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Marillion - Happiness Is The Road CD (album) cover





3.35 | 641 ratings

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4 stars Marillion's 2008 album Happiness Is The Road seems a bit divisive amongst fans of the band and progressive rock in general.

I suppose it's fitting then that this album was split in two quite literally with the first half of the album called Essence and the second half being titled The Hard Shoulder. Essence is the more ethereal and introspective of the two. The Hard Shoulder rocks a bit more.

The music on Happiness Is The Road, especially on Essence, is not all that far removed from the band's immediately previous couple works, but thankfully the songwriting is closer to the level displayed on the brilliant Marbles than on that album's disappointing follow up, Somewhere Else.

Essence starts off with the appropriately titled "Dreamy Street" which is a short track which sets the mood for the rest of the piece. This segues into the proper opener, "This Train Is My Life", which is okay, but not a standout track to me.

On the other hand, I really like the title track, "Essence". It's got a nice steady build up that peaks just before the six minute mark.

"Wrapped Up In Time" is one of the weaker tracks on the album, in my opinion. I find it a bit dull.

"Liquidity" is a really nice instrumental piano track. For me, it's one of the highlights of this half of the album.

The next couple of tracks are decent. I do think "State of Mind" is a pretty solid pop/rock song. But things really get cooking again with the last "main" song on this set (there is a bonus track on Essence), "Happiness is the Road", which is just a great 10 minute long track that is easily the best track on this half of the album for my money.

The bonus track is also a highlight of Essence for me. After about a minute and a half of silence we get the relatively energetic (compared to the rest of Essence) "Half Full Jam".

In the debate over whether The Hard Shoulder is stronger than Essence or not, I would say it is. I like the increased energy the second half of Happiness Is The Road brings to the table.

Again, we have an appropriately titled opener in "Thunder Fly", which bristles and simmers like a hot Sunday afternoon.

The next two tracks are highlights of The Hard Shoulder, "The Man from the Planet Marzipan" and "Asylum Satellite #1", both of which top seven and half minutes. "The Man from the Planet Marzipan" is a quirky art rockish song that's pretty enjoyable and "Asylum Satellite #1" could actually be classified as progressive rock in some circles.

What puts The Hard Shoulder over Essence for me though is that I like the shorter rock tracks that fill up most of the remainder of the album. "Older Than Me" is a nice little ode to May-December relationships, "Throw Me Out", "Half the World" and "Especially True" are enjoyable rockers and "Whatever Is Wrong With You" is memorable.

Then once again we have another great closing track in "Real Tears For Sale", also one of the album highlights.

Overall: Like most double-length albums, Happiness Is The Road may be a little long for its own good. However, it is in fact a very good album and a step up from Somewhere Else. If you liked Marbles, there's a good chance you'd probably get enjoyment out of this album.

If you're a fan of Fish-era Marillion only, I don't know what to tell you. You turned down the wrong street. Happiness is not this road.

A 3.5 rounded up to 4.

Highlights: "Essence", "Liquidity", "Happiness is the Road", "Half Full Jam", "The Man from the Planet Marzipan", "Asylum Satellite #1", "Whatever Is Wrong With You", "Real Tears For Sale"

FunkyM | 4/5 |


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