘All One Tonight’ firstly showcases the band’s acclaimed 2016 studio album ‘F E A R’ in full. Accompanied by an awe inspiring light show and films, Marillion perform their incisive and era defining zeitgeist with unparalleled passion and power.
The second half introduces In Praise of Folly and guests, a string quartet with flute and French horn that throughout the rest of the show inject an extra depth and emotion to some of Marillion’s best loved live material. Once again, with amazing lights and audience participation, Marillion steal the night, proving that they more than belong on the stage that has been trod by the most acclaimed musicians. Directed and edited by Tim Sidwell, recorded and mixed by Michael Hunter, ‘All One Tonight’ is a Racket Records and Toward Infinity production.
Marillion embark on their UK tour on 8th April.
FULL 2018 Tour Dates are:-
Date City Venue
Sun 8th April Belfast Ulster Hall NEW DATE
Mon 9th April Dublin Vicar Street NEW DATE
Wed 11th April Gateshead The Sage last few tickets available
Fri 13th April Cambridge Corn Exchange SOLD-OUT
Sat 14th April Birmingham Symphony Hall SOLD-OUT
Mon 16th April Brighton Dome last few tickets available
Tue 17th April Bristol Colston Hall SOLD-OUT
Thu 19th April Reading Hexagon SOLD-OUT
Fri 20th April Liverpool Philharmonic Hall SOLD-OUT
Sun 22nd April York Barbican NEW DATE
Tickets available from myticket.co.uk, seetickets.com & venue box offices.
With the debut self-titled album from Gleb Kolyadin (iamthemorning) released today on Kscope, the Russian virtuoso pianist premieres a new video for the song “Storyteller” which features special guest Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater
Gleb comments on the song and the Kolyadin/Rudess collaboration “Storyteller is the final point of this musical journey. After passing through intricate corridors and stairs, the character finds a secret room where he comes to understand himself and everything that is happening with him. The room is a real mystical location in which time and space are intertwined.
I think no one could play the solo part better than Jordan. His rocking piece is the true magic. I’m happy that everything turned out the way it did: his part was the most important detail that breathe new life into the track.”
Gleb Kolyadin is an emotive exploration of self-identity; a story of two parts with interweaving leitmotifs. The album’s central concept weaves through an elaborate tonal and thematic structure, built around the extraordinary rhythm section of Gavin Harrison and Nick Beggs, which is accented at its focal points by guest appearances from Steve Hogarth, Jordan Rudess, Mick Moss and Theo Travis.
The album is a collaborative piece with each musician recording their own parts separately, starting with Gleb recording himself on grand piano in Moscow Winter-Spring 2017 at the famed Mosfilm studio. The album was mixed and engineered by Vlad Avy, who also previously worked on the two Iamthemorning records.
Gleb Kolyadin is available on CD / LP and digitally and is available HERE
I suppose, like me, the music you listen to depends on the mood you are in? Uptempo, fast-paced music for workouts or when you are in a really energetic mood or perhaps the chilled out, more relaxing music for a quiet night in and then there is that album that sits a bit on the fence, it has the higher cadence but also the easygoing, even emotive tracks that make it a great listen.
I was lucky enough to receive the promo for Gleb Kolyadin’s (pianist and co-songwriter of Iamthemorning)self-titled solo release and was intrigued to find out whether it would be more of his day job or a change from the norm that would head in other directions. Along that journey I have had the pleasure to become engrossed in what is a wonderful musical adventure…
The record features a staggering who’s-who of performers, including: Gavin Harrison (King Crimson / Porcupine Tree) on drums; Nick Beggs (Steven Wilson) on bass; Theo Travis (Robert Fripp / Porcupine Tree / Steven Wilson) on flute and saxophone; the unmistakable voice and lyrics of Steve Hogarth (Marillion) alongside Mick Moss (Antimatter); and Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) on additional keys.
The album is a collaborative piece with each musician recording their own parts separately, starting with Gleb recording himself on grand piano in Moscow Winter-Spring 2017 at the famed Mosfilm studio. The album was mixed and engineered by Vlad Avy, who also previously worked on the two Iamthemorning records.
There’s a wonderful freshness and freedom to the music that Gleb delivers, whether it is the instrumental tracks where his piano playing is key or the vocal tracks where intimate stories are weaved by the collaborative voices of Mick Moss and Steve Hogarth. The near-frantic tempo of opener Insight is a case in point with Gleb’s dextrous digits flying over the ivories to give a breathtaking demonstration of his skill. The accompanying musicians add a veneer of sheer class, Theo’s sax really stands out and you could imagine yourself standing to applaud as it comes to a close. There’s a humble feel to the opening of Astral Architecture, the gentle piano is hushed in comparison giving an ethereal grace to the song. Mick Moss adds a subtle authority as his vocals begin, full of feeling yet with an undercurrent of melancholy, they draw you into there intimate embrace and you willingly follow. A fantastical aura settles over the song as the vocals take on a more passionate note and the classical strings add gravitas, a powerfully emotive track. The elegant notes of White Dawn wouldn’t be out of place in a piano recital, oozing class and panache, it’s a short interlude that could be termed a musical amuse-bouche and it leaves a lovely feeling on the aural palate.
The theme continues but at a much faster tempo as we segue into Kaleidoscope, a track that lives up to its name as you are taken through a huge spectrum of musical wonder by Gleb’s incredible skill and artistry. Tatiana Dubovaya’s haunting vocals give an air of mystery and intrigue but it is a piece of music that fairly skips along without a care in the world and you gladly join the ride as Theo Travis’ flute takes up the reins to take us to a breathtaking close. The momentum slows a little for the captivating charm of Eidolon to beguile and enchant before the slightly discordant notes of Into the Void carry on the recurring musical theme, quite insistent and incessant in their delivery. Again, this is classical music given over to a mass audience with the added skill and expertise of modern day, real world musicians added into the mix to create something quite unique. The unrelenting timbre is carried over to The Room but you always feel the performers are totally in control of proceedings. A note of seriousness has entered the music in places, the happy-go-lucky quality taking a step into the shadows without leaving altogether, Theo’s sax playing adding a gritty feeling of ‘out there’ jazz playing to the furious piano that closes out the track.
There’s a wistful, darker aura that descends around Confluence, a dreamlike and wistful opening seems to be meandering to nowhere in particular with is deliberately slow tempo and Steve Hogarth’s hushed spoken word vocal barely heard in the background. It’s a wistful, contemplative tapestry on which a beautifully mournful soundscape is created. The music has a thoughtful and reflective ambience as it dances gently across your aural synapses and belies its ten minute plus length. This song is a testament to Gleb’s creativity as it twists and turns to gather pace before applying the brakes, always demanding your attention, an introspective piece of music that leaves a lasting impression on your mind. Constellation The Bell is a moving song that has a barely hidden fragility behind the impressive piano playing, an eloquent and expressive three minutes that leaves a hollow feeling behind. There’s a grandiose and ebullient impression to the short lived Echo Sigh Strand, a track where Gleb’s piano playing seems to emanate from his very being to come alive and it crackles with electricity, powerful and exciting.
Penrose Stairs carries on the pomp and circumstance with added theatrics, a vibrant and imposing track aided and abetted by Gleb’s stellar accompanying cast of musicians. However, it is the intricacies of his skillful piano playing that is always at the core of these songs. The involving complexities of the elaborate Storyteller take on a slightly menacing tone as Jordan Rudess’ instantly recognisable keyboard skills take over, it’s quite a thrilling joyride from beginning to end. All good things must come to an end and the dulcet tones of Steve Hogarth herald the closing track on the album The Best of Days. A fantastically nostalgic song where Gleb and Steve work together perfectly to deliver a sentimental track that tugs at the heartstrings. It’s hard for me to put my finger on it but there’s just something about this song that really works and, to my ears, it is near musical perfection.
I met Gleb at this year’s Summer’s End festival and he is a quiet, polite and very unassuming man, perhaps it is through his creative side and his music that he can really express himself. This self-titled solo debut is pretty much a work of art where the undoubted piano playing skills of this virtuoso musician are complemented by some of the most prominent musicians around to give us something quite wonderful and ultimately rewarding and something which I cannot recommend highly enough.