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Marillion - Holidays in Eden CD (album) cover





3.13 | 677 ratings

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3 stars The lucky but unhappy one...

While "Seasons end" saw a natural progression from "Clutching at Straws", only with a different singer ( and different lyricists ), because a lot of musical ideas had been developed before Hogie's arrival ( some by the band during the time before Fish threw the towel, others - like the basics of "Easter" by Steve Hogarth and, see the credits to "The Space", even his former band ) and the album came together quite quickly, for "Holidays" they had to struggle through the whole creative process together for the first time ( well, "Dry land" had been another song that already existed from Hogie's former band "How we live" and was to be added ), and this process proved to be much harder than especially the new frontman had expected - taking lots of time and energy.

At the suggestion of EMI who, like any record company, hoped on a good commercial impact to the forthcoming product ( and wanted the band to chart a single - which is no crime but doesn't serve real prog-lovers' interests at all ), Christopher Neil stepped in, the man who was credited producer ( and lyricist ) for Mike and the Mechanics. After he promised to "not make Marillion sound like them" ( haha... ) the band decided to give it a go. This decision was to result in a two-edged sword, cause you can only guess how good some of the album could have been when you listen to the demos on the bonus disc nowadays... they sound much more "alive" and inspired, with "The Party" as the best of examples... and not only does it sound fresher, can anybody tell me why in the world had that additional part been edited out ? It's superb, as are Mark Kelly's keyboards, who somehow was not allowed to add his all to the final production. Christopher Neil is a good man, but the only things that kept him from being the completely wrong man for Marillion were his contributions that made "Splintering Heart" such an impressive opener, build "Cover my Eyes" to the song it became, and, perhaps, save one or two other tracks from oblivion that without his ears would not have been developed further by the band.

Cause the other side of the sword, maybe cutting even deeper, is... although he did not make them sound like Mike Rutherford/Paul Carrack & Co ( thank god - when thinking of "Word of Mouth", which is one of the albums I despise the most, especially for its lifeless production ) he just wasn't the right man for that album as a whole. The magic that was in there is not the magic you can feel by listening to the album... it doesn't sound dead but it's coming closer and closer to it, track by track, and when the end is reached, well... the production finally ( and, at least ) "succeeded" in "killing" "This Town/The Rakes Progress/100 Nights", I simply cannot listen to it in its studio-form, it's turning me off completely because there's absolutely no life in it anymore, passion extracted, it doesn't sound like human beings with human emotions having created music, it sounds like any machine could have done that. That's my opinion. I'm having a hard time with music that seems to have no other purpose than perfection in sound, demonstration of musicians to show their technical abilities... constructions without heart, though there must have been a spark somewhere, somehow, before they made their way onto plastic.

We're lucky that, as a whole, "Holidays" is not a perfect example for how to not, never and please never again, do it, we're lucky but not really happy because this could have been a very fine album worth a four-star-rating ( at least ), but if it wouldn't start out that good ( I even started skipping "No one can" after some time, and - if you have read my review to "Seasons end" - you know that this was actually the first bit of music I came to like about "the new Marillion" ) with "Splintering heart" ( for prog-lovers, still ) and "Cover my eyes" ( for Poprock-lovers ) and if I hadn't fallen in love with "Waiting to happen" in its majestic, soaring live-rendition - omg, I'd have to struggle to give it a second star and not dismiss it at least as harsh as I did with "Fugazi". What finally saves the whole thing, this time, is the bonus disc, although it can only give you spots of how beautiful - and how much better - the album could have been with... well, not a different but a second producer, leaving the first two tracks as they are and then move on to another man in order to get the album completed in a way that truly deserves the name "Marillion". Although I'm sure that it wouldn't have held many lovers of old from turning away - see, this album had to be proof that this band is no longer the same anymore, and that's no crime either - it would have helped to introduce them to the new audience they had to fight and look for in order to escape those comparisons with the past and all the false sentences that could, imo, only be a result of an unwillingness ( and laziness ) to really listen without prejudice.

Christopher Neil did not really serve the band well at that point in their career and by the time the guys came out with their true masterpiece there weren't just a few people who had already turned away, written them off, saying "with Holidays they started selling out, losing their identity and credibility" ( I do quote this cause I had heard this ). Oh man... what they needed was ears to discover the enormous potential of the new line up, and this Album wasn't made to get them any. A sad affair. But, as the five guys have proven so many times to this day, it wasn't made to keep a good band down cause "No one can"... but it surely was one of the reasons that this good ( Fabulous ! Brilliant ! Awesome ! Adorable ! ) band had to fight a lot of struggles in order to survive and, after a period of down-spiraling sales, find a way up again, even achieving several top 10 singles in several countries... it took a long breath but it was well deserved, while "Holidays" can only be recommended to the converted and, in order to live up to expectations not unfair at all, needs the bonus disc to justify the third star I have given. ( A special, additional mention must be made for "A Collection" - a wonderful, short piece of music with great lyrics by John Helmer that ended up as a b-side only - it is one of the best b-sides ever for me, but "Prog" ? Well... )

rupert | 3/5 |


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