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Marillion - The Carol Of The Bells CD (album) cover





3.37 | 11 ratings

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3 stars This was the first time I'd listened closely to a non-Fish Marillion song. Steve Hogarth, Fish's replacement, is pretty good. I don't know much about this band outside of a few Fish-era classics, but do the other guys sing? The harmony vocals actually sound really good. I assumed it was mainly Hogarth until I heard "That's What Friends are For" - - also from their Christmas album - - and it sounds like the voices of at least two or three different people.

"Carol of the Bells" is a hundred-year-old song, based on an even older melody, and over the past 30 years, when a rock band has recorded a Christmas album, this song had a good chance of appearing. While Robert Berry's 2002 prog-rock version (as the December People) is excellent, the all-time classic version, in my book, is "Sarajevo 12/24," Savatage's 1995 instrumental interpretation which spawned the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Marillion does a good job of avoiding a homage to "Sarajevo 12/24," which would have been fun and easy. Instead they focus on a vocal arrangement for the first two minutes before commencing with the inevitable rock instrumentation. The vocal arrangement continues until a soft orchestral interlude abruptly begins at 3:45. The well-known four-note motif ("ring, silver bells") gives way to the complimentary melody of the James Bond theme, and the band returns to offer a rock take on a few measures of John Barry's spy-film classic. Just after 4:40 guitarist Steve Rothery launches into a Marillion-style solo. In the final minute of the song, the interlude passage returns, and in a nod to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the lead line of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" is woven into the old Ukrainian melody of "Carol of the Bells." But wait - - the rock won't stop just yet - - the song ends with a recapitulation of the Bond theme.

Three stars for a good take on this well-worn classic.

P.S. The version I'm reviewing is 6:14. I downloaded it from in November 2016. This appears to be the same as the version on bandcamp, but the version posted by marilliononline on YouTube on 12/15/13 has a reprise of about 1:20. "Carol of the Bells" is no longer on emusic, and is apparently only available on bandcamp as part of an album (for 7.99). However, as of March 2019, it is available for $0.99 on the US Amazon .mp3 store.

patrickq | 3/5 |


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