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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Marillion

Holidays In Eden

Review by Greg Olma

Marillion were the prog darlings of the UK music scene in the early 80s.  After four successful albums, the band split with charismatic front-man Fish.  Stepping in to take his place was Steve Hogarth who continues to front the band to this day.  After the initial record Seasons End, the band went into the studio to create this often maligned “poppy” disc, which had their prog fans scratching their heads.  Back in 1991, a number of the tracks were probably a shock to long-time fans, but I think over the years this record has aged well.  Sure, there are some tracks that have a commercial element that is brought upon mostly by the sterile production, but there is a lot of material on Holidays In Eden that I would never compare to pop music.  There is a good mix of material on offer that still caters to their prog fans but also gives them a few tunes that can make it onto the all-important airwaves.  I haven’t listened to the whole disc in quite a while, and it is not always in my Marillion playlist, but there are so many great tunes that I will rethink about putting this record into heavier rotation.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 3. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
Splintering Heart
The band start the disc with the longest track on the record.  It has a heartbeat-like beginning but it builds into a bit of a rocker.  Then when you think you figured out the track, it goes into a dreamy type soft middle section.  All of sudden a great guitar solo by Steve Rothery kicks in, and we return to that rock part of the tune.  It all ends with the same heartbeat-like beginning, giving it a book-ending quality.
Cover My Eyes (Pain And Heaven)
I get a U2 vibe from the beginning, but ultimately it is a nice slice of pop prog.  This was one of the singles released from the record and I can see where some older fans were confused with the new direction.
The Party
Things get moody on this prog piece.  It is very somber at times, and it reminds me of the style they fill their albums with now.  Rothery always seems to find the right solo for the song, and this one is no different.  Steve Hogarth also shines on this track with some very emotional vocals.
No One Can
In my opinion, this is the most overtly pop tune on the record (or even on all of their catalogue).  It has a very lighthearted feel and it would have fit nicely with any of Toto’s output in the 80s.  The thing that I like least about it is that it is very repetitive and, while that doesn’t always mean a bad tune, this one just doesn’t go anywhere.
Holidays In Eden
You could mistake the beginning for mid-80s Rush.  Once that section fleshes itself out, the track turns more into a latter day Marillion tune.  This one also has a very 80s feel with some of the vocals sounding like something off of Yes’ 90125.  I think this is where they were trying to feature some of their own sound but also trying to bring some accessible sounds to make the label happy with some hits.
Dry Land
The band once again try for hit single territory but this time, I think they produced a winner (even though it only got to 34 in the UK charts).  Even though it has some similarities to the other hits on the record, there is something special about this one.  It has such a catchy chorus, and Hogarth puts in a very good vocal performance here.
Waiting To Happen
Acoustic guitars usher in this nice mellow song with a bombastic chorus.  While it is one of the mellow tracks on the album, it is one of the highlights.  This cut ends with one the best Rothery solos on the disc and a short piano piece.
This Town
This rocker is a little out of place as it is the fastest cut on the record.  I’m surprised that it is so late in the track sequencing, as it would have been a perfect second song.  The chorus has an 80s vibe, but the rest of the tune has more of a straight-ahead rock sound.
The Rake's Progress
Even though it is listed as a separate track, this is so short that it almost feels like an intro.  It is a moody piece that has a little Pink Floyd flavor to it with its moody and spacey feel.
100 Nights
The disc concludes with the second longest track.  For all the negativity around this album not being prog enough, there are many tunes here that exude their prog roots.  Aside from the vocals, this one would have fit nicely with  any of the Fish-era material particularly Clutching At Straws.  Most of the middle of the song has a very dramatic feel, but as it tapers off, the track goes back to a part that is basically the beginning of “Cover My Eyes (Pain And Heaven)," Although this number is not talked about much, it is definitely one of the high points on this overlooked album.
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