Marinating in the Roasted Marshmallow New Kingdom of the Mighty Marbled Cake Castle of Marillion

20 Oct

marillion_fear_promo0415Marillion is possibly my most favorite progressive band to emerge from the punk angst wreckage of the 1980’s.

And each time they release a new album, those who consider themselves part of the progressive rock community will consider it a major event.

A major event complete with expletives. For F.E.A.R. (F**k Everyone and Run), the eighteenth studio album is quite a major departure from its’ usually fan funded fare- and seeing how word of mouth is growing about the new album, that it’s now currently charting in the UK and most of Europe at number 4. Portions of the album were recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Bath, England.

No, none of the songs have nothing to do whatsoever with these guys from the Birdman & the Galaxy Trio cartoons. birdman_l08

No, INSTEAD it’s more like the long running UK (neo) progressive rock band formed in the late seventies/early eighties by poet/lyricist singer Fish (aka Derek W, Dick) and guitarist Steve Rothery, whose roster now includes bass player Pete Trewavas (who original singer Fish has claimed to me during backstage drunken meet and greets that he is supposed to be my long identical brother), long in the tooth drummer (ex-Focus & Steve Hackett) Ian Mosley, keyboard wizard Mark Kelly, joined by singer Steve Hogarth who prefers to be referred to as ‘H ‘ has proudly proclaimed this album to be their finest ‘protest’ album.

It’s an album balancing the long and short form of progressive and pop. Three multi-chapter epics mixed with three short and poignant beautiful numbers, the one particularly standing out is the brilliantly painting by number narrative titled “White Paper.” Opening major epic extravaganza “El Dorado” deals with the complexities of countries accepting refugees and the whole Brexit movement  while closing epic “The New Kings” tries to body sham evil corporate sharks who would be willing to sell and bankrupt nations all for the mighty euros. The band has lots to speak out about much in the similar vein of their previous album, “Sounds That Can’t Be Made” when that one opened with the seventeen minute rantfull doozy entitled “Gaza” offering their viewpoint on the horrible atrocities that occur within forever continuous Israel & Palestine conflict.

Not quite the cover of Rolling Stone, but I guess it will do.

Not quite the cover of Rolling Stone, but you can’t overlook a gift horse in the mouth..

As the same as I regard Yes as my diary into the world I grew up in and the shapes of events occurring around me, I regard Marillion as my guide to maturity. the third album with original singer Fish, “Misplaced Childhood’ is the soundtrack of my exodus to California and moving on from my failed attempt to make things right with Tamar, the love of my mid-eighties life who was the subject of my Yes’ 90125 blog entry. I’ve traveled great distances, and usually when I’m in an airplane or on a long car trip, there’s always a Marillion that needs popping in to help ease off some of the weary jaunts – BUT yet, I’m not one to go out and travel vast distance across continents to go to any of their gigs or their world renown “Marillion Weekends” that take place either in Europe or Canada.

Since Fish left the band to pursue a solo career after the equally successful fourth album, “Clutching at Straws“, Steve Hogarth formerly with How We Live & The Europeans came in to help redevelop the band’s sound and direction, giving the band some European pop influence from bands such as U2, the Cure, & Radiohead (they’ve covered “Fake Plastic Trees” on one of their live albums). This incarnation of the band has survived for the past twenty-seven years. I’m now going to go into a whole Wikipedia fueled jargon crème filled tangent about their history, but rather recounted the tours that I’ve been fortunate to have caught since the days I came back from sound engineering school in Chillicothe, Ohio when a couple of fellow Israeli student played a tape of them for me while smoking giant bowls of Turkish hash.

Once I got back to Parsippany, NJ, my former gal pal, Linda Freeman’s brother, Robert roused my jet lagged ass to Rockaway Mall to check out a very late showing of Monty Python’s Meaning of Life– and as we were buying tickets, I made a pit stop to a Harmony Hut record store and saw the debut album “Script for a Jester’s Tear” prominently displayed in the front window of the store, That debut album, along with a Tony Banks solo album entitled “The Fugitive” assured myself that I wasn’t get all that much sleep that night, because I got home from the movie, it was going to be a lingering date with my headphones.

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I’m proud to proclaim that I’ve seen nearly every American tour that they band has embarked upon with the SOLE exception of the “Misplaced Children” tour in 1986 that had me stranded in all places, Kansas City, which wasn’t on their tour itinerary. I missed out on the “Afraid of Sunlight” tour in 1995 because they only got to tour around the east coast. It’s only been a handful of tours considering since they broke ties with their main record company EMI, of which  were mainly crowd funded by the fans themselves. If you’re a contributor to helping with the expenses of recording  a new album or tour, your just reward is to be given an album credit, usually in a deluxe package edition.

I like to think, I’ve been lucky enough to have special west coast Marillion exclusives. In addition of attending every ex-lead singer Fish’s solo shows (which you technically need two days to recover from, because they are so fucking long with Fish giving a droning speech between each number), most notably a secret San Diego show for the 1992 Holidays in Eden tour, and perhaps one of the last times I stepped foot at the Sunset Blvd Tower Records location for a special acoustic version of Marillion songs performed by only three fifths of the group masquerading as the Los Marillos Trio. Portions of an interview I conducted with the band after the gig are reprinted here from my mothership blog http://www.purplepinupguru.blogspot.com

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So why all the admiration at this particular time? Well, let’s just say I’m simply getting myself psyched for their Los Angeles appearance this Saturday as part of the handful of USA dates this fall (other major cities include New York, Chicago (2 dates!!), San Francisco, Denver, & Boston.) in support of F.E.A.R.  Plus fall is a time when the major prog rock heavies love to tour. Established acts that I support are out in full force including Opeth, Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson (who sold out here in LA), Steven Wilson, and the old meets new again newly formed AWR (Anderson, Wakeman, & Rabin), of which the latter I will be trying to see in Las Vegas.

It’s a shame that Marillion isn’t on the tip of the tongue for most general music aficionados as the only song to receive radio air play was the single “Kayleigh” (along with subsequent song “Lavender” that was tagged on to the end. It seemed that it was a song split in half to make two singles out of it), as a lot of the stuff penned by Hogarth would make great soundtrack music in the end credits of some current cinema offering), that probably served as the launching pad for most fans. If you’re a songwriter living in Los Angeles, most likely you’re a fan since many audience members who attend their shows are mostly made up of Los Angeles finest studious musicians and fellow tunesmiths who look upon them as inspiration in honing their craft.

Is Game of Thrones writer/creator George R.R, Martin a big fan? There was a character named Marillion played by Scottish actor Emun Elliot in the first season, but beyond that there isn’t much media mention of the band anywhere. Of course, a fantasy novel franchise, most notably the classic J.R.R. Tolkien Lord of the Rings franchise was the one that christened the Marillion name from the posthumous 1982 book “The Silmarillion”.

But I suppose that’s ok for the band who revels themselves as unfashionable and trendy as fuck. They love the anonymity of hardly being recognized on a public street corner as they more prone to stalk and troll their fans on social media rather than the other way around. I have two members of Marillion on my list of facebook pals, Pete Trewavas and Steve Rothery. Mark Kelly used to be around, but I think he had set up a fan page instead.

 

AND NOW Representing two local Los Angles live concert blogging experiences from 2004 – 2005.

One of my personal favorite efforts by the band during the 'aughts'. Funny, it was the the first and last time I ordered from Racket Records. Received the deluxe edition in the mail, all beat up and spine torn, When I opened the package at my office in Warner Bros: a freaking moth flew out of the box. A freaking moth survived the trip from the all the way from the UK!!

Marbles” Released in 2004. One of my personal favorite efforts by the band during the ‘aughts’. Funny, it was the first and last time I ordered from Racket Records. Received the deluxe edition in the mail, all beat up and spine torn, When I opened the package at my office in Warner Bros: a freaking moth flew out of the box. A freaking moth survived the trip from the all the way from the UK!!

MARILLION

House of Blues, West Hollywood, Ca September 27, 2004
                                            An extremely biased review by Cary Coatney
Rather than sitting at home getting visually mauled by presidential debates between our future Commander- in- Chief John “Lurch”  Kerry and our resident chickenhawk in rehearsal with his pet ventriloquist – I decided to break away from Fantasyland and attend opening night of the long much heralded return of Marillion‘s first U.S. Tour in SEVEN years! ( and Mexico City doesn’t count!  Just my opinion on the tour dates listed on the back of my t-shirts ) and what a perfectly flawless evening  it was to be enjoyed by all;  except for a few caveats concerning the venue: Poor air circulation and bathroom valets who hustle you up for a dollar, otherwise you don’t get to wash and dry your hands properly after you’ve finished draining the dragon.
Okay enough exercising political rimshots and recycled first sentences (see my 2003 King Crimson @ the Wiltern review for details) and on with my unconditional dying love for anything Marillion.
I was hanging out with Under the Sun bass player Kurt Barabas throughout the show along with some of his friends who run the prog4you website just as John Weasley was finishing up hammering through an acoustic interpretation of Pink Floyd’s Run Like Hell. And that basically was my grand entrance, after a detour of unloading of heavy objects bulging from my grey 90 percent polyester and 10 percent spandex pants pocket due to a security patdown – Time was wasting and I immediately made a dash to the souvenir table in a panic that they would already be sold out of tour t-shirts. After all, it’s been seven years and my last ‘This Strange Engine’ tour t-shirt is a lot faded since. Anyway, Kurt told me that he is about half way through recording on the follow-up to their Magna Carta debut disc and is very optimistic that a much kinder and gentler label will be taking it off their hands soon. I was sorry to hear through his Prog4you friend that Starcastle bass player Gary Dale Strater had passed away. I haven’t been keeping up with the news of late- but my condolences go out to his family.
With that gaggle aside, I was pondering on some thoughts of the last time when I saw Marillion and if I had remembered correctly, the place was only half full from when they went into EMI-less oblivion and were forced to go it alone as agents of independent rock provocateurs in touring behind a fan based slush fund that enabled them to tour behind This Strange Engine. But now- look at this place! Where did all these people come from? Is the new album getting nationwide airplay on alternative stations? I mean, last time. Christine Holtz, who used to publish a prog rock newsletter called Music News Network managed to get me backstage for some hang out time- but there was no way I could smooth over those supersized combo meal security beef boys in yellow crew shirts, so I left a few copies of my newest comic book I printed with the girl behind the tour merchandise table that includes the Marbles advertisement on the back cover to give to the band after the show.  Still, I was in a constant flux of perplexity of how there came to be so many people at this gig who probably looks as if they never would in a million years pick up a Marillion disc. From what I was witnessing in my immediate environment, there were a handful of estrogenic seeking men paddling in a sea of too few good looking females who wanted nothing to do with them. Hmmm, maybe they came  to actually hear the music, instead of being picked up upon? I had already asked three girls if they had wanted to accompany me- but all the responses I could get from them was a resounding Marillion who?
Alright, so Monday night is not really a date night for some people and-
Uh oh, the curtain is going up….
It’s time for some Marbles action!
And there they were on stage, like long lost second or third removed cousins at a family reunion. Steve Hogarth sauntered up to the microphone garbed in some Brooks Brothers casual zoot suit as the ensemble led its’ way through the opening salvo of the thirteen and a half minute tongue ‘n cheek Ralph Waldo Emerson inspired ‘The Invisible Man’  tantalized by the use of Hogarth’s mimicry got the gears rolling on this abbreviated version of the Marbles showcase portion of the show.
And it was absolutely riveting. Nothing could be more simpler than that.
I miss the narrative of hand gestured storytelling in lyrics and H’s still struggles to keep the tired old tradition in place and this probably is the only one trait that both previous singing burly man, Fish and H have  in common – they act out the lyrics of the songs. Portions of the Invisible Man, along with ‘Neverland’ reminded me of those long cherished ‘Fugazi’ Fish days when Fish would be sitting down near Mosley’s drumkit during the middle of ‘Jigsaw’  and pretend  that the heel of his shoe was a gun chamber in which he would be loading imaginary bullets into before getting back to the  chorus and feign suicide.
In ‘Invisible Man’, H would be flaying his arms and screaming into the microphone around like a sociopath during the end of that song and spread his arms out if acting out a flying fantasy towards  the end of the J.M. Barrie’s homage to ‘Neverland’  (not really so much as an homage to the legend of Peter Pan, but rather to the legend of the man behind Peter Pan– ironic, that a motion picture called ‘Neverland’ starring Johnny Depp will be opening in cinemas soon that is based on the same subject).
In the instrumental department- I felt Peter Trewavas and Steve Rothery really stood out on their strings with the dreary jazz bits on ‘Angelina’. On certain rock out points,  Trewavas was acting as if he were twenty years younger now that his leg has healed. By the way he was jumping around on the stage, you wouldn’ t think that he was once in a serious car accident. H introduced Mark Kelly as keyboardist and master of special effects and Ian Mosley was in fine form, even when drum machines were the domineering component in songs such as “You’re Gone” or “This is the 21st Century“.
    Nearly all of the domestic release of Marbles was played in the first elongated portion of the show, including all the four part self- titled bookend pieces. I think all bands should follow this mantra whenever new material is concerned. Play it! Flaunt it!  But jeez, just don’t drag audiences through with endless stagnated repertoires!  This is why  loyalty to bands such as Yes or Moody Blues has waned because they rely so much on ancient history to comprise at least 90 percent of the show’s content and discard what they might have been working on for the past two years in the studio just to appease the fifty plus demographic who tunes in a classic rock radio station. I can almost telegraph an entire Moody Blues concert from an amphitheater away, because I’ve seen them for three or four tours in a row and with the exception of a few new songs tossed here and there in the set- they play the same group of songs in the exact same order! But on Marillion’s first tour in seven years- their set list was a sort of catch up with the American fans. In addition to Marbles, we also got a taste of what had gone on before demonstrated by some samples of Radiation, Marillion.com, and Anaraknophobia. Three full albums of material that has never been performed live in this country before. Man, I bet I was the only guy happy in the house that they didn’t do “Kayleigh” or “Garden Party” for the umpteenth time. “Invisible Man”, “Drilling Holes”, and “Neverland “got the best audience reception as far as the new stuff was concerned, although I’ve grown a better appreciation of hearing “Angelina and “Fantastic Place” live than I do on the record. I thought Kelly’s keyboards were really spot on the latter. Being towards the end of the bar, I thought it was a perfect position where I could be practically heckler-free, but wouldn’t you know there would be some boisterous and belligerent drunken female yelling at the top of her raspy lungs to play some old stuff.
Please- if you need to hear classic Marillion ‘oldies’ – go see Fish play.
After a 3 or 4 minute change of underpants break, as H so casually refer to due to the long transatlantic flight (wait, didn’t they say they had done a couple of gigs in Mexico City?) they were back on stage to dip in the Hogarth era bag and performed a cut from each album from Season’s End up to Anaroknophobia. “Quartz” was close to bringing down the house until upstaged by the final two songs of the night, “Cover My Eyes”“Easter” maybe because the spring chickens in the crowd who were probably out past their curfew were jamming to the dirty white boy Limp Bizkit inspired rapping that Hogarth was firing off in the middle of ‘Quartz.’
Still, the same girl behind me was beating her war drum for the old stuff. I mean, talk about suffering from head up your ass-itis.
It was then after this second outburst that pleasant thoughts of Fox News Conservative whipping boy Bill O’Reilly popped into my head. And that doesn’t really happen too often.
       (
( SHUT UPPPPPPPP YOU  (bleeping) OLD BIRD!!!)
Two encores followed. I was ecstatic that they played  “The Damage”, one of my favorite songs off the Deluxe version of Marbles and up course, all the die hard cheered the loudest when the double whammy of “Cover My Eyes” and “Easter” closed out the 2 plus hour show.
Funny, I didn’t hear the bitch behind me complain anymore. Must have fallen pissed behind the bar.
Anyway, Marillion – many happy returns – (to cop a phrase from an old Prisoner episode).
setlist:
Invisible Man
Marbles 1
You’re Gone
Angelina
Marbles 2
Don’t Hurt Yourself
Fantastic Place
Marbles 3
Drilling Holes
Marbles 4
Neverland
(3 minute change of underpants break)
Living the Big Lie
Quartz
Go!
Hey Jude (segues into:)
Three Minute Boy
Between You & Me
Encore # 1
This is the 21st Century
The Damage
Encore # 2
Cover My Eyes
Easter


Above are photos taken at an acoustic performance and signing at Tower Records on Sunset in October 2005. In last photo Left to right, Bass player Pete Trewavas, guitarist Steve Rothery and vocals & maracas, Steve Hogarth. Clown hovering over them with opened Marbles sleeves: Cary Coatney
 
Early on in September, I had the good fortune to attend a rare West Coast appearance of the Los Marillos Trio – which incidentally is the rallying cry of three fifths of the legendary British progressive band Marillion. Like other prog bands such as Asia and Yes who were recently experimenting in acoustic formats.
I was elated to hear some songs performed live of which he had never heard before such as Go from marillion.com and the Answering Machine from 1998’s Radiation album. Despite having an US cult comeback with last years’s release of Marbles, Marillion hadn’t been touring very much since their 1997 This Strange Engine tour because of low record sales and insatiable leaps to independent record labels who couldn’t afford to pay touring expenses. I got the full strings and electric piano outing at the Key Club in West Hollywood and on the very next day they did a store signing at the Tower Records a few blocks down the street.

 

A thirty minute set consisted of four songs: 80 Days from This Strange Engine Don’t Hurt Yourself (whoring for DVD sales of their last European concert tour) from Marbles, (which by all rights should be a staple hit played on every alternative rock station), Answering Machine from Radiation, Man of a Thousand Faces also from This Strange Engine and as a bonus encore per fan request: A Collection – a simple little obscure acoustic number that was a bonus track on Holidays In Eden.

Singer Steve Hogarth: (or if you prefer, H for short)

 

Cary Coatney Q: Did an image of Angelina Jolie sprout in your mind while writing the lyrics to Angelina off of Marbles?

 

A: No actually it was Margretina, a DJ on Cable radio. A billboard in London had her made her up look like a call girl. So we had to change name for legal purposes.

 

Steve Rothery:

 

Cary Coatney Q: Will you ever get around to do a follow up to Wishing Tree and that girl on the cover of Carnival of Souls looked very fetching. (Peter Trewavas pitches in: Oh yes, Hannah Stobart, definitely very fetching !)

 

A: Oh yeah, we would definitely like to get around to doing another one sometime in the near future. Hannah and I are currently writing material for the follow-up. And yes indeed Hannah is very fetching ( yeah, but the debut album was released around ten years ago – a lot can change to a woman’s looks in ten years).

 

(the second album, Ostara was finally released in 2009)

 

Bassist Pete Trewavas:

 

Cary Coatney Q: Just a compliment on your work on your side band Keno (available through Insideout Music). The guitar player John Mitchell (also of Arena) used to be a good friend and e-mail buddy. I once hung out with him and Matt Goodluck when Arena was visiting out here for a Prog Rock festival and we grew to be great e-mail pen pals ever since. It’s good to see him grow and mature into a fine musician We all went to Universal CityWalk after the gig.

 

A: Oh wow, you know Matt Goodluck?

 

Cary Coatney follow-up: I just said I did, didn’t I? Yes, Matt has retired from the music business and now works as an agriculture inspector for the city of Sidney, Australia. And he’s already bought his first house. Goddamn lucky bugger barely into his thirties.

 

All: Yeah, we all miss Matt Goodluck.

 

(Actually Matt these days is a lead singer for a Australian Pink Floyd Tribute band, Experience Floyd Pty, Ltd that is getting massive raves in his homeland.)

 

AND SO, ON A TOTALLY UNRELATED NOTE:

 

For those reading this blog on the weekend of Oct 21st. Do me a favor and be sure to check out my former Parsippany High School best gal pal Linda Freeman (now Yarosh)’s daughter, Danika Yarosh in her spectacular feature film debut in Jack Reacher 2: Never Go Back. She plays a mysterious teen age girl who may or may not have a link to Jack Reacher’s past. Reviews have been mostly stellar so far and most critics agree that its’ way better than the first one.

danika-yarosh_jack-reacher-2_sequel_tom-cruise_paramount_

 

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