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Marillion - Less Is More CD (album) cover





2.78 | 388 ratings

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4 stars Less is More is the new Marillion album, made up of acoustic or semi electric versions of old tracks, something the band have actually done before in the shape of a gig at Oswestry The Walls restaurant a few years ago, a gig I was honoured to go to and the CD of which is still available.

It is no surprise to friends on the forum that I will rate this album highly. I am a massive fan of the Hogarth era band, and feel that they are still the trailblazers in terms of modern progressive rock music.

Of course, H albums are either love em or hate em, and I don't think this one will be any different.

What I really like about this album is that they have not opted for the easy route of redoing commercial or even fans favourites. Only one track from Afraid of Sunlight and Brave, for instance, and none from Marbles, a critically acclaimed album rightly. Instead they have chosen to delve into some of the less well known and selling albums such as and Anoracknophobia. The album is no worse for it either.

Go and Interior Lulu from Marillion.Com open the work. Both, in my opinion, are richly enhanced by the acoustic treatment, and Hogarth brings, especially, a rich emotion to both of these tracks, which were easily the highlight of an otherwise somewhat average LP. Interior Lulu on the original featured a manic storm of guitars and keyboards, and I actually prefer this version, stripped away and bare. As showcased on the recent Wishing Tree album, Rothery plays acoustic with grace and feeling, and Mark Kelly on the piano continues his fine run of creativity. Trewavas, normally associated with booming bass lines, backs up sensitively, and Ian Moseley also plays with delicate understatement.

Out of this World follows, the band's by now famous tribute to Donald Campbell. The acoustic version was actually played live at the memorial service to Campbell recently, and this is a track which is very suited to the quiet treatment.

Wrapped up in Time is the sole entry from last studio release, Happiness is the Road, and is one of the lesser known tracks. This is not actually that dissimilar from the original in terms of pace and does not, I think, stand up as well in isolation in the context of this album as it did as part of the narrative on HITR. However, the massive pleasure in the song is the gorgeous bluesy treatment by the band of the music. Rothery's guitar sings with great backing from the rest of the band.

The Space is the sole entry from the debut Hogarth album, Seasons End. It was a fine album, but I always felt that this track was the weakest on it, and my opinion has not really changed with this version. It is again marked by superb playing and vocals, but the slimmed down version does not really bring anything new to the table.

Hard as Love is the only entry from Brave, still regarded by many as the bands finest moment. So, how does a track clearly a very important part of that narrative/concept and very hard rocking sound in an acoustic reworking - absolutely fantastic is the answer. Hogarth and Trewavas sing quite exceptionally, especially during the chanting, and Kelly's piano playing is so sensitive to the mood that you can feel and hear the instrument cry. Quite easily the highlight of the album for me, simply because it really should not have worked. It does, and then some.

Quartz is the first of three tracks from Anoracknophobia, which is not regarded as one of the era's finest works. However, having said that, this and the other two tracks made me get out the CD which I hadn't played for a long time, and I found myself re-evaluating the work, and coming out with a far higher opinion of it. Special mention goes to Moseley for excellent percussion work, and Trewavas plays some exceptional bass. Again, the track is played in a bluesy frame of mind, but importantly does keep the tempo of the original, which was important. Newcomers and fans alike will warm and marvel at the exquisite singling and guitar playing in the Its So Hard sequence.

If my Heart were a Ball follows. This is, I think, the weakest of the tracks. The original was not much better, and I think this is one track which definitely suffers from the new approach. It meanders somewhat, never really getting where it wants to go.

Its Not Your Fault is the sole newcomer, and kit is a marvellous piece of music, this is a duet by some soulful Hogarth lyrics and Kelly's piano accompanying.

Memory of Water is the sole entry from the exceptional This Strange Engine. Truth be told, it really doesn't deviate that much from the original, which was a quieter entry on that album anyway, but it is no less wonderful for that. A great piece of music, Hogarth really excels on vocals again, while the guitar players back him up with some eery and understated chords.

This is the 21st Century closes the regular album, and is the third track from Anoracknophobia. This one benefits from the acoustic approach, and the main sequence has a great tempo to it.

The bonus untitled track is, in fact, Cannibal Surf Babe from Radiation. As with the original, it's a great deal of fun and entirely untypical of most of the band's work (but no less enjoyable for that).

I think this is a brave album for the band to release. They were really on a hiding to nothing, with some disliking acoustic music full stop, or not being prepared to have old favourites rearranged and changed beyond recognition in some cases. However, I think they have done a fine job, and, if the intent was to make people reexamine the back catalogue with a fresh approach, it has most certainly succeeded in doing so.

It is most certainly not an essential addition to any collection, although for fans of the band like myself it certainly is, but it is definitely an excellent addition to any collection. I would particularly recommend this to people who have not explored the band's music for some years, as I think it is a great way to get reacquainted with them. It will also appeal very strongly to those who like their rock music thoughtful and played in the blues fashion.

3.5 stars rounded up to four.

lazland | 4/5 |


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