Grey Lady Down - The Crime

Year of Release: 1994
Label: Cyclops
Catalog Number: CYCL 001
Format: CD
Total Time: 53:33:00

Well, if you have visited our message boards at all[*], you've no doubt encountered some reviews by Vitaly Menshikov, who writes for Progressor, based in Uzbekistan. One of those reviews was his brief comments on Grey Lady Down and their debut The Crime, saying that he felt they wanted to be Marillion so bad. Admittedly, while I've had The Crime for a time, I hadn't really given it a close listen, liking it enough, though, to get their follow-ups Forces and Fear. But, in playing this disc again, I find I'm inclined to agree with Vitaly.

Though, on a purely contextual basis, Grey Lady Down cannot be labeled as Marillion clones, as their lyrical subject matter focuses on other things.

To begin with, however, let's talk about the music itself, first under the presumption that you are at all familiar with Marillion's early material, when Fish was the vocalist/lyricist and they were fighting off claims of wanting to be Genesis (an issue of much debate, of course).

Almost immediately you will hear the Marillion influence in the swirling, parping keyboards of Louis David. How much like Marillion, you ask? Well, you need only to think of their classic "Garden Party." Grey Lady Down have distilled Marillion down to only a few colors from the palette, refashioning new, yet similar, "paintings" from these, embellishing with a few additional (but far from original) colors.

The opening track "12:02" begins with those swirling keys, before the rest of the band kicks in. Vocalist Martin Wilson delivers lines like Fish, though his voice is vastly different, more along the lines of Saga's Mike Sadler. Never is this latter comparison more apparent than on "All Join Hands" which could very well be a Saga track - even down to the bubbly, perky keyboards (the Saga of to mid to late 80s, of course).

"Thrill Of It All" is an understated guitar and vocal ballad, that, in typical Marillion style, suddenly bursts forth with the full band (there are those keys again). In fact, if at this point you removed the vocals, you could sing "Market Square Heroes" (though because the tempo is a bit altered, it would be a slightly awkward version). The repeated refrain of the title is not unlike the repeated refrain of "are you following me" of MSH.

Mark Robotham's symbol work is of a much higher tone than Ian Mosley's is, and this may be most un-Marillion aspect of Grey Lady Down's music. The intro to "The Ballad Of Billy Grey (The Crime Part I)" is where you hear it the most, this "tap, tap, tap" rising up every bar, with a metallic (aluminum) sound. Quite cold sounding, too, where Mosley's is warm. "The Ballad" is the epic track of the album, progressive in that it follows convention of containing several different sections with varying arrangements. It isn't progressive in the sense that it explores any new territory ... progressive as a genre rather than as quality of being.

This is a concept album of sorts, not in the way that Brave was (which came out the same year as this), but each details some "crime" or another. "All Join Hands," for example, could be about the "troubles" in Ireland. There are enough key phrases to make a case. Of course, Fish tackled that subject, too, and U2 based their whole career on it (Tell me that 20 years from now "Sunday Bloody Sunday" won't be what one first thinks upon thinking of U2, and visa versa. Which, supposing that is the case, will answer the question Bono poses in it?)

All of which isn't to suggest that GLD are staking out new territory lyrically, the sentiments are probably all too common out there. "Annabel" is an interesting track conceptually, detailing either the isolation of Alzheimer's or merely growing old and then forgotten in a retirement home (or community, as mobility is implied). Given the refrain of "It's not over" implies something other than Alzheimer's as there wasn't (nor currently isn't) a cure. But then again, there is a whole scenario than dismisses old age and Alzheimer's - where you can read that Annabel has been institutionalized, told she's crazy, but is in fact only vulnerable to the mental predations of whomever has put her there (or do I just read too much?).

If you can accept that Grey Lady Down are far too influenced by Marillion (and to a lesser extent Saga), and get past it, listening to the album for what it is, you will find that it is a pretty good disc. The vocals are well done. The production is average, a little close in at times, with poor separation. The playing is good - they aren't bad imitators.

[*In the time since this review was first published, we changed message boards [now twice] and Vitaly's posting is no longer there. -ed]

12:02 (5:05) / All Join Hands (4:23) / Thrill of It All (6:36) / The Ballad of Billy Grey (The Crime Part One) (11:28) / Circus of Theives (7:03) / Annabel (6:09) / The Fugitive (The Crime Part Two) (12:12)

Louis David - keyboards
Sean Spear - bass
Mark Robotham - drums and percussion
Julian Hunt - guitars
Martin Wilson - vocals

The Crime (1994)
Forces (1995)
Fear (1997)
The Time Of Our Lives (1998)
Star-Crossed (2001)

Genre: Neo Prog

Origin UK

Added: December 13th 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 2032
Language: english


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