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Happiness Is The Road - Marillion

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Genre: Rock / Artist: Marillion / Audio CD released 2009-02-02 at EMI

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      06.04.2013 00:50
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      Excellent double album from one of British rock's best kept secrets!

      Marillion are often referred to by those in the know as one of British rock's best kept secrets. Still, after all these years, best remembered for their 80's chart successes with Kayleigh and Lavender, and their Scots giant of a front-man Fish, the band have been releasing albums on a regular basis ever since, with 'new boy' Steve Hogarth providing lyrics and vocals since way back in 1989 after Fish left. Their sound has gone from emulating early Genesis back in the very early days, to a mature, reflective and occasionally loud progressive-tinged genre that they have made their own. This double album, their fifteenth, was released in 2009. I've been a fan on and off since somewhere back in the early 80s. I wrote this review a few months after I bought the album, and posted it elsewhere. I can't really add anything to it having owned it, and listened to it many more times, for four years!

      It's hard to write something about an album that is so much more 'feel' than touch - this thing has so much soul in disc 1 (Essence) that it's practically transcendent. This is easily the most spiritual collection of songs that they have come up with to date, and this even spills over into disc 2 (The Hard Shoulder). Essence is a journey of sorts, literally where This Train Is My Life is concerned, a song which any regular express train traveller can start to identify with as anonymous stations fly past, but here is something more as it speaks of the touring and fleeting glimpses of reality in the places travelled through. Life passes by too in Wrapped Up In Time, a song about lost loved ones whose echo remains but whose time is past. Liquidity is a rare instrumental outing which provides an atmospheric buffer between Wrapped Up and it's euphoric antidote Woke Up - an even rarer occurrence as it is an unashamedly happy and uplifting song, to be blasted out of the car at any given opportunity. The album's title track Happines Is The Road explains the loose concept of the disc, as H was prescribed the book 'The Power Of Now' by Eckhart Tolle to help him overcome a number of outstanding problems that were dragging him down. This whole album is an apparent testament to it's efficacy, and the track ends with the mantra of the title (to be sung at the top of lungs in concert halls across Europe during the promotional tour).

      The Hard Shoulder has been billed as 'more of a collection of songs than a concept' , and the collection is a strong one, from Thunder Fly with its nods to Cannibal Surf Babe, The Monkees and 3 Minute Boy, through the epic Man From Planet Marzipan and Asylum Satellite #1 - both of which look at the mess we're making of our world socially in a very original and creative way - to the unashamed pop of Half The World and beyond to the unashamed mourning for pop stars and their prostitution in Real Tears For Sale. Special mention must be made here for what is unquestionably to my mind one of THE most touching and beautiful songs ever written - Older Than Me, a brief meditation on a man who has met his soul partner in an older woman. Musically and lyrically exquisite.

      These are the high points for me, along with the beautiful cover artwork, and throughout the booklet, by Spanish artist Antonio Seijas. As a whole the double album is a huge return to form, and probably now in my top three favourite Marillion albums along with Brave and Afraid Of Sunlight - in many ways in fact it reminds me a lot of AOS, both musically and atmospherically. Speaking of musically - there are a lot of references to past melodies in here, not obvious recycling at all, more familiar echoes that knit this album together with its predecessors, but it also moves forward into new places, they seem unafraid to venture on into uncharted territory while also occasionally referring back to their prog roots. Maybe it is an album that is unashamedly unafraid of itself, the band saying 'stuff it' after the drubbing that previous album Somewhere Else received from a number of fans. This is a masterpiece of mind and soul music, but then that's what they're best at when it all comes together :)

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    • Product Details

      Disc #1 Tracklisting
      1 Dreamy Street
      2 This Train is my Life
      3 Essence
      4 Wrapped Up in Time
      5 Liquidity
      6 Nothing Fills the Hole
      7 Woke Up
      8 Trap the Spark
      9 A State of Mind
      10 Happiness is the Road
      11 (Blank)
      12 Half Full Jam (hidden track)

      Disc #2 Tracklisting
      1 Thunder Fly
      2 The Man from the Planet Marzipan
      3 Asylum Satellite #1
      4 Older than Me
      5 Throw Me Out
      6 Half the World
      7 Whatever is Wrong with You
      8 Especially True
      9 Real Tears for Sale