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Marillion - Happiness Is The Road CD (album) cover





3.35 | 641 ratings

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4 stars Happiness Is The Road is the fifteenth studio album from legendary British progressive rock act Marillion. Though it was met with rather mixed reactions upon its 2008 release, Happiness Is The Road has slowly become one of my favorite Marillion albums - surely no small feat when one considers how much I adore their vast discography. This ambitious double album pushes the boundaries of their trademarked sound, with its bleak atmospheres and 'seemingly' straightforward song structures coming nothing short of captivating. This lushly beautiful album is sleek, modern, and unique, yet it still manages to sound distinctly like Marillion when taking a look at its more subtle characteristics. It took at least two years of listening to Happiness Is The Road before it completely clicked, but this observation has eventually grown to become one of my favorites of theirs. Though the long playing time may scare away potential listeners, Happiness Is The Road is beautiful in nearly every sense of the word.

If you haven't followed Marillion since Fish was behind the microphone, you'll be in for quite a shock when you take out Happiness Is The Road for a spin. There isn't any neo-prog to be found here, and in its place is an atmospheric brand of alternative/art rock characterized by Steve Hogarth's gentle vocals, Mark Kelly's lush keyboard palette, Steve Rothery's spectacular guitar playing, Ian Mosley's relaxed drumming, and Pete Trewavas' clever basslines. The mood portrayed throughout the vast majority is Happiness Is The Road is rather melancholic and somber - while never sounding 'dark', the subdued synthesizers, spacey guitar tones, and gentle vocals always give me a deep emotional connection to the compositions offered on this observation.

The two discs of Happiness Is The Road have different names, with the first disc entitled "Essence" and the second one called "The Hard Shoulder". As far as I'm concerned, both are virtually the same in terms of quality and musical style, and I tend to view Happiness Is The Road as more of a collective album than two separate ones. Both discs are filled with fantastic tunes, and my favorites from the first disc are probably "This Train is My Life", "Essence", and the epic "Happiness is the Road". "The Hard Shoulder" is also filled with highlights, with songs like "Asylum Satellite #1", "Older Than Me", "Whatever Is Wrong With You", "Especially True", and the jaw-dropping "Real Tears For Sale" especially standing out.

One of the best things about Happiness Is The Road is the absolutely killer production - the crystal clear sound makes every single note audible, and all of the instruments are placed perfectly in the mix. This production has just the right amount of atmosphere and clarity, and the end result is nothing short of breathtaking.

Happiness Is The Road isn't one of the most highly regarded Marillion efforts, but I tend to think that it's one of their best albums in recent memory. This is a beautiful, charming, and deceivingly complex album that slowly unveils itself as a painstakingly infectious observation. Yes, it demands quite a bit of patience on behalf of the listener, but I assure you that it's more than worth it in the end. While the unique brand of art rock embraced on Happiness Is The Road is bound to upset progressive rock purists, odds are that most of them have already given up on Marillion a long time ago. Happiness Is The Road is an essential purchase for the open-minded listener, and a criminally underrated album from one of history's greatest and most important progressive rock acts. This is worth nothing short of 4.5 stars in my book.

J-Man | 4/5 |


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