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Marillion - Happiness Is The Road CD (album) cover





3.35 | 641 ratings

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Andrew A.
4 stars Happiness Is The Road, Vol. 1: Essence

This album just keeps on growing on me each time I hear it. The dynamics are subtle and the general tone of the album is soft and slow, but it avoids the inconsistencies of some other Marillion efforts. I don't hear any "pop-prog" on this one - I hear a continuous flow of music linked together by lyrical subject matter, and a series of short instrumental interludes. For the purposes of this review, I divide the album into four sections, the first three marked by a pairing of songs that contrast a negative and positive view of life.

1. Dreamy Street/This Train is my Life/Essence

After a short and evocative introduction (Dreamy Street), the album launches into one of the best songs. This Train is my Life looks at the discontinuity of life (especially a life on the road), and builds subtlely towards a great climax with a superb guitar solo from Steve. It then flows into Essence, which expresses the desire to find the underlying essence of things. This too starts quietly and builds towards an inspiring chorus at the end: "sit in silence and watch the sky." This song speaks to me on a personal level that affects me in the way that Yes songs affect me with its big cinematic climax.

2. Wrapped up in Time/Liquidity/Nothing Fills the Hole/Woke Up

Wrapped up in Time also begins with a brief, rather psychedelic, instrumental intro dominated by Mark's keyboards before launching into a nostalgic and emotional song of lost pasts. This contrasts with Woke Up, the two songs linked by a bridging section of shorter sketches: the instrumental Liquidity and the up-tempo Nothing Fills the Hole, which leads into an atmospheric link to Woke Up, a song of revelation. The passage ends with an Eastern influenced closer that suggests a mystical form of awakening.

3. Trap the Spark/A State of Mind

This is the most conventional section, with two relatively straightforward songs - one resigned to the inability to pin down the spark of life, the essence, and the other recognising that it really is a "state of mind". Trap the Spark ends with a strong solo from Steve which lifts it out of its melancholy and adds a harder edge. A State of Mind is another uplifting song, and the closest the band comes to rocking out towards the close.

4. Happiness is the Road

This ten-minute epic ends the album without coming down strongly on the side of negative or positive. The long slow opening seems to suggest a positive message, with words of hope for a new day dawning. It then leads into a poweful middle section describing h's encounter with a therapist which intersperses a number of shorter segments between the verses. The most striking of these is the segment that follows "and each baby, a human sunrise" with the full band playing one of the most moving parts of the album. The song concludes with some very strong drum work from Ian.

"Essence" ends inconclusively - unless you got the download version, which contains an extra track, the "Half Empty Jam", where the band allow themselves to rock for once. Of course, it really isn't the end, since Volume 2, The Hard Shoulder follows, but that's another story - and an even better one than Essence.

Andrew A. | 4/5 |


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