Fish - Communion

Year of Release: 2007
Label: Chocolate Frog Records
Catalog Number: CF040807
Format: CD
Total Time: 108:54:00

In 2006, Fish played a 2 date fan club convention stint at St. Mary's Church in Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland, the same church in which he'd married Tamara in 1987 (they divorced in 2006) and, as he writes in the liner notes, had only played in a few times after that. One of those dates, August 27, 2006, is captured on the 2007 release Communion, a two-CD set that features a full spectrum of pieces from throughout his solo career (except, no material from Fellini Days) and a pair from his days with Marillion.

It wasn't until I read the liner notes that I learned (or remembered, if I knew before) that it was an acoustic set. Well, there are a few of the mellower, balladic tracks where their being rendered acoustically is obvious, but on the rockier tracks, it isn't immediately obvious, except that, once you know that, it is.

Fish is in fine voice, though far from perfect. At times it's a bit raw, at others the edges that are familiar from the studio versions (and even earlier live renditions) are a bit smoother. But years have passed since some of this material was new to us; are you the same you were 18 years ago? Or, because with "Chelsea Monday" we go waaay back to 1983, are you the same as you were 25 years ago? No, I thought not; so we can't expect Fish to have been in a time capsule. But one doesn't think "oh, he's past it" because, as I said, he's otherwise in fine voice, and sounds better at the end of the set than at the beginning. Which makes me wonder actually what the issue was at NEARfest this past June - perhaps it wasn't he, but the mics. Or just a different setting (Fish has said that air conditioning can play havoc with his voice and I know for sure the AC was on in Zoellner, because I was nearly freezin'. Anyway, back to this review).

Back in 1990, "State Of Mind" was new to us on the Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors. In this retelling, there is a renewed pointedness, which only goes to show that this is a song that, although now about 18 years old, still resonates today. Shame that politics hasn't progressed positively in that time. Because it's arrangement has be recast for acoustic instruments, Fish also does a bit of? musical improv at the end, and in way, bringing this track into the present.

While I've yet to hear their studio versions, the tracks from Field Of Crows don't grab me as much as the "classic" material does -- and before you think it's because they aren't the well-loved classics, that isn't it at all. Or that they have a less "proggy" aspect ? that ain't it either, because I think "Tilted Cross" comes across beautifully here and is in this same rough style as the FOC material. At least I see it in my mind as set in the vast Midwest. But, that doesn't mean the FOC aren't successful as acoustic. "Fortunes Of War" comes across well in this acoustic setting, too, and even "Jumpsuit City," a track that I didn't fully care for on Suits, but think now I may need to give it another chance. Of course, the mellow pieces like "A Gentleman's Excuse Me" (which has an added something that emphasizes the sentiment), "Favourite Stranger," "Change Of Heart," "Lady Let It Lie," etc., work well acoustically, but surprisingly, so does "Slainte Mhath" - losing none of its power because the solos are amplified acoustics rather electric guitars.

Although the saga may have just been beginning at this point, there is some? irony, I suppose, in the fact that it is the soon-to-be (and then soon-to-be-ex) fianc? Heather Findlay that duets with Fish on "Just Good Friends." But aside from that, she and Fish do duet well together here, putting this song on the side of "best performances." And, depending on where in the "Heather saga" we are at this point, isn't there something in fact that while Fish is exorcising the ghosts of his just-ended relationship, closing the chapter, she who be the next chapter, the next point on his curve, is at this intersection?

Sound-wise, this is a very clean and clear recording. In fact, so clean, one might forget it's live until the audience applauds between pieces. The Fish-to-audience banter is not included, other than a few band introductions ? including after performing "Tara," acknowledging that his daughter Tara, for whom the song was composed many years ago, was singing back up.

So, while these are fairly faithful renditions of Fishy tracks, there are some who have had to be rearranged, which gives them a freshness and allows Fish and company to emphasize different aspects.

Is it his best recorded live performance? Whew, that's a tough question. There are a number of live Fish sets out there - actually quite a few. Some released by Fish himself as "fans only" type sets (not fan club discs, mind, but? produced and released at his expense), and some with wider release (at least, distribution). But it would be a lie to say "if you'd heard one Fish live CD, you've heard them all." And in this case, this being all acoustic renderings, it's a special release. That doesn't mean we need to make exceptions for it, just that it isn't "just another live Fish release." It's actually a very good Fish recording, a nice overview of the "story so far?," to use a clich?, which, interestingly enough, is a song that doesn't appear on this release despite it's suitability for an acoustic rendering.

Disc One: The Field (8:19) / Jumpsuit City (5:30) / Favourite Stranger (5:50) / Shot The Craw (5:28) / State Of Mind (7:32) / Tilted Cross (4:22) / Fortunes Of War (6:37) / Just Good Friends (6:03) / Incomplete (4:06) / Change Of Heart (3:44) / Lady Let It Lie (5:55) / A Gentleman's Excuse Me (4:19)

Disc Two: Rites Of Passage (6:00) / The Lost Plot (4:53) / Slainthe Mhath (5:13) / Chelsea Monday (6:11) / Scattering Crows (5:22) / Tara (5:29) / Raw Meat (7:01)

Fish - lead vocals
Frank Usher - guitar
Andy Trill - guitar
Steve Vantsis - bass
Tony Turrell - keyboards
Gavin Griffiths - drums
Dave Haswell - percussion
Heather Findlay - backing vocals, bodhran, low whistle
Angela Gordon - backing vocals, flute, penny whiste
Anne Marie Helder - backing vocals
Tara Dick - backing vocals

Vigil In A Wilderness of Mirrors (1990)
Internal Exile (1991)
Songs From The Mirror (1992)
There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop
?Swears He's Fish
Toiling In The Reeperbahn (1993)**
Derek Dick And His Amazing Electric Bear (1993)**
Pigpens Birthday (1993)**
Uncle Fish & The Crypt Creepers (1993)**
For Whom The Bells Toll(1993)**
The Funny Farm Project - Outpatients '93 (1993)***
Suits (1994)
Sushi (1994)**
Acoustic Session (1994)**
Yin and Yang (1995)
Fish Head Curry (1996)**
Krakow (1996)
Sunsets On Empire (1997)
Kettle Of Fish (1998)
Fortunes Of War Acoustic Set UK '94 (1998)
Tales From The Big Bus (Live From K?ln 1997) (1998)
Haddington Corn Exchange 1998 (1999)
The Complete BBC Sessions (1999)
Raingods With Zippos (1999)
Candlelight In Fog (USA 2000) (2000)
Fellini Days (2001)
Sashimi (Live In Poznan, Poland 1999) (2001)
Fellini Nights (2002)
Mixed Company (2003)
Field Of Crows (2004)
Bouillabaisse - The Best Of Fish (2005)
Return To Childhood (2006)
Communion (2007)
13th Star (2007)
A Feast Of Consequence (2013)
The Moveable Feast - European Tour 2013-2015 (2016)
Farewell To Childhood - Live In Europe 2015-2016 (2017)

NEARFest - Fish Live In The USA (2009)
Leamington Spa - Sunday October 21st (2013)
Fishheads Club Live (2013)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: July 13th 2008
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 2551
Language: english


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