Marillion - Marbles

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Intact Records / Dead Ringer (dist. Caroline Distribution)
Catalog Number: 12772 (2CD) / 6501 (1CD)
Format: CD
Total Time: 00:00:00

Having been relatively disappointed with Marillion's last three or four albums - relative to the exalted opinion I have for the albums that preceded those (basically, Script For A Jester's Tear through This Strange Engine), I wasn't sure what to expect from Marbles. I'm still the diehard fan, having been one of those who pre-ordered the album before it was even recorded ? perhaps I should say "ever hopeful" rather than "diehard." Oh, I wasn't and still am not hoping for another Misplaced Childhood or Brave, at least not in terms of sound. But I have been waiting for a Marillion album that has grabbed me the same way as any of those albums from the period I mentioned.

I'm happy to say that Marbles is that album - at least mostly part. One listen to just the first four tracks (of the 2-disc version) upon album's arrival months ago, sent thrilling chills down my spine. It's the kind of album we hoped the band would make, really. Proggy and modern at once.

There are two versions of the album available - the double disc version reviewed here (available from the band's website) or the single disc retail version. There are 4 tracks on the two disc version not on the retail version, "Genie," "The Only Unforgivable Thing," "Ocean Cloud," and "The Damage." The latter, interestingly enough, is, as of this writing, the latest single. Anyway, I'll cover mostly the pieces found on both versions.

If you enjoyed Brave, Afraid Of Sunlight and This Strange Engine, then you will enjoy Marbles. Stylistically, it melds many elements from all three with elements from their more recent trio of albums, Radiation, and Anoraknophobia. Back are those wonderful Rothery guitar solos, too.

The album starts off with the dramatic "The Invisible Man." A throbbing yet subdued tribal beat from Pete Trewavas on bass and Ian Mosley on drums eases us in to this moody and atmospheric piece that recalls Brave, and yet gives it a mellow-yet-funky groove. In fact, the many changes this piece undergoes makes it as though you are getting the whole dynamic shift of Brave in a single song. Steve Hogarth's vocals are at times understated, a la Brave, and yet there also sections that are powerful statements. And you know, that dynamic is a Marillion characteristic. At various points during this piece "Accidental Man" (TSE) and "Cannibal Surf Babe" (AFS) come to mind, the latter due to the wavery, watery keyboard passages from Mark Kelly. This piece also signals some of the other textures that you'll hear on the album; Kelly's piano-like tones in a later passage, one that is bluesy and jazzy, presages the late-night at the jazz club feel of "Marbles 1," the later, orchestral and fantastic "Fantastic Place" (one of my favourites), and the subtly seductive "Angelina." The emotion on "The Invisible Man" is so marked that for the ending section, H is so taken that his voice breaks. At first, I found this a flaw, but now, some 2 dozen or more spins later? no, not a flaw at all; rather, it is a moment that brings the raw emotion into sharp focus? making it real.

"Don't Hurt Yourself" has a bit more of a roots rock/REM-like feel to it, including a touch of slide guitar. It's not as moody as the typical REM song ? maybe more like "One I Love," only more country. It's a nice piece, and nicely done, but for long time Marillion fans, a little pedestrian. If "Afraid Of Sunrise" was their southwest song (California, Arizona, New Mexico), this is the south ? but maybe that comes with the REM thought and that band's Georgia origins. But also, like "Afraid Of Sunrise," the open road is evoked -- interpretively by the music, literally by the lyrics.

The first single, "You're Gone," recalls latter day U2 musically, even down to a funky beat. In fact, it sounds more programmed than performed except for H's emotive vocals. Think "Mysterious Ways" in terms of feel and groove? sort of... not as angular in the guitar phrases. It's nice song, well-done, and certainly "single" material. Lyrically, it's as emotionally charged as anything the band have done in their entire career - here, one is dealing with and coming to accept loss? of what sort one can interpret in their own way.

"Angelina" evokes the soft, languid and moody sound of Brave, combining it with more tinkly, jazz piano-like textures mentioned earlier. Rothery's solo here is not typical Rothery, and yet has his signature "make-every-note" quality about it.

The Beatles are evoked on "Drilling Holes" ... on the one hand, it's a dark, rumbling piece (bass and percussion) that hints at something darker and more dangerous is to come? and then shifts gears and becomes a dreamy piece? even a little baroque at times? oh, think a combination of "Blue Jay Way," "Strawberry Fields," and "A Day In The Life" all put into a blender. So yes, the more psychedelic aspects of The Beatles.

"The Damage" is a track that is also Beatles-esque at times, but also a bit sexy ? a bit of strut with a wink? much less subtle than "Angelina." I had a flash image of the band with their tuxes on (reference intended), top hats and cane? on a sparse stage, a staircase behind them, swooping up into the overhead stage lights? all five dancing a little softshoe? to a rock beat ? or maybe even a little Fred Astaire like dancing? And no, they didn't do this on their recent US tour (though H started the set in a suit). The lyrics here repeat phrases from "Genie," which is, as mentioned a 2-CD version track only.

Both the double-disc and single disk versions end with "Neverland" (though the European 1-CD version has a bonus track, and the North American version has a bonus video). This track I first heard on the band's 2003 Christmas CD, and felt hopeful about what we would hear on Marbles based on this track. The track opens with resonant, rich piano-like and vocals - another initially understated performance from H. It opens up - again in that dynamic way the band have -- leads to a glorious Rothery guitar solo? as I said in my review of the Christmas CD, it's comparable to their classics of "Easter," "Estonia," and "Seasons End." I'll have to say, really, the whole Seasons End album without repeating any moves made there? but it would have fit quite well there. H creates his own echo towards the end, which I thought was a studio effect, but I think not hearing this live? now (thought there may be some of that in there, too). Reading the lyrics, I see the "Neverland" reference is to Peter Pan... Wonderful, wonderful track.

The different sections of "Marbles" each have different characters. The first, as mentioned, is a jazzy; the second, "Marbles II," is a bit Bob Dylan-like, especially in H's vocal delivery. "Marbles III" is a mellow piece, mostly tinkly piano-like keyboards accompanied by a full swell of what sounds like a Rhodes (it leads seamlessly into "The Damage"). "Marbles IV" is sparse and fragile, filled with guitar and keyboard effects (kinda spacey in a way).

Of the tracks that are only on the 2-CD version, the best by far is "Ocean Cloud," one my favourites and one that is haunting like "Estonia" and "Out Of This World" and yet, also expansive like "Easter." Oh, it doesn't sound like either of those tracks, but there is the unmistakable guitar work of Rothery here, his bending of notes taking you back for a moment to Clutching?. Interestingly enough, like those two, it's about water. It's an epic track, both in scope and length. Another "concept album" in a song, full of shifting dynamics, bits of narrative (soundbytes, in this case). One thing Marillion do well, and there are many things, is capture the feel of water, whether it's in the shimmery guitar phrases from Rothery or the wavery keyboards from Kelly. Well, they do that here, before the song explodes in to a ballsy section that doesn't lose the feeling of being tossed to and fro on the wild sea.

"Genie," a track that leans more toward their past few albums, with a hint of the Beatles, too. It's hard not to hear a bit of John Lennon in H's delivery. Actually, it's a bit closer to what I had hoped from H's solo album, Ice Cream Genius. Having started off with a "proggy" piece ("The Invisible Man"), they follow up with a more poppy "single." "The Only Unforgiveable Thing" begins with church like organ that gives way to heart-beat like drumming and bright, chiming guitar. The keyboards and the understated vocals give this a very dark and moody feel.

Overall, I'm quite happy with this album (and very, very happy with several tracks). And, I'd have to say, I haven't been this thoroughly pleased (and excited) by a Marillion album since Afraid Of Sunlight I'd have to play the songs in the single disc sequence (at least until I buy my own single disc version? yes, I can be that "diehard") to see if that works for me as much as the 2-Disc sequence? which does seem like a weird thing to say. The 2-CD version is worth getting however, just to hear "Ocean Cloud," if nothing else. Fortunately, the other highlight tracks, "The Invisible Man" and "Fantastic Place" and "Neverland" are on the 1-disc version, too.

2-Disc Version: Disc One: The Invisible Man (13:37) / Marbles I (1:42) / Genie (4:54) / Fantastic Place (6:12) / The Only Unforgivable Thing (7:13) / Marbles II (2:02) / Ocean Cloud (17:58)

Disc Two: Marbles III (1:51) / The Damage (4:35) / Don't Hurt Yourself (5:48) / You're Gone (6:25) / Angelina (7:42) / Drilling Holes (5:11) / Marbles IV (1:26) / Neverland (12:10)

1-Disc Version: The Invisible Man (13:37) / Marbles I (1:46) / You're Gone (6:28) / Angelina (7:41) / Marbles II (1:55) / Don't Hurt Yourself (5:48) / Fantastic Place (6:12) / Marbles III (1:51) / Drilling Holes (5:11) / Marbles IV (1:25) / Neverland (12:09) / Bonus Track European Version: You're Gone (Single Mix) (4:00) or Enhanced Track North American Version: Don't Hurt Yourself (Promotional Video)

Total Timings: 2CD: 53:43 / 45:14, 1CD 62:03 (plus bonus material)

Steve Hogarth - vocals, hammered dulcimer
Steve Rothery - guitar, bass
Pete Trewavas - bass, acoustic guitar
Ian Mosley - drums, percussion
Mark Kelly - keyboards

Guest: Carrie Tree - additional vocals on "Angelina" and "Genie"

Script For A Jester's Tear (1983)
Fugazi (1984)
Reel To Real (1984)
Misplaced Childhood (1985)
Brief Encounter (ep) (1985)
Clutching At Straws (1987/1999)
The Thieving Magpie (1988)
B-Sides Themselves (1988)
Season's End (1989)
Holidays In Eden (1991)
A Singles Collection 1982-1992 (1992)
Live At The Borderline (1992)*
Live In Caracas (1993)*
Live In Glasgow (1993)*
Brave (1994)
The Making Of Brave (1995)*
Afraid Of Sunlight (1995)
Made Again (1996)
Kayleigh (1996) (Dutch comp)
Essential Collection (1996) (UK comp; same as above)
Real To Reel/Brief Encounter (1997)
Best Of Both Worlds (1997)
This Strange Engine (1997)
Rochester (1998)*
Piston Broke (1998)*
Tales From The Engine Room (1998)
Radiation (1998)
Christmas 1998: The Web Christmas (1998)**
Kayliegh: The Essential Collection (1998) (UK comp.; diff. from above)
Unplugged At The Walls (1999)* (1999)
Zodiac (1999)*
Christmas 1999: (1999)** (or bonus disk) (Ver 1-2000)
The Singles: '82 - '88 (box set) (2000/2009)
Christmas 2000: A Piss-Up In A Brewery**
Crash Course (Sampler) (2000)
ReFracted! (2001)*
Anoraknophobia (2001)
Another DAT At The Office (2001)*
Christmas 2001: A Verry Barry Christmas (2001)**
Fallout (2002)*
Anorak In The UK Live (2002)* (or bonus disk) (Ver 2-2002)
Brave Live 2002 (2002)*
Caught In The Net (2002)*
Crash Course (Sampler) (2002)*
The Singles: '89 -'95 (2002)
Brave Live (2002)*
AWOL (2002)**
Christmas 2002: Santa And Elvis (2002)**
The Best of Marillion (2003)
View From The Balcony (2003)**
Christmas 2003: Say Cheese! Christmas With Marillion (2003)**
Curtain Call (2004) (3CD Box)*
Crash Course (2004)*
Marbles (2004)
Remixomatosis (2004)*
Christmas 2004: Baubles (2004)**
Popular Music (CD oop, avail. as download only) (2005)** (or bonus disk) (Ver 3-2005)
View From The Balcony (Sampler) (Ver 2-2005)
Marbles By The Sea (2005)*
Marbles Live (2005)*
Handful Of Marbles (Sampler) (2005)*
Christmas 2005: Merry Xmas To Our Flock (2005)**
Unzipped (The Making Of 'Anoraknophobia') (2005)*
Crash Course (Ver 4 - 2006)
Smoke (2006)*
Mirrors (2006)*
Marbles Vinyl Edition (2006)
Christmas 2006: Jingle Book (2006)**
Somewhere Else (2007)
Crash Course (Ver 5 - 2007)*
Christmas 2007: Somewhere Elf (2007)**
Family (2007)*
Friends (2007)*
Crash Course (Ver 6 - 2008)*
Happiness Is The Road - Volume 1: Essence (2008)
Happiness Is The Road - Volume 2: The Hard Shoulder (2008)
Early Stages - The Official Bootlegs 1982-1987 (6CD Box) (2008)
Christmas 2008: Pudding On The Ritz (2008)**
Happiness Is Cologne (2009)*
Live From Loreley (2009)
Recital Of The Script (2009)
Less Is More (2009)
Size Matters (2010)*
Tumbling Down The Years (2010)*
The Official Bootleg Box Set, Vol. 2 (2010)
Live From Cadogan Hall (2010)*
Live In Montreal / Saturday (2010)*
Live In Montreal / Sunday (2010)*
Keep The Noise Down (sampler) (2010) Deluxe Digipack (2011)
Somewhere Else (2LP) (2011)
Marbles Deluxe Digipack (2011)
Marbles (2LP) (2011)
Live In Montreal / Friday (2011)*
Season's End Live 2009 (2011)*
This Strange Engine Live 2007 (2011)*
Afraid Of Sunlight Live 2003 (2011)*
A-Z (2012)*
This Strange Engine - Deluxe Digipack (2012)
Fugazi (LP) (2012)
Holidays In Eden (LP) (2012)
Sounds That Can't Be Made (2012)
Sounds That Can't Be Made - Deluxe Edition (2012)
Crash Course (2012)*
Sounds Live (2012)*
Anoraknophobia (LP) (2012)
The Glow Must Go On (2012)*
Sleighed Again (Christmas 2012) (2012)**
Best.Live (LP box set) (2013)
Radiation 2013 (2013)
Brave (LP) (2013)
Misplaced Childhood (LP) (2013)
Clocks Already Ticking (CD/DVD) (2013)*
Best Of Leamington (2013)*
Best Of Montreal (2013)*
Brave Live 2002 (CD/DVD) (2013)
Radiation 2013 (LP) (2013)
Somewhere In London (CD/DVD) (2013)
Afraid Of Sunlight (LP) (2013)
Clutching At Straws (LP) (2013)
Sounds That Can't Be Made (LP) (2013)
Brave Live 2013 (2013)
Sounds That Can't Be Made - 2013 Special Edition (2013)*
Proggin Around The Christmas Tree (Christmas 2013) (2013)**
A Sunday Night Above The Rain (dlx bx set) (2014)*
A Sunday Night Above The Rain (Holland version) (2014)*
A Sunday Night Above The Rain (Montreal version) (2014)*
A Sunday Night Above The Rain (3LP) (2014)*
A Collection Of Recycled Gifts (xmas comp.) (2014)*
Live At The Forum (2014)
Chile For The Time Of Year (Christmas 2014) (2014)*
Glass Half Full (2015)
F.E.A.R. (2016)
Waves & Numbers (2016)*
Marbles In The Park (2016)*
Singles Night (2016)*

Recital Of The Script (VHS/DVD) (1983/2003)
Grendel/The Web (VHS EP) (1984)
1983-86 The Videos (VHS [oop]) (1986)
Live From Loreley (VHS/DVD) (1987/2004)
From Stoke Row To Ipanema (VHS/DVD) (1990/2003)
A Singles Collection 1982-1992 (DVD) (1992)
Brave, The Film (VHS/DVD) (1995/2004)
Shot In The Dark (VHS/DVD [oop]) (2000/2002)
The EMI Singles Collection (DVD [PAL only])(2002)
A Piss-up In A Brewery (DVD) (2002/2010)
Brave Live 2002 (DVD) (2002)
Christmas In The Chapel (DVD) (2003)
Before First Light (DVD) (2003)
Wish You Were Here (DVD box, oop) (2005)
Colours And Sound (DVD) (2006)*
Marbles On The Road (DVD) (2005)
Bootlet Butlins (DVD) (2007)*
Somewhere In London (DVD) (2007)
This Strange Convention (DVD) (2009)
Snow De Cologne (DVD) (2009)**
Out Of Season (box set) (DVD) (2010)
Ding Dong Loreley On High (live) (DVD) (2010)
In-Tube DVD Sampler (DVD) (2010)
Out Of Season (DVD boxset) (2010)
Live In Montreal (3DVD) (2011)
Holidays In Zelande (BR) (2012)
Clocks Already Ticking (CD/DVD) (2013)
Brave Live 2002 (CD/DVD) (2013)
Brave Live 2013 (BR & DVD) (2013)
A Sunday Night Above The Rain (BR & DVD) (2014)*
Breaking Records (BR) (2015)
Unconventional (BR & DVD) (2016)
Out Of The Box (BR & DVD) (2016)

* Racket Records releases; ** Fan Club only

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: October 9th 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1316
Language: english


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