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Marillion - Script For A Jester's Tear CD (album) cover





4.23 | 1989 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars The album that, according to many critics, resurrected prog in the early Eighties, "Script for a Jester's Tear" is (in my very humble opinion) the best Fish-era effort from Marillion. Though accused by many of being mere Genesis clones, the British five-piece were in fact more original that that, as well as considerably darker. There is nothing in Genesis' output that can compare to the unrelenting gloom of the tracks, with even the apparently lighter-hearted "Garden Party" being a corrosively ironical indictment of British upper-class society and manners. Fish's dramatic, sometimes exaggerated vocals do not recall so much the more understated Peter Gabriel (besides a very slight similarity in timbre) as Peter Hammill's all-out theatrics. The same can be said for his lyrics, which rank indeed among the most impressive in prog, though sometimes - just like his vocals - they can border on the overblown. The title-track opens the album in a quiet, nearly understated way, with Fish almost whispering the words, before the band kicks in with a great guitar performance by Steve Rothery. The following song, "He Knows You Know, released as a single, could be awarded the prize of the 'commercial' song with the darkest, most despairing lyrics ever - a deeply disturbing tale of drug addiction punctuated by dazzling keyboard work by Mark Kelly. Lengthy "The Web" is probably the proggiest song on the album, but also the least memorable to these ears - it definitely goes on a bit too long, though the performances on it are excellent.

Venomous "Garden Party", with its staccato rythm, sweeping synths and Fish's deceptively humourous vocal delivery, lightens the musical (if not the lyrical) mood - before the band plunges into misery once again with the chilling, all-too-credible tale of a girl's wasted life that is "Chelsea Monday". A cautionary tale for all those young women who live vicariously through celebrities and glossy magazines, waiting in vain for fame and fortune, it is a musically simple piece, enhanced by Fish's poignant vocals. The best track on the album, however, is saved for last, with "Forgotten Sons" - a haunting, bitter indiction of the tragedy and waste of life that is the ongoing struggle between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, ranking alongside The Police's "Invisible Sun" as the most memorable song on this tragic situation. The song opens with a strong rythmic beat, with Fish singing almost hysterically; then, a soaring Rothery solo leaves room for a chanting, almost whispered section in which Fish, backed by an almost military drumbeat, rants against the choices of the British government. The song climaxes with another beautiful, atmospheric guitar solo, and Fish's stark, poignantly true final words: "Peace on earth and mercy mild/Mother Brown has lost her child/Just another forgotten son". Easily the best Marillion song ever.

Fish-era Marillion cover art is undoubtedly not to everybody's taste, and in sharp contrast with the minimalistic style favoured by most Eighties bands. However, I find that its larger-than-life, gaudily coloured imagery suits the lyrical and musical content quite perfectly. Though "Script for a Jester's Tear" may not be a full-blown masterpiece, it is almost required listening for everybody who is keen on understanding the evolution of prog from its Seventies beginnings to its contemporary developments. For all that Neo-Prog may be an acquired taste and much too derivative for some, it is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored - and it does not come much better than this album.

Raff | 4/5 |


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