Music Review – MARILLION: AN HOUR BEFORE IT’S DARK (2022)

MARILLION
AN HOUR BEFORE IT’S DARK (CD, Intact/earMUSIC, 4 March 2022, 54:10) – score 79%
Musicians: Steve Hogarth – Vocals, Keyboards; Mark Kelly – Keyboards; Steve Rothery – Guitars; Pete Trewava- Bass, Additional Guitar; Ian Mosley – Drums
With
Kat Marsh – Backing Vocals (1, 6); P. Bissett – Additional Noises (1); Luis Jardim – Percussion (2, 4, 6, 7); B. Hartshorne – Additional Sounds (2, 4); The Friends Chorus (2), Choir Noir (5, 7); Bethan Bond – Concert Harp (5, 7); “In Praise of Totty” String Quartet (5); Sam Morris – French Horn (7)
Producer: Michael Hunter and Marillion; Recorded and Mixed by Michael Hunter; Assistant Engineer (at Real World): Katie May; Recorded at The Racket Club, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire; Real World, Box, Wiltshire, 2021; Strings recorded by Christine Verscoren at Ace Studio, Aartselaar, Belgium, 2021.
Marillion return with their first album of new material since 2016’s critically acclaimed album FEAR. The band adopt a similar approach to the music here with four of the seven songs split into multi-sectioned titles, which demonstrates the band’s approach to linking separately composed pieces together to form a dynamically varied whole. This works to a wonderful effect on the album opener “Be Hard on Yourself” with its nagging chorus hook and the closer “Care” with its soaring guitar figure being one of Rothery’s finest. “Reprogram the Gene” and “Sierra Leone” feel less focused with the latter’s repeated chants feeling more forced. The emotional heart of the album is seen in the relatively short “Murder Machines” with its sad irony etching the tragedy of the recent pandemic. There is an evocative use of a vocal choir on both “The Crow and the Nightingale” and “Care” giving these songs additional harmonic layers and freshness. Playing to their strengths Marillion continue to produce quality music that is often achingly beautiful


TRACK SCORES:
1. Be Hard on Yourself (i. The Tear in the Big Picture ii. Lust for Luxury iii. You Can Learn) (9:27) ****
2. Reprogram the Gene (i. Invincible ii. Trouble-Free Life iii. A Cure for Us?) (7:00) ***
3. Only a Kiss (0:39) ***
4. Murder Machines (4:20) ****
5. The Crow and the Nightingale (6:35) ****
6. Sierra Leone (i. Chance in a Million ii. The White Sand iii. The Diamond iv. The Blue Warm Air v. More Than a Treasure) (10:51) ***
7. Care (i. Maintenance Drugs ii. An Hour Before It’s Dark iii. Every Call iv. Angels on Earth) (15:18) *****

All Songs: Music by Marillion; Lyrics by Steve Hogarth.


THE MUSIC PRESS:
Classic Rock (Dave Everley): “An Hour Before It’s Dark is more than just one of the finest albums of Marillion’s career, it stands as a beacon of hope as we slowly begin to emerge from the bleakest of times.” (****½)
Sputnik Music (Brendan Schroer): “An Hour Before It’s Dark currently stands as the best post-2000s Marillion album, and it’ll be one hell of a difficult record for them to top.” (****½)
The Arts Desk (Graham Fuller): “This album’s six main songs (another is merely a fragment) are not exactly tuneless, but the melodies are buried so deep in Marillion’s intricate clamour they’re all but indiscernible.” (***)

Music Review – TEARS FOR FEARS: THE TIPPING POINT (2022)

TEARS FOR FEARS
THE TIPPING POINT (CD, Concord Records, 25 February 2022, 42:25) – score 69%
Musicians: Roland Orzabal – Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards; Curt Smith – Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Keyboards; with Doug Petty – accordion, Hammond organ (1); piano (6), string arrangement (7); Carina Round – background vocals (1, 3, 5, 6); Aaron Sterling – drums (1, 4, 6); Jamie Wollam – drums (1); Max von Ameln – guitar (5); Jason Joseph – vocal arrangement, choir (6); Charles Jones – choir (6); Jessi Collins – choir (6); Lauren Evans – choir (6); Sacha Skarbek – piano (7).
Producer: Tears for Fears with Sacha Skarbeck; Additional Production: Florian Reutter, Charlton Pettus; Assistant Engineer: Max Von Amelin; Mastered by Ted Jensen, Justin Shturtz (11); Recorded 2013-2021.
Tears for Fears return with their first studio album since 2004’s wonderful Everybody Loves a Happy Ending. Where their previous album established a distinctly Beatle-esque identity, here the band can be seen looking back at various stages of their own career. “No Small Thing” kicks off the album in a low-key fashion with its winning acoustic guitar-led refrain, before building in size – it is a strong statement and would have perhaps made a more effective close to the album. It is followed by the exuberant pop of “The Tipping Point”. “Rivers of Mercy” recalls elements of “Woman in Chains” from Seeds of Love, whilst “Master Plan” would have been quite at home on Happy Ending. Elsewhere there is a retro electronic approach to “My Demons” and “Break the Man” and the wistful “Stay” makes for a sedate closer (the track is a remix of the version that appeared on their Greatest Hits package Rule the World.  The political and personal themes explored on the album, which was recorded during a period of personal turmoil for Orzabal following the death of his wife, give the album a lyrical focus. The result is a polished album that was well-received by music critics, but one that does not quite hit the peaks of their best work.


TRACK SCORES:
1. No Small Thing (Orzabal/Smith) (4:42) ****
2. The Tipping Point (Orzabal/Pettus) (4:13) ****
3. Long, Long, Long Time (Smith/Orzabal/Pettus) (4:31) ***
4. Break the Man (Smith/Pettus) (3:55) ***
5. My Demons (Orzabal/Skarbek/Reutter) (3:08) ***
6. Rivers of Mercy (Orzabal/Pettus/Petty) (6:08) ****
7. Please Be Happy (Orzabal/Skarbek) (3:05) ***
8. Master Plan (Orzabal) (4:37) ****
9. End of Night (Orzabal) (3:23) ***
10. Stay (Smith/Pettus) (4:36) ***
Bonus Tracks:
11. Secret Location (Smith/Skarbek/Orzabal/Lee) (4:04) *** (UK deluxe Edition)
12. Let It All Evolve (Smith/Orzabal/Pettus) (4:26) *** (Japanese deluxe and US Target edition bonus track)
13. Shame (Cry Heaven) (Smith/Skarbek/Pettus/Reutter/Orzabal) (5:31) *** (Japanese deluxe and US Target edition bonus track)


THE MUSIC PRESS:
Record Collector (Charles Waring): “It’s an album blazing with a refulgent light that illuminates the darkness. Ultimately, it’s a cathartic celebration of life co-created by someone who’s survived a traumatic experience. More importantly, it shows how heartbreak, suffering and tragedy can be refashioned into transcendent art.” (*****)
Classic Rock Magazine: “The Tipping Point album is tip-top art-pop.” (****½)
All Music Guide (Thom Jurek): “This set is a classic-sounding Tears for Fears record, one that makes the listener take emotional, spiritual, and mental inventory of their inner world even as the one outside roils with trouble, violence, and madness. Welcome back gents, we’ve missed you.” (****)
Mojo: “The more chances Tears For Fears take, the more they thrive, and they take chances here: seems like a new album was a good idea after all.” (****)
Uncut: “Fans of Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal will find more than enough reminders of their glory days.” (****)
American Songwriter (Hal Horowitz): “While there are few moments that challenge the band’s finest work, let alone justify the extended wait for new music, The Tipping Point reaffirms TFF’s collaborative talents. They remain idiosyncratic and distinctive in a pop music landscape now enhanced by having this veteran duo back in action again.” (***½)

Genesis’ Wind & Wuthering after 45 years

Genesis - Wind and Wuthering Lyrics and Tracklist | GeniusToday marks the 45th anniversary of the release of WIND & WUTHERING, the second album Genesis recorded as a four-piece after the departure of Peter Gabriel. It would be the band’s last studio album with guitarist Steve Hackett – Genesis paring down to the trio of Tony Banks (Keyboards), Phil Collins (vocals, drums) and Mike Rutherford (guitar, bass) from 1978’s…AND THEN THERE WERE THREE…
The album opens with Banks’ shimmering chords for the dynamic ‘Eleventh Earl of Mar’, which switches through various moods and tempos. Banks’ opus ‘One for the Vine’ follows, further developing the piano-based multi-part approach he adopted for ‘Mad Man Moon’ on the previous album, A TRICK OF THE TAIL. Rutherford’s ballad ‘Your Own Special Way’ is the weakest song on the album with ill-matched verse and chorus and a rambling mid-section. ‘Wot Gorilla?’ is a jazzy fast-paced Collins and Banks led instrumental that makes for a pleasant interlude. Side two opens with ‘All in a Mouse’s Night’ – a twee Tom & Jerry tale that has a strong Hackett solo on the coda. ‘Blood on the Rooftops’ is a gorgeous song exploring the generation gap through images from TV. We then move into the inter-linked closing section of the album with the simmering instrumental ‘Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers’ giving way to the powerful and rhythmic ‘…In That Quiet Earth’ and then the epic anthemic album closer ‘Afterglow’, which has been a live show classic ever since. The album’s romantic, classically tinged arrangements showed the increasing influence of Banks as a writer, but also demonstrated Hackett’s importance to the band in adding guitar sound and textures. Collins and Rutherford were already a formidable rhythm section and ensured the songs flowed. Whilst it may lack the heavier numbers evident on THE LAMB LIED DOWN ON BROADWAY and parts of A TRICK OF THE TAIL, the album is highly rewarding for those willing to invest in the depths of structure and arrangement the band offer here. Of the non-album tracks, which formed the EP SPOT THE PIGEON (1977), ‘Inside and Out’ is a classic Genesis two-part acoustic song/electric instrumental that should have made the album at the expense of ‘Your Own Special Way’. The album cover, painted by Colin Elgie, is one of the band’s best and its grey autumnal feel perfectly captures the mood of the music.

GENESIS
WIND & WUTHERING (Charisma, 17 December 1976) – Album Score – 76%
Tony Banks – Steinway grand piano, ARP 2600 synthesizer, ARP Pro Soloist synthesizer, Hammond organ, Mellotron, Roland RS-202 string synthesizer, Fender Rhodes electric piano, 12 string guitar, backing vocals
Phil Collins – vocals, drums, cymbals, percussion
Steve Hackett – electric guitars, nylon classical guitar, 12 string guitar, kalimba, autoharp
Mike Rutherford – 4, 6, and 8 string bass guitars, electric and 12 string acoustic guitars, bass pedals
Produced and engineered by David Hentschel
Assistant Engineered by Pierre Geoffroy Chateau and Nick “Cod” Bradford
Recorded at Relight Studios, Hilvarenbeek, Netherlands, September-October 1976
Mixed at Trident Studios, October 1976
2007 remix by Nick Davis assisted by Tom Mitchell and Geoff Callingham
Sleeve design by Hipgnosis and Colin Elgie

TRACK SCORES
Eleventh Earl of Mar (Banks, Hackett, Rutherford) (7:45) ****
One for the Vine (Banks) (10:00) ****
Your Own Special Way (Rutherford) (6:19) ** (A-side single, 18 February 1977)
Wot Gorilla? (Collins, Banks) (3:21) ***
All in a Mouse’s Night (Banks) (6:39) ***
Blood on the Rooftops (Hackett, Collins) (5:28) *****
Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers… (Hackett, Rutherford) (2:20) ***
…In That Quiet Earth (Hackett, Rutherford, Banks, Collins) (4:54) *****
Afterglow (Banks) (4:11) *****

Non-album tracks (SPOT THE PIGEON EP – 1977)
Match of the Day (Banks, Collins, Rutherford) (3:24) **
Pigeons (Banks, Collins, Rutherford) (3:12) ***
Inside and Out (Banks, Collins, Hackett, Rutherford) (6:45) *****

Nursery Cryme at 50

12 November 2021 is the 50th anniversary of the release of Genesis’ third album NURSERY CRYME, their first with new members Phil Collins (drums, vocals) and Steve Hackett (guitar). The album would be the first of four studio recordings between 1971 and 1974 from the five-man line-up including founder members Tony Banks (keyboards), Peter Gabriel (vocals, flute) and Mike Rutherford (bass, guitar). The loss of guitarist Anthony Phillips, a major writing contributor, had been a big blow to the band. Hackett however brought more experimental sounds and greater playing fluidity, if initially less of a contribution to composition. Meanwhile, Collins brought rhythmic dynamism, additional vocal capabilities, and a strong sense of musical arrangement – all things John Mayhew, his predecessor on the previous years’ TRESPASS, lacked.

The album opener ‘The Musical Box’ builds on the song journey approach explored on TRESPASS’s ‘Stagnation’ and adds a stronger structure, truly macabre lyrics by Gabriel, driving guitar riffs and moments of high musical drama. It is the band’s first true masterpiece. ‘For Absent Friends’ is an acoustic dalliance mainly included to appease new members Hackett and Collins, who co-wrote the whimsical song. ‘The Return of the Giant Hogweed’ is an abrasive rocker along the lines of ‘The Knife’, which closed out TRESPASS so superbly. Here Hackett uses his pioneering tapping technique to add pace and attack. Gabriel’s lyrical story is reminiscent of John Wyndham’s ‘Day of the Triffids’. ‘Seven Stones’ is a pleasant piano-led Banks piece, a mood he would explore more successfully and memorably on later albums. ‘Harold the Barrel’ has a music-hall whimsy that gets the best out of Gabriel and Collins in terms of vocal characterisation. ‘Harlequin’ is a forgettable folk ballad that would have been more at home on TRESPASS. The album closer, ‘The Fountain of Salmacis,’ comes close to matching ‘The Musical Box’ and points the way forward for the band with its sweeping mellotron chords and dramatic passages. The album demonstrated Genesis’ growing strength in building structurally complex and dramatic songs, whilst mixing them with lighter shorter material. Each song has a unique approach and Genesis would move from strength to strength from here on in.

GENESIS
NURSERY CRYME (Charisma, 12 November 1971) – Album Score – 76%
Tony Banks – Hammond Organ, Mellotron, Piano, Electric Piano, 12-String Guitar, Backing Vocals
Mike Rutherford – Bass, Bass Pedals, 12-String Guitar, Backing Vocals
Peter Gabriel – Lead Voice, Flute, Oboe, Bass Drum, Tambourine
Steve Hackett – Electric Guitar, 12-String Guitar
Phil Collins – Drums, Voices, Percussion, Lead Vocals on “For Absent Friends”, Co-Lead Vocals on “Harold The Barrel” and “Harlequin”

Produced by John Anthony
Assistant Engineered by David Hentschel
Recorded at Trident Studios, London, August 1971
2008 remix by Nick Davis assisted by Tom Mitchell and Geoff Callingham
Sleeve design by Paul Whitehead

TRACK SCORES

  1. The Musical Box (10:30) *****
  2. For Absent Friends (1:48) **
  3. The Return of the Giant Hogweed (8:09) ****
  4. Seven Stones (5:08) *** (B-side to ‘Happy the Man’ 10 May 1972)
  5. Harold the Barrel (3:01) ***
  6. Harlequin (2:56) **
  7. The Fountain of Salmacis (8:02) ****

All songs credited to Genesis

Genesis’ Abacab at 40

18 September 2021 is the 40th anniversary of the release of Genesis’ watershed album Abacab. It was the band’s eleventh studio album and their third as a trio The album saw Genesis deliberately steer themselves into a post-new wave direction by rejecting any material they wrote which they felt was treading old ground or adopting what they considered to be group clichés. Gone were the extended solos, long journey songs and elaborate harmonies and arrangements to be replaced by a stark sonic landscape, shorter and more concise songs and a heightened emphasis on Phil Collins’ drums, building on the sound he created with engineer Hugh Padgham on Peter Gabriel’s third album the year before. Padgham was asked to work on Abacab as engineer to help the band establish a new sound. The album was therefore the band’s most stylistically experimental and challenging since 1974’s The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. I remember buying this album on release and being disappointed after the monumental Duke. Now, I can look back on the album and enjoy for its very willingness to surprise and the band’s determination to progress and adapt their approach to songwriting.
The album opener ‘Abacab’ signals the new direction with its raw energy and Collins’ abrasive vocal. The closing jam was indeed an unedited session that relies on spontaneity and eschews composition. ‘No Reply at All’ is a funky song supported by the Earth, Wind and Fire horn section who had worked on Collins’ solo album Face Value, released as the band were writing Abacab. ‘Me and Sarah Jane’ has a more traditional Genesis feel in its two-part structure, but delves into new influences of reggae. ‘Keep it Dark’ motors along on a repeated guitar riff with Banks holding back on synth harmonies until the chorus. ‘Dodo/Lurker’ is the standout track on the album and blends old and new Genesis perfectly with dramatic sweeps and quirky synth lines. ‘Who Dunnit?’ stirred strong emotions amongst old-school fans for its punkish and tuneless approach and can wear a bit thin after repeated listens. ‘Man on the Corner’ was a wistful Collins written song that relied on its sparse arrangement and drum machine pattern for its atmosphere and maybe a little too close to his ‘In the Air Tonight’ in execution. ‘Like it or Not’ is a plodding Rutherford ballad and ‘Another Record’ tails away after a splendidly atmospheric opening. The songs then were a mixed bag, which could perhaps be expected with the band members eager to experiment. The band indeed had sufficient material for a double album and I think that would have been a way to go to fully appreciate the breadth of material Genesis explored in the sessions. Of the tracks excluded from the album the poppy ‘Paperlate’ and romantic ‘You Might Recall’ were unlucky not to make the cut. ‘Naminanu’ and ‘Submarine’ are interesting instrumentals that were initially considered for a longer suite to be based around ‘Dodo/Lurker’. ‘Me and Virgil’ is the weakest song from the sessions – an unsuccessful attempt to emulate The Band’s western rock formula and containing one of Collins’ weakest lyrical contributions. Abacab is not the band’s best album, but it is perhaps their bravest and forty years on it stands up as a key moment in Genesis history.


GENESIS
ABACAB (Charisma, 18 September 1981) – Album Score – 72%
Tony Banks – keyboards
Phil Collins – drums, vocals
Mike Rutherford – guitars, basses
Additional musicians:
EWF Horns – horns on ‘No Reply at All’ (and ‘Paperlate’)
Thomas “Tom Tom 84” Washington – horn arrangement on ‘No Reply at All’ (and ‘Paperlate’)
Produced by Genesis
Engineered by Hugh Padgham
Recorded at The Farm, Surrey, March–June 1981
2006 remix by Nick Davis assisted by Tom Mitchell and Geoff Callingham
Album Cover by Bill Smith
Sleeve adaptation by Chris Payton for The Redroom

TRACK SCORES
1. Abacab (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (6:57) **** (A-side single 17/8/81)
2. No Reply at All (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (4:33) ***
3. Me and Sarah Jane (Banks) (6:02) ****
4. Keep it Dark (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (4:32) **** (A-side single 26/10/81)
5. Dodo/Lurker (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (7:31) *****
6. Who Dunnit? (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (3:24) **
7. Man on the Corner (Collins) (4:27) *** (A-side single 8/3/82)
8. Like it or Not (Rutherford) (4:58) ***
9. Another Record (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (4:38) *** (B-side to ‘Abacab’)

Non-album tracks:
1. Naminanu (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (3:54) *** (B-side to ‘Keep it Dark’)
2. Submarine (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (4:37) *** (B-side to ‘Man on the Corner’)
3. Paperlate (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (3:25) **** (‘3×3’ EP 17/5/82)
4. You Might Recall (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (5:35) **** (‘3×3’ EP)
5. Me and Virgil (Banks/Collins/Rutherford) (6:19) ** (‘3×3’ EP)

 

Music Review – ELECTRONIC: ELECTRONIC (1991)

Electronic | Music fanart | fanart.tvELECTRONIC
ELECTRONIC (LP, Factory Records, 27 May 1991, 52:29) – score 73%

Musicians: Bernard Sumner – vocals, keyboards and programming; Johnny Marr – guitars, keyboards and programming; Neil Tennant – vocals on “The Patience of a Saint” and backing vocals on “Getting Away with It”; Chris Lowe – keyboards on “The Patience of a Saint”; Donald Johnson – drums and percussion on “Tighten Up” and “Feel Every Beat”; David Palmer – drums on “Feel Every Beat” and “Getting Away with It”; Denise Johnson – vocals on “Get the Message”; Helen Powell – oboe on “Some Distant Memory”; Andrew Robinson – additional programming.
Producer: Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr; Engineer: Owen Morris; Mastered by Tim Young; Recorded at Clear Studios, Manchester, December 1989–early 1991.

Electronic was one of the most unusual partnerships of the 90s with New Order’s Bernard Sumner teaming with Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr to produce this hybrid of electronic synth and guitar based pop. The result was for the most part a success. Marr’s infectious “Shaft”-like wah-wah guitar riff coupled with Sumner’s melodic keyboard phrases on the opening “Idiot Country” demonstrate this is a marriage that can work. “Reality” is closer to Sumner’s trademark sound with its extensive programming, whilst the ebullient “Tighten Up” has more of a band feel. The Pet Shop Boys assist with “Patience of a Saint” and “Getting Away with It”, the former featuring Tennant’s lead vocals and Lowe’s lush keyboard textures and the latter (not on the original UK vinyl release) containing a longing chorus and an orchestral approach. “Gangster’s” stuttering programmed rhythms are complemented by Marr’s funky guitar, whilst “Soviet” is a lush and sombre instrumental with Oriental hints and provides a nice interlude before the album’s true classic. “Get the Message” is where the elements of Sumner and Marr’s talents merge to form a wonderful blend of acoustic guitar, insistent bass, subtle synthesizers and sublime melodies, aided by Denise Johnson’s soulful backing vocals. “Try All You Want” is perhaps the least distinguished song on the album feeling a little bit by-the-numbers and “Some Distant Memory” follows suit but is helped by the warming synth motifs in its closing moments. The album finishes strongly, however, with the experimental “Feel Every Beat”, which is perhaps the most exciting track musically with its shuffling bass and piano rhythm, funky guitar and singalong chorus. The production is expansive and full of 80s echo with a pleasing dynamic range. Sumner and Marr would record two more albums as Electronic but their debut retains its distinct charm despite its sound being frozen in time.

TRACK SCORES:
1. Idiot Country (Sumner/Marr) (5:02) ****
2. Reality (Sumner/Marr) (5:39) ***
3. Tighten Up (Sumner/Marr) (4:38) ****
4. Patience of a Saint (Sumner/Marr/Tennant/Lowe) (4:11) ****
5. Getting Away with It (Sumner/Marr/Tennant) (5:14) ****
6. Gangster (Sumner/Marr) (5:24) ***
7. Soviet (Sumner/Marr) (2:00) ***
8. Get the Message (Sumner/Marr) (5:20) *****
9. Try All You Want (Sumner/Marr) (5:37) **
10. Some Distant Memory (Sumner/Marr) (4:09) ***
11. Feel Every Beat (Sumner/Marr) (5:08) *****

THE MUSIC PRESS:
NME (David Quantic): “This is a pretty 1990s sort of a record, fresh as a daisy and wearing huge new oxblood Doc Martens” (****)
Q (Phil Sutcliffe): “Its strength is in conflict … The inexorable pounding of the beatbox versus the fragile sadness of Sumner’s voice and the he’s/she’s leaving stories; the symmetry of the synthesized or sampled sounds versus the sheer blood and bone physicality of Marr’s guitar”. (*****)
Vox (Keith Cameron): “Electronic is simply a 100 per cent pure distillation of Marr and Sumner’s respective talents. The hit single ‘Get the Message’ has it in a nutshell: it breaks no new ground; it simply achieves perfection.” (*****)
All Music Guide (Ned Raggett): “Both more and less than what a partnership of Sumner and Marr would promise, Electronic’s debut has weathered time much better than might have been thought upon its release, but ultimately only half works.” (****)

Music Review – DEL AMITRI: FATAL MISTAKES (2021)

Review: Del Amitri Avoided Making 'Fatal Mistakes' On New Album - American SongwriterDEL AMITRI
FATAL MISTAKES (CD, Cooking Vinyl, 28 May 2021, 45:52) – score 76%

Musicians: Andy Alston – keyboards; Justin Currie – vocals, bass; Kris Dollimore – guitar; Iain Harvie – guitar, backing vocals; Ash Soan – drums.
Producer: Dan Austin; Mixed by Dan Austin; Mastered by Paul McGeehan; Recorded at Vada studio, March 2020.

Fatal Mistakes is the Scottish band’s seventh studio album and their first since 2002’s experimental Can You Do Me Good? It is a distinct return to the band’s roots and all the better for it. Currie’s gift for marrying wistful melodies with his characteristically cynical lyrics is in evidence right from the chirpy album opener “You Can’t Go Back” and most evident on the infectiously catchy “It’s Feelings”. Elsewhere, “Musicians and Beer” weaves around its tribal rhythm and crashing electric guitar chords; “Close Your Eyes and Think of England” lyrically deals with Brexit; “Losing the Will to Die” and “I’m So Scared of Dying” demonstrate Currie’s dark humour as he comes to terms with his own mortality; “Otherwise” is a moody and reflective ballad with warm instrumentation; and “Nation of Caners”, by far the longest song, closes the album with its insistent bouncing rhythm building in intensity along with Currie’s angry lyrics. Instrumentally the songs are largely based around Harvie and Dollimore’s neat and unobtrusive guitar work and could have fitted on any of the band’s heyday albums. The collection is remarkably concise, with all but two songs clocking in under four minutes. This does, however, give the feeling on some songs that they have ended abruptly. The production has a low-fi quality that gives the songs an organic and intimate feel. On the whole a welcome return from a band playing to its strengths.

TRACK SCORES:
1. You Can’t Go Back (Currie) (2:53) ****
2. All Hail Blind Love (Currie/Harvey) (4:04) ***
3. Musicians and Beer (Currie) (2:46) ****
4. Close Your Eyes and Think of England (Currie) (3:30) ****
5. Losing the Will to Die (Currie) (2:34) ***
6. Otherwise (Currie) (3:01) ****
7. It’s Feelings (Currie/Harvey) (2:42) *****
8. I’m so Scared of Dying (Currie) (4:27) ****
9. Mockingbird, Copy Me Now (Currie/Dollimore) (2:23) ****
10. Missing Person (Currie) (3:19) ***
11. Second Staircase (Currie) (3:00) ***
12. Lonely (Currie/Harvey) (3:28) ****
13. Nation of Caners (Currie) (7:39) ****

THE MUSIC PRESS:
Mojo (Jim Farber): “The music swings again, even if Currie’s damning viewpoint hasn’t lightened.” (****)
Classic Rock Magazine: “While long-term fans might initially be disappointed by the marked absence of the bar-room swagger of yore, repeated listens bear fruit.” (****)
Telegraph (Neil McCormick): “Del Amitri’s bracing feel-bad pop-rock won’t be for everyone, but for those of us who appreciate sweet melodies set off with sour sentiments, it is perversely good to have the old curmudgeons back.” (****)
American Songwriter (Lee Zimmerman): “Fatal Mistakes reflects a duelling perspective, one that recognizes the difficulty of maintaining a certain standard but that is determined to reach new goals. The fact that Del Amitri succeed as well as they do is a testament to both their confidence and their talent.” (***½)

Music Review – MARILLION: MISPLACED CHILDHOOD (1985)

Misplaced Childhood (2017 Remaster): Amazon.co.uk: MusicMISPLACED CHILDHOOD (LP, EMI, 17 June 1985, 41:17) – score 82%
 
Musicians: Fish – vocals; Steve Rothery – guitars, additional bass; Pete Trewavas – bass; Mark Kelly – keyboards; Ian Mosley – drums, percussion
Producer: Chris Kimsey; Engineer: Thomas Stiehler; Mixing Engineer: Mark Freegard; Recorded at Hansa Tonstudio, Berlin, Germany, March – May 1985; UK Album Chart: 1; BPI Cert: Platinum (300,000+).

Marillion found their musical voice with their third studio album. It effectively splits the music into two inter-linked side-long (old LP terms) suites. Here the band have dispensed with trying to re-create the sounds of their heroes and have unearthed a musical palette that has a fresh sound and is creatively progressive. Fish’s lyrics recall the growing pains of youth, both figuratively and emotionally. His vocal delivery is less abrasive and more in tune with the music here and the marriage is a vast improvement on the first two albums. Rothery’s guitar has the sublime grace of Dave Gilmore along with the creative colouring of Steve Hackett; Mosley and Trewavas have merged into a propulsive rhythm section and Kelly’s keyboard textures are less showy and serve the songs admirably. MISPLACED CHILDHOOD would catapult the band from a cult following to a mainstream one, albeit for what would prove to be one more album before change was forced upon them.

Side 1:
1. Pseudo Silk Kimono (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (2:15) ***
A sinister keyboard refrain from Kelly opens the album. The piece acts as an atmospheric entrée to the album.
2. Kayleigh (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (4:04) ****
A song of regret surrounding a broken relationship, which became the band’s biggest hit single. It is a slick song with a strong melody that maybe suffered from overplay on the radio and is the track every non-Marillion fan associates with the band. Rothery’s mid-song solo is graceful and fluid. Released as a single on 7 May 1985 peaking at #2 in the UK singles chart.
3. Lavender (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (2:28) ****
A boy dreams of walking in the park and meeting a girl and falling instantly in love. The song riffs on the nursery rhyme “Lavender’s Blue” with a delightful singalong melody and soaring Rothery solo. Again, it shows the band could write with restraint. Released as a single on 27 August 1985 peaking at #5 in the UK singles chart.
4. Bitter Suite (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (7:53) ****
A series of short song vignettes opens with moody atmospherics as Rothery’s guitar weeps over a droning synth. The piece also highlights Fish’s penchant for spoken lyrics. The vignettes skilfully link short musical themes with a reprise of Rothery’s guitar refrain from “Lavender”.  The suite’s subtitles: i) “Brief Encounter”; ii) “Lost Weekend”; iii) “Blue Angel”; iv) “Misplaced Rendezvous”; and v) “Windswept Thumb” are all titles of old films.
5. Heart of Lothian (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (4:08) ****
A song of connection with your roots. It has a triumphant, celebratory and uplifting guitar figure and is delivered by Fish with vocal panache. Subtitles: i) “Wide Boy; ii) “Curtain Call”. Released as a single on 18 November 1985 peaking at #2 in the UK singles chart.
Side 2:
6. Waterhole (Expresso Bongo) (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (2:13) ***
A fast syncopated drum pattern from Mosley drives the opener to the second side with Kelly’s urgent repeated keyboard riff. Rothery’s guitar colours in the background.
7. Lords of the Backstage (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (1:53) ****
The rhythm changes to 7/8 and the band is perfectly in tune as the urgency is heightened in this short connecting section of music that leads seamlessly into the side’s centre-piece.
8. Blind Curve (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (9:30) *****
The pace slows to mid-tempo and the band get to demonstrate their instrumental prowess through some gorgeous, lilting melodies. Fish’s vocal delivery is nicely restrained and allows the music to breathe. This is the band’s strongest work top date and shows how they could piece different musical sections and tempos together to make for a dynamic whole. The theme of disillusionment is perfectly captured in the final section of the song before the mood changes as we merge into the following track. Subtitles: i) “Vocal Under a Bloodlight”; ii) “Passing Strangers”; iii) “Mylo”; iv) “Perimeter Walk”; v) “Threshold”.
9. Childhood’s End (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (4:33) ****
Rothery’s plucked guitar figure softens the mood before it abruptly picks up again as we switch from a reflection to revelation. The song’s title is a reference to the Arthur C. Clarke novel, which itself was a source of inspiration for Genesis’ “Watcher of the Skies”.
10. White Feather (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (2:24) ****
The album closer puffs out its chest with pride with its exultant cries of defiance. A wonderful close to a remarkably consistent album. The title reference is grounded in superstition relating to a plucked white game cock feather, which if placed in the clothing of a person marks them as a coward.

Single B-sides
1. Lady Nina (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (5:50) **
Inspired by German brother houses. This is the only song in which a drum machine was used for the final recording (the song loosens up when Mosley’s real drums enter). The song harks back to FUGAZI in its awkward marriage of rhythm and melody and Kelly’s showy approach to keyboards. B-side to “Kayleigh” released as a single on 7 May 1985.
2. Freaks (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (4:08) ***
Kelly’s repeated riff gives the song its foundation, whilst Rothery offers crashing guitar chords in this rocking song that fails to build on its promising opening but does increase in intensity in its closing moments.  B-side to “Lavender” released as a single on 27 August 1985.
3. Lavender Blue (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (4:23) ***
A different mix and longer version of “Lavender” which effectively brings different instrumentation to the fore through exclusion and emphasis. As such it draws attention to the instrumental changes rather than the winning melody. Included on the 12-inch single release of “Lavender” on 27 August 1985.

Music Review – MARILLION: FUGAZI (1984)

Fugazi [VINYL]: Amazon.co.uk: MusicFUGAZI (LP, EMI, 12 March 1984, 45:56) – score 61%

Musicians: Fish – vocals; Steve Rothery – guitars; Pete Trewavas – bass; Mark Kelly – keyboards; Ian Mosley – drums, percussion
Additional musicians: Linda Pyke – backing vocal (on “Incubus”); Chris Karen – additional percussion
Producer: Nick TauberEngineer/Mixing Engineer: Simon Hanhart; Recorded at various studios, November 1983 – February 1984; UK Album Chart: 5; BPI Cert: Gold (100,000+).

The inconsistent nature of Marillion’s second album was perhaps inevitable given the chaotic scheduling of the recordings and the revolving drum stool during the album’s conception. The band pushed for a more personal and distinctive sound without fully achieving their goal – mixing hard rock with progressive and pop overtones in a seeming effort to please all. Drummer, Ian Mosley proves to be a great addition to the band and over the years would form an excellent partnership with bassist Trewavas that makes some of their efforts here feel a little stiff rhythmically – likely due to both playing it a little safe. Fish’s lyrics tend toward the wordy and metaphorical showing a frustrated novelist. Rothery shows glimpses of the wonderful guitarist he was to become.

Side 1:
1. Assassing (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas) (7:03) ****
Indian and African influences in the opening give way to more traditional driving rock tropes with jazz tinges, muscular bass and big musical statements, notably from Kelly’s keyboards and Rothery’s guitar synth. Inspired by their pagan surrounds in Wales during the writing. Released as a single on 30 April 1984 peaking at #22 in the UK singles chart.
2. Punch & Judy (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mover) (3:22) ***
A pacey keyboard riff and stuttering rhythm underline the lyrical use of the children’s violent puppetry as an allegory for the breakup of a marriage. Lacks substance but doesn’t outstay its welcome. Released as a single on 30 April 1984 peaking at #29 in the UK singles chart.
3. Jigsaw (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas) (6:51) ***
The opening musical box sound introduces the band’s first power ballad with a big chorus. It is another lyrical allegory from Fish in that relationships can be like jigsaw puzzles with missing pieces and frustration. The song contains an elegant, gliding Rothery guitar solo, but rhythmically is a little static.
4. Emerald Lies (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (5:12) **
A song about jealousy and infidelity that begins like a hard rocker, before moving into a more delicate acoustic section. The song then runs through various musical sections alternating the heavy and the quiet. Overall though the song lacks its own distinctive character.
Side 2:
5. She Chameleon (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas) (6:55) **
An atmospheric and hypnotic repeated organ phrase from Kelly runs intermittently through this tale of metaphoric chameleons. A mid-song keyboard solo serves little purpose as the song fails to gain momentum with its multi-sectioned approach, although once again Rothery shows how he was growing as a distinctive and sensitive guitarist with a short fluent solo.
6. Incubus (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas) (8:32) ***
Fish stays on the subject of doomed relationships as the band play a menacing and atmospheric backing. The song is given room to stretch and breathe and weaves its way through short musical sections behind Fish’s wordy lyrics. Another fluent Rothery solo is again the highlight, and it leads into the kind of dramatic end section that would become a band trademark.
7. Fugazi (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas) (8:03) ****
A cynical album closer based on the slang phrase used by US soldiers in Vietnam begins with a neat piano section from Kelly as Fish’s lyrical similes dig into our psyche. Echoes of Pink Floyd emerge as the song slowly builds momentum through its sonically creative mid-section, before playing out in anthemic style. The song showcased the band’s strengths and pointed the way forward.

Single B-sides
1. Cinderella Search (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (5:32) **
Another rhythmically stiff and undistinguished song, that tells of seeking out the opposite sex in nightclubs and bars. The music and lyrics fail to tie together and the song meanders through pieced together segments before gathering some momentum in its closing section. B-side to “Assassing” released as a single on 30 April 1984.

Notes:
– All individual tracks scored * to *****
– Album scored as a % based on individual track scores weighted by track length.

Music Review – MARILLION: SCRIPT FOR A JESTER’S TEAR (1983)

Script for a Jester's Tear (Deluxe Edition): Amazon.co.uk: MusicSCRIPT FOR A JESTER’S TEAR (LP, EMI, 13 March 1983, 46:45) – score: 64%

Musicians: Fish – vocals; Steve Rothery – guitars; Pete Trewavas – bass; Mark Kelly – keyboards; Mick Pointer – drums, percussion
Additional musicians: Marquee Club’s Parents Association Children’s Choir – choir (on “Forgotten Sons”); Peter Cockburn – newscaster’s voice (on “Forgotten Sons”)
Producer: Nick Tauber; Engineer/Mixing Engineer: Simon Hanhart; Recorded at The Marquee, London, December 1982 – February 1983; UK Album Chart: 7; BPI Cert: Platinum (300,000+).

Marillion deliver an assured debut LP with a growing confidence in their song-writing resulting in a reasonably consistent collection. The production is weak, however, lacking dynamic range and musically the rhythm section fails to jell successfully – with band founder member Mick Pointer’s drumming lacking personality and rhythmic drive (something that would be rectified for FUGAZI with Ian Mosley joining the band). Fish’s lyrics tend to be wordy and are often dense and overly-literate, but he does grapple with subjects of the modern-day grounding them with a post-punk conscience.

Side 1:
1. Script for a Jester’s Tear (Fish, Rothery, Trewavas, Pointer, Kelly) (8:40) ****  With lyrics grounded in a relationship break-up, the song weaves through various musical segments from the expansive to the quietly acoustic. More confident than the songs on their debut EP. Rothery and Kelly show their instrumental skills and ear for melody. It fades over its final lamenting appeal from Fish. Hampered only by Pointer’s robotic drumming.
2. He Knows You Know (Fish, Rothery, Trewavas, Kelly, Pointer, Minnitt, Jelliman) (5:23) ***  Hesitant, rhythmic song in which Fish sings of drug abuse over a wash of lush keyboards from Kelly who also provides a fluid mid-song solo. Tewavas’ stuttering bass lines give the song its underlying tension. Released as a single on 31 January 1983 peaking at #35 in the UK singles chart.
3. The Web (Fish, Trewavas, Kelly, Pointer, Rothery, Minnitt, Jelliman) (8:48) ***  Dense and highly literate psycho-analytical lyrics compete for attention with musical dynamics resulting in a promising, but ultimately not fully satisfying merger.
Side 2:
4. Garden Party (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Pointer, Jelliman, Minnitt) (7:16) ***  With its stuttering rhythm prompted by Trewavas’ excellent bass work and complemented by Fish’s witty lyrics, which take a stab at social snobbery, this was an unexpected chart success for the band. Whilst it was relatively punchy and concise there were still rhythmic complexities within and an excellent Kelly keyboard solo that made it stand out on the radio. Released as a single on 6 June 1983 peaking at #16 in the UK singles chart.
5. Chelsea Monday (Fish, Rothery, Trewavas, Kelly, Pointer, Minnitt) (8:17) ****  The song that points the way forward for the band’s sound. It would become the template for their future approach with its ambient dynamics, Rothery’s clean guitar lines and Kelly’s lush keyboard backdrop.
6. Forgotten Sons (Fish, Rothery, Trewavas, Kelly, Pointer, Jelliman, Minnitt) (8:21) **  Fish goes political with his comments on the Irish situation and the associated victims of the violence. He delivers an angry and abrasive vocal over a musical backdrop that does not successfully marry with the lyrics.

Single B-sides (not on album)
1. Charting the Single (Fish, Rothery, Trewavas, Kelly, Pointer) (4:51) ***  An apt title for this simply structured song, which attempts to capture a new wave feel with its pulsing bass and repetitive chorus hook. The lyrical subject is the promiscuous rock and roll lifestyle. B-side to “He Knows You Know” released as a single on 31 January 1983.
2. Margaret (Traditional) (12:17) **  Fun combination of two traditional Scottish folk songs – “Mairi’s Wedding” and “Loch Lomond”. The song opens with a ghostly Rothery guitar figure, which along with his mid-song solo, is the only thing of recommendation here. Recorded live at the Edinburgh Playhouse, 7 April 1983 and used as the B-side to “Garden Party” released as a single on 6 June 1983.