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Marillion - Happiness Is The Road CD (album) cover





3.35 | 641 ratings

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4 stars Sold as individual volumes in the U.S. I find Happiness Is The Road to be a nice rebound from "Somewhere Else". Having listened to both albums multiple times it grows on me as a good musical work should. This Train Is My Life and Happiness Is The Road are personal favorites from Vol-1. While much is dismissed regarding marillion's progressive stature I disagree with most positions taken. Progressive music was about change within the band's making of music as much as within the style of music they took. I find a certain soulfulness in Hogarth's vocals. He also has the distinction, or perhaps misfortune, of having a highly distinctive vocal style and timbre. It took some time for me to get used to from other albums based back in the '90s, but now that I know that style, I look forward to it. Disc 1 is a bit more somber and low key, mind you, the dynamics are wonderful and artfully executed with some of my favorite playing from guitarist Steve Rothery. In fact, the overall sound quality and tightness are more than enough to impress most non-progressive rock listeners, and believe me, I've turned a lot of them on to Marbles and now both volumes of Happiness Is The Road. There are many excellent but mostly subtle moments on Disc-1. and Disc-2. although I think Disc-1 is a bit more accomplished in terms of writing.

As for Disc-2., and in answer to tanc66's review posted here, I see plenty use for two CDs being released as Disc-2 the hard shoulder is considerably different in feel and substance. It is a much harder rocking album with more traditional song forms that still bear the Progressive mantle, instead of doing so with intense arrangements and musical largess, the songs use the same mix of traditional rock forms and progressive elements. Having paid less attention to the song titles I can't nail down all my favorites but I do remember liking Real Tears For Sale and Asylum Satellite #1. I like The Man From The Planet Marzipan but don't think it's one of Hogarth's best moments writing lyrics.

I don't consider 4 or 5 listens per album to be close to definitive, but I know that both have grown on me with each listen as I find new and rich segments I didn't catch the other times around. If people are judging this double set based of downloads, forget it, the sound quality matters quite a bit. In general the layering and overall production is nicely done and one of the parts about both CDs that make them so enjoyable to listen to. Before throwing these two fine albums on the slag heap that so many commercial artists put out, trust me, there is quality in all areas of the musical spectrum. As usual, the band play marvelously with a crushingly tight rhythm section. Pete Trewavas is incredibly a underrated bassist who together with Ian Mosley on drums put down some of the tastiest rhythmic arrangements. The keyboard and synth work are also excellent, not only in their tasteful arrangements but also in choice of timbres and creative use of sounds and the right places to put them. Rothery's guitar work is excellent with a fine range of tones and clever use of effects. The band plays with great precision and heart. It's one of the things that can be missed by fans of more dazzling bands. If you listen critically, one thing you'll notice is how well everything is arranged. There isn't much, if any, noodling to be found on either album. Hogarth, depending on your viewpoint visa vi whether he is a good fit for marillion, a foregone conclusion if you discuss their work since he joined the band, may be accused of overdoing things, particularly on CD-1's unnamed hidden track, but it is an extra, and it sounds good in a psychedelic Beatles phase kind of way.

The lyrics and their delivery are mostly exceptional to fine and again, Rothery is almost a perfect ambassador for the slow and steady, melodic guitarist that knows where to put a lead, or fill, or rhythm guitar fill, although some guitar was played by Trewavas. I take mild exception to some reviewers that miss the point of good music by people that know what they are doing and complete 100+ minutes of fine material...counting both CDs. It's fair to say it isn't your cup of tea, or that you miss the more traditional progressive music by marillion. I take artists work for what it is. I can accept people that find the songs uninteresting or bland, but it's nice to know why one thinks that way.

As for comparisons to Marbles: no, Happiness Is The Road is not Marbles, nor should be. For me Marbles was the high mark of marillion's work for many years. It was a wonderful listen and fantastic to see live, as was the live DVD promoting the album. Still, Happiness Is The Road is it's own set of moods and moments. It would have made a better follow up to Marbles than Somewhere Else, but there's probably people that disagree on that assessment which is perfectly fine with me. These are reviews after all.

Before some of you go writing Happiness Is The Road, give it a couple more listens, there's some really fine music awaiting. For those who just can't - or won't - give it a listen or two in a few months. These songs may take a while to sink in but they are worthwhile. If a new band's name were credited to these two volumes, I suspect people would be recommending these two new albums, strangely released as different volumes.

x_bruce | 4/5 |


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