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Marillion - Happiness Is The Road CD (album) cover





3.35 | 630 ratings

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2 stars 2.0 Stars. Driving off the road of happiness and crashing into the ravine of failure

Happiness is the road (HITR) is a double album which was released 4 years after their last double album Marbles. Despite the skin deep similarities they are in fact worlds apart in terms of quality. Disc one (Essence) contains some of the worst material the band have ever recorded and disc 2 (The hard shoulder) is a mixed bag with some excellent and mediocre material. I was unlucky enough to make this double album my first purchase from these guys and if I hadn't given them a second chance I would have never known what they were truly capable of.

Disc 1 starts on a terrible note with "Dreamy Street", which is incredibly slow, dreary and so lacking in life that its painful to listen to. "This Train Is My Life" is a pleasant and upbeat radio friendly pop song. Its nothing special, but disturbingly this is one of the highlights of Disc one. "Essence" is a complete and utter mess, there are lots of different moods and tempos packed into the song but no logical link between them. It turns what could have been a good song into 6 min of frustration.

Things get even worse between "Wrapped Up In Time" and "Nothing Fills The Hole" as the tempo is slowed down to a crawl and nothing noteworthy happens. A fair few reviewers have confessed to falling asleep at this point and I can't blame them.

Things finally improve between "Woke Up" and "A State Of Mind" where we are given some solid pop/rock songs (still no Prog). Unlike the previous songs there is a clear purpose to them which leaves a firm impression.

"Happiness is the road" starts very slowly, but unlike the previous songs the ambience works well with the emotional vocals and it doesn't leave me completely bored. After the 3 min mark there is a gradual build-up in energy and for the first time on this album things start to sound interesting. Its still typical Neo-Prog, but at least the song has a fair few twists and turns and is still able to keep everything catchy and coherent.

There is a bonus track ("half-full jam") at the end where the band go insane (no seriously, Hogarth sounds like he is having a mental breakdown!) and rock out as hard as they possible can towards the end. While the bonus track can be different from the rest of the album, it is so different that it sticks out like a sore thumb. A bizarre end to a horrendous album, 0.8 stars.

Disc 2 is far more Proggy then the last album and starts really well with "Thunder Fly". It switches between catchy rock and cool spacy interludes with the band being in complete control. It amazes me that they were able to compose such a well balanced song here but failed so miserably on "Essence". Speaking about that song, "The Man From Planet Marzipan" has just as many segments but unlike before they all work well together. The lyrics are also very interesting. But the real winner is " Asylum Satellite #1" which is by far the best song on both albums and the only thing to rival the content on their best albums. It has loads of drama and a fantastic extended instrumental at the end.

Sadly after that things return to the dull pop/rock that dominated Disc 1. The overall quality is better than before and some of them have remember-able segments, but they still pale in comparison to the first 3 songs. The last song however ("Real Tears For Sale") is a very good closer. Its probably the most heartfelt and emotional song they have done since Marbles and it finishes things on a clear high note. 3.2 stars.

Overall this has been a disappointing 100 minutes. There is some good material to be found here and there but to be honest there is simply far too much sup par material for this to be an enjoyable album. Not recommended unless you find a copy at a cheap price!

LakeGlade12 | 2/5 |


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