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Marathon - Mark Kelly's Marathon CD (album) cover

MARK KELLY'S MARATHON

Marathon

 

Crossover Prog

4.26 | 35 ratings

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lazland
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Well, it has taken some time for the Marillion keyboardist to lead his own project. 39 years, to be precise. Whilst he has made guest appearances over the years, most notably with DeeExpus, Mark Kelly's Marathon sees him presiding over a brand new band, and, make no mistake, this is a collective as opposed to a simple solo work. Whilst listening, for example, to Wakeman and the English Rock Ensemble, you are always conscious of the Caped Crusader being front, centre, and rear. What Kelly has done here, though, is to lead a genuine ensemble, allowing his band mates the space to breath and create. The album is a superior piece of work for it, as well.

Nowhere is this better exemplified by the standout track on the album, When I Fell, a quite gorgeous six minute piece featuring delicious vocals by Ollie Smith (sounding a wee bit more Ray Wilson than Peter Gabriel, but there we go). The track is descriptive of a dream, nightmare, and the themes of love and grief. Kelly's organ playing is a joy, and with some delicate guitar licks, the track is a triumph from start to finish.

The album is bookended by two longer pieces, each split into sensible segments, namely Amelia and Twenty Fifty One (as in 2051).

The opener is a lovely piece which sets to music and lyrics the story of the legendary Amelia Earhart, the pioneering aviator who disappeared on an attempt to circumnavigate the world in 1937, and was declared dead in absentia a few years later. Everything about this piece cries out quality. The guitar work, especially, is quite lovely, and the interplay with Kelly's keyboards at the close of the second segment is a joy. The story of Earhart and her navigator as proposed by lyricist Guy Vickers is at once intelligent and questing, and when the final segment segues into a closing chorus you are struck by the wall of sound and instant accessibility. A mention also for the type of synth sound probably not heard in these parts since the days of yore when Mark had a head of hair and looked across at a certain Mr Dick in his warpaint. I just love the ghostly vocal fade at the end as well.

2051 takes us into the future. I love the sleeve notes on the cd by Vickers, who explains the rational behind this discussion of what intelligent life is beyond our planetary shores, and how Kubrick and Clarke created their incredible vision of an unknown intelligent force guiding us. The music does justice to such a sweeping narrative. John Cordy's guitar work, especially, is revelatory. Conal Kelly, Mark's young nephew, forms one half of a mighty rhythm section with Henry Rogers, a superlative drummer who also shines on Pete Trewavas and Eric Blackwood's Edison's Children. The track provides us with the fascinating thought that any intelligence picking up a probe of the puny earth men will listen to Richard Strauss, The Beatles, and, erm, Scooby Doo. Love it! The third movement features a lovely delicate piano by Mark, and this then leads us to a rollicking finale in which the entire ensemble simply transport you to another dimensional beach.

The two remaining tracks are This Time and Puppets. The former is the one track which I will probably skip in the years to come. It is an interesting concept lyrically about modern connectivity, but the music, for once, to these ears fails to match the concept. Short enough as a single release, but it lacks depth. Not bad by any means, but rather throwaway.

The latter track features as a guest guitarist one Steven Rothery. Lyrically, the piece is a complex construct around philosophy, life, the universe, and everything, so perfect for some light relaxing background music during a pandemic lockdown! I jest, of course. This track is another joy, and it is a measure of the quality of the band Mark has assembled that even a fantastic contribution by my favourite modern guitarist does not lessen the sound of a band wholly at ease with itself and the project.

This is an extremely satisfying work, and one hopes that it forms the basis of a long term project. You do not need to be a Marillion fan to enjoy this album. In fact, all you need to take a great deal of pleasure from it is an appreciation of an intelligent, song-based approach to making music.

Very highly recommended.

lazland | 4/5 |

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