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
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

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.

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.” (***)


Misplaced Childhood (2017 Remaster): 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]: 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.

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


Script for a Jester's Tear (Deluxe Edition): 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.