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Marillion - Seasons End CD (album) cover

SEASONS END

Marillion

 

Neo-Prog

3.76 | 568 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars Seasons End is the disk that marks the beginning of the Hogarth era of Marillion, and the one where I started to lose interest in the band. The late 80's were also the end of the vinyl age for many music fans, and this was one of the first works I bought on cassette instead of album.

To me Fish always seemed like he was just one step away from coming unglued at any time, and the band's music with him reflected that free-fall spirit. That's what I found so appealing with the early Marillion, even at those times when they really did seem to be copping their sound straight out of early Genesis. That intangible edge is missing here, but also gone is that hint of plagiarism that was always lurking on the edges in the band's earlier works.

With Hogarth the band seems more like they are searching to find some kind of significance to their music. In "The King of Sunset Town", Hogarth tells of how the song came together quite early in his relationship with the band, and that it was supposed to be just a fictional fantasy tale. The lyrics were changed later to refer to the Tiananmen Square protests, which is a worthy enough subject, but I can't really see Fish penning a song without a very definite goal in mind from the start. It's a subtle difference I suppose. This song also runs on for eight minutes, although the band proved with their five minute version on Live at the Borderline that the extra weight didn't really add much.

One comment on Hogarth's voice - in my opinion it is not as striking as Fish's, but by about halfway through the album it starts to kind of grow on you, and I suppose it's unfair to try and compare the two of them anyway, so that's all I'm going to say about that.

"Easter" is an excellent coming-out song for this second iteration of Marillion, and it was a very fresh sound for them at the time. Steve Rothery's guitar passages here are as good (or better) than anything else I've heard of his before or since. Hogarth could have sung the lyrics in Punjabi and the song still would have brought a lump to my throat.

I'm not sure if "the Uninvited Guest" is supposed to be a humorous number or not, but either way it seems like a rather trite topic for a band of Marillion's caliber. I could see Phil Collins doing this one with a straight face though. This and "Hooks in You" are the two songs that definitely should have been left off the album, as both are pretty much straight-forward rock numbers with nothing in particular to distinguish them.

The title track is something of an environmental song, or at least I think it is. This is a sad, slow tune, and one which I can't help but compare to the more mellow parts of Wind and Wuthering.

I really don't like "Holloway Girl" much, a song about unfairly imprisoned young women (and what a strange topic that is). I don't mind political songs, but this one is more of a social statement, and not a particularly strong one at that. The lyrics here are probably more suited to a European sensibility than to some other societies. Even Hogarth's accent is more noticeable here than in most of his other work. Musically, the choruses have a nice balance of wistful singing and understated but powerful guitar backing. It's a good song, but not really in the same vein as the first half of the album.

If "Easter" is one of the real jewels on this album, then "Berlin" is the other. For the younger generation that did not have to grow up with the Cold War, it's important that we all remember this time when those who lived in the surreal 'Land of Oz' and those who suffered in emotional chains of oppression, were one within ready view of the other. The human drama this song portrays equates to similar situations that exist in the world today - the Korean DMZ, the Mexican border towns of North America, contrived native 'homelands' of South Africa, and any small civilian community that lies outside the gate of a major military base. These are all places and situations where the social norms become distorted realities that approach madness, due to the blunt segregation of two wildly different cultures. What an incredible achievement for the band to capture that emotion in this music!

Why "Hooks in You" follows "Berlin" and frankly why this song is even on the album is a mystery to me. This is a straight-ahead trivial rock song that must have been intended as a radio-play single. This song underscores the fact that there is a really uneven delivery of quality that spans this album.

I've heard the story about the scene where a tram (what is a tram - is that a bus? a train? not sure). Anyway, this 'tram' thing hits a parked car, basically just destroys the thing. "The Space" is about those times in life where we are just completely and unequivocally crushed by the weight of something totally overwhelming. I'd like to think the album ends on the high note of getting back up from such an encounter, dusting oneself off, and continuing on, but I get the impression this song doesn't quite make it that far. This kind of seems like a thought left hanging as the album fades out. This is another example of the latter Marillion tendency to produce outstanding music, but sometimes without the lyrical or emotional sense of purpose that the early Marillion had in spades.

I'm not sure about the vinyl or CD versions of this record, but the cassette has a little "bonus track" called "After Me", which is a fluffy little love song of sorts. Not sure why the band went though the trouble of adding it, except that maybe it was to balance out the playing time on both sides of the record.

When Seasons End first released I actually hated it, largely because it doesn't sound anything like the band's first four studio recordings. Over time Hogarth and the more mainstream sensibilities of the band kind of grew on many its fans, and on me as well.

When taken simply on its own merits, this is a very solid album that has a couple of weaker tracks, but offers enough great music and thoughtful lyrics with "Easter", "Berlin", "Seasons End", and probably even "King of Sunset Town" to make this a worthwhile addition to any music lover's collection.

For older Marillion fans this is probably a 2.4 effort, but on its own it just barely merits four stars. I'm inclined to give it three stars just because of "After Me", "Uninvited Guest", and especially "Hooks in You", but I don't suppose the superior tracks here should be degraded just because of the lesser efforts - that's what 'seek' and 'fast- forward' are for.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |

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