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Marillion - Early Stages : The Highlights CD (album) cover





4.16 | 10 ratings

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4 stars My first 'Marillion early stage experience' was June 1984, at the annual Dutch Pinkpop festival concert during the Fugazi tour, and it turned out to be my most magical one! We arrived the evening before the concert, slept in our car, the next morning we joined the hundreds of Marillion fans (with Marillion t-shirts, banners and some dressed like a jester), and in an euphoric mood we all gathered in front of the stage. The Pinkpop Marillion gig was an unforgettable experience: an inspired band and the charismatic frontman Fish delivering his funny song introductions and theatrical stage antics. From that moment I wanted to experience 'the early stage Marillion' everyday and bought one bootleg after another. I have always cherished these bootlegs, also because I was very disappointed about The Thieving Magpie live double album. Because that was not the great live atmosphere I knew from the exciting Marillion gigs. In 2013 EMI released Early Stages : The Highlights (a compilation of the 6-CD collector's box' Early Stages : The Official Bootlegs 1982-1988) featuring most of the bootleg recordings I was so exited about, and as a bonus the previously unreleased Fife Aid 1988 version of Market Square Heroes.

Disc 1: Early Marillion was an exciting live band: from their first gig in 1980 and they build an excellent live reputation, earning a huge cult-following. There was always a very pleasant interaction between the band and the fans, and we could enjoy 'the Fish talks' (with that Scottish accent). And often more powerful and slighty extended versions than the studio tracks. Songs also developped, just listen to She Chameleon: an other keyboard sound (more subdued) and a more rocky guitar, a pretty embryonal sound. The Mayfair and Marquee concerts also deliver a cosy 'pub-atmosphere', the advantage of a small venue. Musically I notice that Mark Kelly often uses a Farfisa organ in the very early days, on She Chameleon, Chelsea Monday and Forgotten Sons. And I am not pleased with Mick Pointer his frequent and irritating hi-hat hitting. The drums skills are way better on the other tracks after 1982, with Andy Ward and later Ian Mosley. A nice surprise is the Mellotron violin sound in the intro of Script For A Jester's Tear (yes, Marillion had a Mellotron M400 on stage!), it's not on the later album version. Another nice surprise is the synthesizer improvisation halfway Forgotten Sons (also not on the later album version). These are the extra's you are waiting for on releases like this!

The Reading Rock festival in 1983 was a kind of home game for Marillion, all those many Marillion fans generated an euphoric atmosphere. I love the Grendel version with a very strong grand finale, featuring howling electric guitar and majestic Mellotron choirs, neo-prog goose bumps! In Charting the single you can hear a freaky intro with the Minimoog synthesizer, also not on the studio version.

Disc 2 : The Hammersmith Odeon gig in 1984 was the Fugazi tour, the album that showcased Marillion their own musical formula (no more a pastiche of Gabriel-era Genesis), the band was an experienced and tight unit. We can enjoy a very good atmosphere and sound, this is early Marillion at its creative peak: excellent versions of Assasing (Ian Mosley was such an asset), Punch And Judy (huge crowd participation) and the absolute highlight Fugazi (great spirit and Fish singing "the world is totally Fugazi", wearing that Vietnam outfit, how compelling). Halfway the concert Fish told the crowd about Marillion and "the new direction", as a prelude to the new songs, from the forthcoming new album Misplaced Childhood. You can hear the difference with the Fugazi tracks, Fish became more dominant with his vocals and lyrics and there is less chemistry,in my opinion. But the crowd loved it, especially the sentimental Kayleigh.

In 1987 Marillion had become a 'biggie': the smash hit Kayleigh became #2 in the UK with 200.000 sold copies, and Misplaced Childhood even reached the #1 ranking in the UK with 300.000 sold copies (both in 1985). So in 1987 Marillion had earned the status to play in the huge Wembley Arena, during the Clutching At Straws tour. Again the atmosphere and sound are very good, Fish does his funny song introductions and the crowd participation is fine . But personally I found the tracks close to boring, Fish had taken total control, and it was no surprise that this was the final album from Marillion with Fish.

Fife Aid, St. Andrews 1988 : A two day festival that also featured Rick Wakeman, Jack Bruce, Phil Manzanera, and Osibisa! It was Fish his final performance with Marillion, so Fish singing "I found smog at the end of my rainbow, I found my thoughts shift slowly into phase. Declared the constitution of the walkway, I realise it's time to plan the day" was pretty ironical! I like this version of Market Square Heroes (the previously unreleased bonus track), with strong drumming and a surprising break featuring parts of My Generation (The Who) and Let's Twist Again (Chubby Checker) with an inspired Fish, "you are the heroes" he tells the public in the end, goodbey.

This is another obvious attempt from EMI to plunder the wealthy wallets of the longing progheads! But on the other hand it's also a very good introduction to the magical early Marillion live, if you don't own that 6-CD box, like me.

TenYearsAfter | 4/5 |


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