Release Date: April 27, 2004

User Review
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The Steve Hogarth era of Marillion’s history has its 15-year anniversary this year. As brilliantly documented in the From Stoke Row To Ipanema VHS/DVD, the band got off to a great start via one of the most appreciated Marillion albums of all: 1989’s Seasons End.

In 2004, we are blessed by having 9 Marillion studio albums from the Hogarth-era, including this year’s Marbles. And for those who still think Marillion is the band fronted by this tall and funny guy called Fish, they only produced four long-players with him, although all of them can be called classics today. Yes, there have been ups and downs with this version of the band, and 1998’s Radiation may indeed be the weakest link in their history. But albums such as Seasons End, Brave, This Strange Engine, and Anoraknophobia are truly, truly great efforts.

Marillion shows a great ability in the art of surviving. The accomplishments of getting over bad record sales, bad reviews, low-budget touring, and a constantly changing musical environment have caused Marillion to become ever stronger. Their fans might not be millions, but these fans are deeply dedicated to Marillion. That’s why their two latest releases, Anoraknophobia and Marbles, were pre-ordered by fans for an estimated total of around 12,000 copies each. Now that’s called dedication!

So how about Marbles? Marbles is a bit like Brave, which was probably the most appreciated release by this lineup to date. Back then, to me, Brave wasn’t just an album of songs – it was more like a journey … you couldn’t quite leave it half-played. From beginning to end, Marbles is a whole lot like that as well. Starting with the quiet opening in “The Invisible Man,” until “Neverland” tones out a little over an hour later, you feel like these five guys from Marillion really have taken you somewhere.

Steve Rothery has created some magic moments with his guitar for the 21 years Marillion has been together as a band. When the opening track, “The Invisible Man,” has almost reached five minutes, Rothery, along with keyboardist Mark Kelly, let loose to take us into a beautiful part of the thirteen and a half-minute masterpiece. It hasn’t got the biggest hooks, but it is an impressive piece of work.

The first single, “You/re Gone,” has done better in England than a Marillion single has ever done for quite some time. Even though the British press has treated Marillion pretty bad in the last couple of years, the success of “You/re Gone” shows that people are really getting into Marillion again. This band is by no means a retrospective act; they are constantly experimenting and going new places – not unlike British giants Radiohead.

The closest Marbles gets to delivering timeless, mid-tempo rockers is with “Don/t Hurt Yourself”, but Marbles all in all demonstrates a more quiet and melancholic Marillion than ever. Songs like the beautiful “Angelina” and “Fantastic Place” are the best slow songs Marillion has done since “Easter” and “Waiting To Happen.” In addition, the really long ones, the opener “The Invisible Man” and the ending “Neverland” result in delightful listening.

Marbles has, in the band’s own words, been the most difficult Marillion album to make ever. To any other band, that would have been the final straw, but for Marillion, it’s just like many other things around them; it makes them stronger. Marbles is a great achievement, and if it takes them to a new level commercially; nothing would be more appropriate. If anything, commercial success is deserved, because the phrase “hard working band” could not be used more accurately!


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