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Marillion (named after Tolkiens book 'The Silmarillion') formed in 1979 in Aylesbury, England. They have recorded 14 albums and are classed as having two different era's - the Fish years and those following his departure with vocalist Steve Hogarth. Their initial sound was very akin to that of Genesis i.e. progressive but later became more commercial whilst still retaining a lot of its roots.
'Script for a Jester's tear' is their first studio album and came out at the end of some very intensive gigging in 1983 and features Fish on vocals (real name: Derek Dick - you can see why he chose to go by Fish). The remastered edition features all six tracks from the original vinyl version and comes with a bonus CD featuring B-sides and unreleased demos.
CD1 - 'Script for a Jester's Tear' is the opening track and begins with just the sound of Fish singing before a merry-go-round(ish) keyboard joins in. I have to say that when a friend of mine leant me this album in '83 I turned it off at this point thinking they sounded like a joke and I wasn't going to give them the time of day. Just wait til I saw him at school! But, in the interest of honest judgement, I gave the LP one more chance - and by God I'm glad I did. The slow build-up leads into some of the best prog-rock I have ever heard alongside some really outstanding lyrics and sings of lost love.
'He Know, You Know' is a tragic tale of drugs and their abuse finally leading to death. - 'slash wrists, scarlet fever, crawl under your bathroom door. Pumping arteries ooze their problems through the gap that the razor tore.' Some of Fish's writing is unbelievably powerful.
'The Web' talks of the loneliness in a dank, depressing bedsit while 'Garden Party' (their highest charting single from the LP) talks of 'punting on the Cam' and 'social climbers polish[ing] ladders' all set against a happy, party-like beat.
'Chelsea Monday' is a slow, mournful tune detailing the death of an unemployed actress which was my least-liked track on the LP but even then it still creates a haunting picture of depression.
The best, though, is last (probably why I ignored the previous track as I was too busy skipping forward to reach this one!). 'Forgotten Sons' is a viscious attack on the futility of war (particularly the UK's involvement in Northern Ireland) and a governments ambivelance towards those who die for their cause. As Fish once declared at one of their gigs 'when the bomb went off in Hyde Park everybody remembered the name of the horse but no-one knew the name of the guardsman who fell with it.'
CD2 - 'Market Square Heroes (Battle Priest Version)' - this is the original single version and includes the word 'battle-priest' instead of 'anti-Christ' (peoples sensibilities were a lot more delicate back then) and has an entire verse missing due to time constraints.
'Three Boats Down from the Candy' is the B-side to the above 45 and
sings of the emptiness of a holiday romance - 'just flotsam in a silent void' as Fish says.
Next up is 'Grendel' a 19 minute epic, once more giving cause for their comparison to Genesis, which is different from the version which appeared on the 12" single of 'Market Square Heroes' and has an emptier sound which gives it a more haunting presence.
'Chelsea Monday' and 'He Knows You Know' follow and are both demos recorded in Manchester Square. The sound is not as polished as you would expect of a demo but both tracks have a rawness that the album version lost somewhat.
'Charting the Single' is next and probably the worst track on the CD. It was the B-side to 'He Knows' and contains some of the corniest puns ever put to music. Until finally ...
'Market Square Heroes (Alternative Version)' which is in actual fact the way the original should have sounded with its extra verse and 'anti-Christ' put into their rightful place.
The packaging is the normal plastic CD case which unfolds to show the bonus disc and the artwork on the front and back is the same as that of the original. However, the 28 page booklet contained within the case is fantastic. Lyrics to all the songs are printed within, even the bonus tracks, there are entries written by the band members about their thoughts and memories of recording the album (even a paragraph by Mark Wilkinson who provided the artwork talks of the contents in his drawing and its symbolic meaning) and the whole thing is littered with pictures of the band members and illustrations of their 45" single sleeves (also by Wilkinson). It is a pity today that, as music formats have shrunk, we have lost the large, often artistic, work of the album and single cover.
Marillion were a very clever band with a lyricist who put a lot of thought and attention to his words (I remember one day sitting with a dictionary and going through the album to decipher some of the more obscure words) and for me have suffered without him but this debut from them shows their real talent as musicians of deep, complex songs that were not afraid of breaking the four-minute barrier most bands feared to cross.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Script For A Jester's Tear
2 He Knows You Know
4 Garden Party
5 Chelsea Monday
6 Forgotten Sons
7 Market Square Heroes
8 Three Boats Down From The Candy Grendel
9 Chelsea Monday(2)
10 He Knows You Know(2)
11 Charting The Single
12 Market Square Heroes(2)