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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Marillion

Live From Cadogan Hall

Review by Gary Hill

Marillion are included in the progressive rock section of Music Street Journal because in the beginning they were very definitely prog. After the exit of Fish and the entrance of Steve Hogarth, the music began to resemble modern prog like Porcupine Tree a bit more. The sound became less pure prog rock. I’d have to say that one of my biggest complaints about the modern version of Marillion is that the sound has less variance in terms of arrangements and mood. This album features a live performance from the stripped down tour for the Less is More album. This nearly all acoustic treatment removes some of the variance normally present. It also transforms some songs even further from progressive rock to modern or classic rock, without the prog. Still, while this disc might not really qualify as prog (it’s included in that section because it’s Marillion) and it doesn’t have a ton of musical dynamics, it’s an entertaining and strong set. I reviewed the DVD version of this last issue, and I’d say the DVD works better than the audio alone. Still, this is worth having.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Go!

The musical modes that begin this feel a bit like a music box. The cut is delicate and grows gradually. The vocal arrangements gets extra layers later the guitar puts in some tasty acoustic guitar solos at points along the road. The whole thing turns more lush later.

Interior Lulu
A slow moving and mellow cut, this doesn’t differ all that much from the previous one, but still has its own identity. Around the two and a half minute mark it shifts out into a more rocking, but still quite accessible format. Somehow Hogarth’s vocals in that section make me think of Roy Orbison or Chris Isaak. Acoustic guitar takes it in a dramatic and powerful direction from there. They continue reworking the number, giving a real retro rock texture later, thanks to some killer organ sounds. This is really quite a powerful and dynamic piece, moving to different territory as it continues.
Out Of This World
A gentle and moody balladic sound makes up the first portions of this cut. As it builds out from there it resembles Pink Floyd or Porcupine Tree a bit. Other elements build upon the musical theme here, expanding the arrangement and the progression. It’s a good tune.
Wrapped Up In Time
This really has a slow moving classic rock texture to it. There are some cool guitar elements built into it. At times Hogarth reminds me a bit of Bruce Springsteen on this. That Roy Orbison/Chris Isaak reference is valid here, too, though.
The Space
Piano leads this one out. As Hogarth joins it becomes an evocative and somber balladic number. After a time the cut shifts to a different type of rock motif. It’s still slow, but less delicate and purely balladic. The bass guitar drives a lot of this piece. Later it becomes a more lush and powerful arrangement with more a rocking energy. Around the four minute mark the song moves in a new direction.
Hard As Love
This cut starts with a piano and vocal arrangement. It’s got more energy and power than some of the other stuff here at the outset. Around the minute and a half mark the arrangement gets more instruments added and the vocals bring a more pop rock element to the table. They drop it back a bit for a return to the verse. They take it back for another chorus and then turn up the power around the three and a half minute mark. The track continues working through by delivering ever more powerful versions of the earlier themes. This isn’t the proggiest thing on show here, but it is one of the catchiest and most energetic. They drop it back to just piano and vocals for the final section.
Quartz
The early arrangement here is a bit odd and sparse. There is a ticking clock element. Around a minute and forty five a killer hard rock riff enters. Then they take it out with a walking bass pattern into something that’s almost jazz meets space rock. It gets very powerful, at least in part due to Hogarth’s impassioned vocal delivery. They take it to a killer instrumental section based on that riff, then drop it way down to a stripped down motif for an evocative vocal segment. After a time it works back to harder rocking territory with an effective segment that feels a bit like standard Marillion fare mixed with Pink Floyd. This gets more energized as the guitar weaves some stellar soloing over the top. That section takes it out.
If My Heart Were A Ball
The bass drives the opening verse of this, but then they rock out heavily for the chorus. The arrangement to this is unique and it seems to wander between jazz and more traditional progressive rock. Hogarth puts in some of his most hard rock work of the whole set. There’s a full jazz treatment for a piano solo mid-track. A little after the three-minute mark they drop it back to a mellow motif that feels a bit like a music box. That section gets built into the next movement, one that feels the most like the sound normally associated with Marillion. I love the staccato sort of vocal delivery in that section and the music is great, too. This is one of the most effective pieces here.
It's Not Your Fault
This number is just piano and vocals and reminds me at times of Radiohead. It’s tasty, but a little lackluster in comparison to some of the other stuff. Still, it serves as a nice change of pace.
Memory Of Water
Another balladic tune, this time it’s just acoustic guitar and voice. It’s delicate and pretty, and also melancholy in feeling.
This Is The 21st Century
Although this starts with a guitar and vocal arrangement, it builds out later into a more full rocking tune. It’s a good piece, but less prog rocker and more just acoustic rocker.
Disc 2
No-One Can
The second set opens with a piano and voice driven ballad. It’s pretty, poignant and emotionally powerful.
Beautiful
This gets a full arrangement. It’s soaring and powerful, but perhaps more classic rock in nature than truly progressive rock. Still, it’s a potent piece of music that works quite well.
This Train Is My Life
They start this as an acoustic guitar and vocal ballad, but other instruments join as they continue, building it into a full and powerful arrangement. The central song structure remains reasonably unchanged, though, for the first couple minutes. Then it drops to just keyboards and vocals to continue. After a while it gets powered back out into a full melodic rock treatment.
You're Gone
There’s a lot more energy and power in this. It’s a bit more progressive rock oriented than some of the other stuff here. All in all, though, it’s still very much like a classic melodic rock tune with a bit of a modern edge. Hogarth’s vocal performance is particularly powerful and noteworthy here.
80 Days
This one’s far more purely progressive rock oriented. The arrangement is fairly complex and dynamic and the whole tune rocks, but in a melodic way. It’s a strong piece of music that works quite well. It’s one of the highlights of the set.
Gazpacho
Another energized rocker, this has more real progressive rock on display, but also has some fifties rock built into this acoustic treatment. The bass guitar really drives a lot of this. Around the three and a half minute mark they take it out into some killer new territory.
The Answering Machine
More of a classic rock approach drives this melodic rocker but a little before the two minute mark they take it into more purely progressive rock oriented territory. At times it calls to mind Renaissance quite a bit.
Estonia
At over nine-minutes in length, this is one of the longest and most effective (and progressive rock oriented) pieces on show here. It’s powerful and quite dynamic.
Easter
Piano starts this version of “Easter” and Hogarth joins with just that instrument backing him. It grows to a more full arrangement as they continue.
Three Minute Boy
The early motifs here are based on a balladic sound. It grows out to a full progressive rock treatment. The audience sings along at points and this is one of the most effective pieces of the set. It’s one that grows quite a bit and serves as a strong closer.
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