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Brief Encounter (vinyl)

Review by Greg Olma

In 1986 Marillion were riding high in England, but here in the United States, they were relative unknowns.  I knew about them because I was an avid reader of Kerrang! magazine, but none of my friends were even aware of them.  To help break them in the United States, the band was put on tour with Rush, and this E.P. was released to coincide with that trek.  It is an odd record in that it contains a couple of B-sides from singles in the U.K. and then a few live tracks with “Kayleigh” being the only hit that would make any waves here in the states.  Although it is an odd album, it is one that I feel that any Marillion fan should own because it showcases their amazing ability to recreate their music in a live setting.  Although it is over three decades old, the live material still sounds fresh, and, for that alone, I feel that this is a “must have” in any prog collection.

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Track by Track Review
Side 1:
Lady Nina

The E.P. starts off with a very 80s sounding upbeat tune about a prostitute.  It is very keyboard-heavy, but Steve Rothery makes his presence felt with some very emotional lead guitar work.  When this song was first released, it was the B-side to "Kayleigh," but it was later released in a shorter form as an A-side.  All in all, if you want a stroll down memory lane back to the 80s, then this track is for you.

This is the other studio track on this release, and it also has a very 80s sound which makes sense as that is when it came out.  “Freaks” was also a B-side to the hit single "Lavender."  It was later released as an A-side in live format to promote their live record coming out called The Thieving Magpie.  Again, the track is very keyboard-heavy and it takes a while for the song to get moving.  Once the whole band get involved, the song rocks a little harder.  It is a bit repetitive, but I still enjoy it because the band were almost at their peak (some people think this was their peak but I find their next studio record to be their best), and even their B-sides were better than most band’s hits.
I thought that is was odd that the band included a live version of this track, as the studio version was the natural hit, but this live version is a perfect recreation but with the added crowd feel.  For those of you who have never heard this song, it is an upbeat tune that will have you humming for days.  Fish's vocal performance is perfect, and Rothery weaves in a perfect guitar solo in this hit that should have been bigger in the United States.
Side 2:

The title track from their second album is performed at the Hammersmith Odeon for this release.  Things sound a little more bass-heavy than on the studio version, but everything is still very clear and each instrument has room to shine.  The songs starts off with a somber piano intro with Fish putting in an emotional vocal performance.  As the track progresses, things start to rock out a bit.  There are a number of twists and turns within the eight-minutes that showcase the prog nature of their earlier material.

Script For A Jester’s Tear
Here we get another live song, this one a rendition of the title track of their first full length album.  This is where it all started as this is the first song on that record.  It is a slow building prog piece that starts off sounding a bit Renaissance-ish but turns into a mid-paced rocker with some great guitar work from Rothery.  Fish also puts in a fantastic vocal performance, adding drama to each section.  Halfway through it gets slower again, but builds back towards the end.  Even though the band were great in the studio, I feel that the live stage is where they excelled, and this and the previous two songs prove they were a force to be reckoned with in concert.
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