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HAPPINESS IS THE ROAD

Marillion

Neo-Prog


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4 stars I rather suspect that this album is going to make an awful lot of people happy and not just the diehard fans who've stuck with Marillion through thick and thin but those, like myself, who've merely dabbled with them post Brave. For a long time, almost 15 years now, Marillion have released album after album that failed to deliver a consistent emotional punch. There were the hits - who can forget them crashing the pop charts with You're Gone? - and there were the misses - pretty much everything on Afraid of Sunlight in my (not so) humble opinion - but there was next to nothing with the consistency of Brave to move and delight you. Well, Happiness Is The Road is that album. And thank heavens for that! However, I can not award it five stars because, like pretty much every Hogarth fronted Marillion album, it lacks the originality and strokes of genius that a five star album warrants. So a four star album it is and a very highly rated four star album it is too. Enjoy!

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Send comments to Judas72 (BETA) | Report this review (#182323)
Posted Saturday, September 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I find this album to be a serious return to form for Marillion. It is like they knew they had much more to offer that had been undelivered by their previous album "Somewhere else", which by the way I also enjoyed but in a different way. Happiness is the road is a great album, maybe their best since the fantastic Brave and in the same leves as Marbles. After only a few listens I feel that it has so much to offer that it will take me a lot more listens to fully comprehend it but that makes me happy for I believe that I'll be some weeks listening to this marvel. I give it 4,5 star which I round up to 5 stars.

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Send comments to fempa (BETA) | Report this review (#182352)
Posted Saturday, September 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Specialist
1 stars Long and boring as a Sunday without football

It's not a secret for those who know me that I don't like the approach MARILLION took after "Fish" left, to be honest I don't like Hogarth's voice or style and believe the band moved from Progressive Rock to radio friendly mainstream, which would not be wrong if it sounded good, but honestly it's not my cup of tea.

But have read such good comments about "Happiness is the Road", that I decided to take the risk, and this is my opinion.

"Dreamy Street" begins with a nice piano intro, but as soon as "Hogarth's voice appears, I know most surely nothing has changed, the song goes repetitive and static the long 1:59 minutes it lasts.

"This Train is my Life" is a bit more interesting, not that we're in front of a Prog masterpiece, but at least there's energy and variations, but despite this fact it's not a great track either, some sort of Hard Rock with touches of POP and Hogarth forcing his voice far beyond his limited range. Acceptable song and a good change after a weak start.

"Essence" intro is absolutely predictable, no meaningful changes from the opener. But the music goes "in crescendo" announcing something really impressive that never comes, well, at least some expectation was created. Only at the end some strength is added, but not enough to save this track.

"Wrapped Up in Time" opens with an intro that resembles a music box, after some seconds it changes into a dreamy atmospheric sound created by the keyboards and Hogarth's voice hits us as hard as reality. Again nothing particularly impressive, maybe it's OK for people not familiar with MARILLION'S Prog background, because it's better than 99.99% of today's mainstream, but not acceptable for Progheads who expect some of the greatness they showed during Fish's era.

"Liquidity" makes me wonder how this guys manage to make all songs sound so incredibly similar, one thing is the style and particular sound of a band, but this MARILLION despite some very good piano moments, doesn't offer us anything really original after having listened the first song.

"Nothing Fills the Hole" makes me want to applaud, not because it's a masterpiece but at least is a healthy attempt of sounding different, great strength, excellent guitar work and more than acceptable drumming, but overall, the vocals sound fresher than before in this album, at least until the last third of the song when Hogarth adds again that particular and boring sound.

"Woke Up".That's what happened, the sound of a strong guitar made me wake up, because I was almost sleeping by this point. Hey even Hogarth voice sounds more interesting he uses some sort of semi-yodel that adds a bit of dramatics and reminds me a bit of Peter Gabriel, the keyboards create a proggy atmosphere, up to this point the best track by far.

What I can't understand is how if these guys have the obvious talent to create such a good track, why do they insist with the boring balladesque stuff?

"Trap the Spark" makes me remember the early Hoggarth's era, when they sounded much more varied and interesting, the piano is quite strong, but again they fall in the easiness of the pleasant but not transcendental ballad, started strong but the end is predictable, not even the nice mellotron saves the song.

"A State of Mind" reminds me of three men era GENESIS, just easy listening POP stuff, a couple of nice vocal moments but nothing to make this track worth of listening twice.

What? An epic? Yes it's true; it's the time for the title song and the first of the two long tracks of the album.

Sadly until the 3:42 minute, there's nothing really different from the previous tracks, but at this moment they start a light jazzy section, nothing impressive but at this moment, any change is for better. The closing section is very strong, something I can't say about most of the album, another high point.

"Half Empty Jam" starts with a rhythmic section that could announce something different, so I sit and wait..and wait...and wait.yes they start to increase the speed and the strength, but the sound is the same, so with a bit more of expectation I wait again and yes, MARILLION hits us with everything they have and surely they rock when they want, the drumming is outstanding, and the interplay between drums and guitar is outstanding...Please, somebody who knows the band please tell them that they are good musicians, just a bit of energy and they can make it.

"Thunder Fly" seems like another good song, as in the previous song they are entering into the Alternative territory and they are doing it well, great, a couple of changes, nice keyboards, musical explosions with a Beatles touch, yes they are better than I thought when they want to.

"The Man From the Planet Marzipan" starts promising but is a mirage, soon they fall into that sort of musical numbness, as if it was too much effort to give all they can, even though there is an increase of volume and a nice orchestration, the song never leaves the ground, being that is almost the same 4 or 5 chords repeated constantly. But around the middle there is a real change that makes the song much better until the end with lush keyboards and solid rhythm section.

"Asylum Satellite #1" is a real surprise, at last a full Prog song, starts soft and gentle but with a very interesting structure, even when the vocal section turns a bit less impressive, they manage to keep the interest of the listener, after a short soft break, they attack again with an almost Psyche guitar "a la" Hendrix and an excellent supporting job of the bass, it's a shame that as they approach to the end the song starts to fade until it vanishes, despite this, a very good song.

"Older than Me" is a return to the first songs, slow, boring and predictable, not much to say about it, thanks heaven it's short and leads to "Throw Me Up", which despite not being too strong, at least has an interesting structure and development with some strong musical explosions.

"Half the World" starts promising again with a nice guitar work, soon the vocal and keys join making a very nice interplay and then the volume rises towards a very nice passage where the band gives one of their best team works in the album, great track.

"Whatever Is Wrong with You" falls again in that sort of numbness I spoke about before, despite it has some dramatic and energetic sections, always returns to the beginning choir making it boring. Only at the end they manage to reach the climax.

"Especially True" starts especially boring and sadly doesn't change too much despite the efforts of Steve Rothery who makes some interesting guitar flashes.

The album is closed with "Real Tears for Sale", a proggy song with some folksy flute or dulcimer passages and interesting keyboard work by Mark Kelly, but nothing more to rescue, good but not great as most of the album.

It's clear for me that Disk 2 is far stronger than CD 1, but the question remains, is this enough to give a less than mediocre album more than 1 lonely star? At least for me the answer is no, "Happiness is the Road" doesn't make enough merits to be saved from oblivion, so I will remain with my original rating of 1 star.

I just hope the band starts to focus in the best and more imaginative material and cease to insist with the boring ballads. I'm sure they had enough material for a very good single CD, but sometimes the bands think that more is better, well, I believe not in this case.

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Send comments to Ivan_Melgar_M (BETA) | Report this review (#182374)
Posted Saturday, September 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars The album is average mainly due to poor production. Everything seems to sound the same, everything is so flat. Steve Rothery must have been on vacation when they recorded the album and even if he was in the studion the producer made sure he would be far in the background. Hogarth uses falsetto style way too often, he should have taken the lesson from his attempt at Bridge Over Troubled Water on h natural and stay away from this style. I hope they will change the producer next time as there is so much potential in them.

This is probably the third weakest album next to Radiation and Dotcom.

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Send comments to kantalarski (BETA) | Report this review (#182495)
Posted Monday, September 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
1 stars This was everything I was hoping it wouldn't be, I found it very boring it seemed to drag on for hours and had little to none of the creative inspiration I once turned to this band for hoping to find ! I understand some people may think that my one star rating isn't warranted but I assure you I couldn't find any redeeming quality about this recording and I`m sure in the next few weeks there will be others who feel the same way. The production was awful, the songs were so boring I never want to hear them ever again and the worst part even worse than the stuff I have mentioned is Hogarth ! He keeps getting worse and worse I didn't mind his vocals back in the days of Seasons End I thought Marillion had found themselves a good AOR type singer but of late Hogarths vocals have got hard to listen to he sounds unfocused and he waffles and commits the worst sin his pitch is out when he attempts to rise to any kind of vocal aggression ! This CD encapsulates all I have said perfectly. I hated Happiness is the road and this is the last time I'll bother with this band ! That is unless they sack Hogarth and return to playing prog because this isn't prog its definitely not prog !!!

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Send comments to Fish not H (BETA) | Report this review (#182513)
Posted Monday, September 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's always difficult to talk about Marillion's latest release, because it needs to be listened several times before you understand if you like it or not (anyway this is quite common in prog rock). One of the best things they could do is to add the following advice: "Please DO NOT file this record under Progressive Rock". As the most probably know, really Marillion's music is not ONLY progressive rock, but several influences put together in a wonderful mix full of "good vibrations", touching lyrics and great interpretative power. "Happiness is the Road" is a good double album, but it should be a great single one. Near some very beautiful songs, enriched with the feeling that only Marillion can reach, there are some other of low intensity and importance, sometimes too much low. The two albums are named "Essence" (quite a concept album) and "The Hard Soulder". Every one of them has both its best and meaningless parts.

The album "Essence", after the wonderful intro ("Dreamy Street") rich with pathos, finds its best with the triad starting with "Essence" and ending with "Liquidity" (great newageish atmosphere enriched with psychedelic contribution), after slows down until the title track, quite good, with a touching interpretation by Hogarth, but not more than this.

The album "The Hard Shoulder" has a stunning starting triad. In particular "The Man from Planet Marzipan" has the structure of a mini-suite and is really great. But the sceptre of the best double album track goes to "Asylum Satellite#1", which is pervaded by a mystic atmosphere, mixed with something desperately insane. Wonderful. Then the album sits a little down, passing through the single "Whatever Is wrong with you" which is better than the singles before proposed by Marillion, but in my opinion, under the pass. The last track, "Real Tears For Sale" is a classic Marillion ending track, very good, quite nostalgic.

3.5 Stars, but the half one is for affection and tenderness. Stand straight Marillion!

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Send comments to progpromoter (BETA) | Report this review (#182887)
Posted Friday, September 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Yet another H's MARILLION album.

Well, it's not like I had high hopes for this one. I just download it and listened for few times, just to confirm to myself, that this album is hardly different to any other MARILLION album after 'Seasons End'. Yes, there were some differences from time to time, some better songs, more bad ones, some experiments, more flaws, some catchy melodies and harmonies, more the same ones, and this time we have 20 songs with only 3 or 4 listenable enough to play them few times on repeat. It seems MARILLION want to chart, but they failed once again, losing their face and manner in attempts to sound like COLDPLAY. Poor you old boys, once you were big, and still you can't face that your time had gone. Relax and create music, not make or manufacture it. It could have been better with 8 or 10 songs, but with so many throw-aways it gets only 2 stars from me. What a pity

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Send comments to Prog-jester (BETA) | Report this review (#183274)
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars As a long term Marillion fan (1982), I found this release quite excellent. For the sake of sanity, I am only reviewing this in terms of Hogarth era Marillion. To put my Marillion taste in perspective I did not care for Anoraknophopia and Radiation. My favorite H albums are Seasons, Brave, Afraid, Marbles, Engine, Holidays, Somewhere Else and .Com in that order. I put Happiness is the Road somewhere before or just after Marbles, I haven't decided yet. There are some very strong songs on Happiness, although I like them all. Highlights for me include: This Train is my life- Classic 'H' era Marillion. Trap the Spark reminds me of recent Gabriel. State of Mind harkens to U2 and Gabriel. Let's call them Pop Prog. The clear Prog Songs for me on this album are as follows: Happiness is the Road and The Man From Marzipan which remind me of the Prog portions of 92 and 97 Genesis Albums and perhaps IQ, Asylum Satellite #1 ( The beginning reminds me of early King Crimson and the balance harkens to Pink Floyd), and Real Tears for Sale is well, a classic Marillion Prog song. As a fan of Hogarths voice (as well as Fish), I also enjoyed Throw Me Out, Wrapped Up in Time, and Older than Me. Nothing Fills the hole, Essence and Half Empty Jam don't really fit on this album, but are still decent songs. All in all it is an excellent album.

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Send comments to TWByrne (BETA) | Report this review (#183321)
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
LiquidEternity
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars I picked up this album since it was a free download, and I'm rather glad it was free.

Not being terribly familiar with recent Marillion offerings, I was unaware just how far the band had strayed from anything progressive. Instead, we have a good pop double album with a couple of long songs. Many of the tracks blend together due to their lack of any real individual identity. Melodies seem uninspired and uninteresting. H is a wonderful singer, but he doesn't do much in the way of wonderful singing here. The band plays standard sorts of parts. I know the band is talented. I've heard them create some impressive music over the years. Yet I can't really understand why they are content never to stretch their legs or really get up and boogie. On the whole, I must say, this album is spectacularly dull and that there is really very little to recommend it as a release worth purchasing.

A couple songs are average, though none of them go any beyond merely okay. The best songs start coming at the end of the second disc--guaranteed that you will be mildly catatonic by the time you reach their strongest compositions. Half the World is a neat little song that wouldn't be out of place on a Coldplay album. Whatever Is Wrong with You follows this with some nice chorus melodies, the closest H actually gets to putting some volume and interest in his voice. In fact, if more of the album were like these songs, we'd have something more worthy of looking into. Instead, before and after these tracks, the music sits like noise in a jar of molasses. The Man from Planet Marzipan has a couple of neat moments, but on the whole it suffers from a lack of energy as well.

It's kind of a strange thing to say that a band isn't good enough at writing pop and should instead try their hand at writing prog, but that's the case. Marillion's pop is not very deep or compelling, while when they were the leaders of the neo-prog movement they made some of the best music of the 80s. This album is only for serious fans of modern Marillion. Everyone else will likely be pretty thoroughly bored.

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Send comments to LiquidEternity (BETA) | Report this review (#184474)
Posted Thursday, October 02, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Marillion's latest album is better in my opinion than their previous Somewhere else (2007) album but nevertheless not as good as 2004 Marbles. There are no major surprises, the album sounds in the manner of their post 2000 albums, some songs remind me of Anoraknophobia (The Man from the Planet Marzipan), other of Marbles (the title song especially) and Somewhere Else (Woke Up, Trap this Spark, Especially true to name a few).

The first CD is more mellow, dreamy, dominated by lush keyboards and hints of guitar work (I wish i heard more of Rothery on the first cd, maybe I'm mistaking), Trewavas' bass is great as usual, the drums are surprisingly good; Hogarth's vocals are not as great as they were in the 90s, but still really good. The highlights are for me This train is my life, Essence, Wrapped in Time, Liquidity (I love Kelly's keys here), Trap the Spark and the title track.

The second cd is dominated by guitars, has more energy (which is great). The rhythm section Trewavas/Mosley is really good, Kelly does some nice keys textures, not as dominant as on the first cd though. Rothery's guitars are quite good (although I for one wish there were more solos); Hogarth again does a good job on vocals. Highlights - Thunder Fly, The Man from the Planet Marzipan, AsylumSatellite # 1, Real Tears for Sale - there's nothing wrong with the rest of the songs, the ones I've mentioned just stand out IMO.

I recommend this album to any listener that enjoys the Marillion Hogarth era; as i said, although this release may not be as good as Marbles, there are a lot of great songs to enjoy, the songwriting is really good and I say the same thing goes with the musicianship. Therefore, 4 stars from me.

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Send comments to Cristi (BETA) | Report this review (#185855)
Posted Wednesday, October 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I had a feeling that this was going to be a corker and it is.

The individual performances on this album are the best I've heard on a Marillion album . Rothery's solos are stunningly executed. Kelly's keyboards and attention to detail return to the fold after the sparse Somewhere else album. Trewavas and Mosley sound tighter than ever and for once the drums have good earthy live quality to them.

The material is awesome too. Tracks like Asylum Sattelite, Essence, This Train Is My Life, Thunderfly and Planet Marzipan should leave anyone who hears them moved, stirred and dazzled.

The prodcution and mix is excellent too and the packaging (deluxe edition) is amazing.

I realise there are a lot of superlatives used in this review but when Marillion get an album right they are simply second to none. And this time they've done just that.

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Send comments to La Villa (BETA) | Report this review (#185980)
Posted Thursday, October 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars TRULY PROGRESSIVE - NOT JUST PROG ROCK

This album is truly progressive rock music - not 'prog rock' in the classic sense. Some of the songwriting in this double album achieves a new and unique style and feeling - retaining some of the hallmarks of Marillion sound but evolving to new places. This innovation is particularly evident on disc one, Essence, whilst disc two, The hard Shoulder, displays the full diversity of Marillion's song-writing ability.

DISC ONE - ESSENCE

This disc exceeded all expectations, and the way it is constructed on an evolving, pulsing, ebbing and flowing musical base leads me to believe it contains real musical innovation at its core, as it subtly shifts from ambient jams to epic climaxes.

There are so many musical ideas in the 45 minute journey of tracks 1-10. One of the incredible things is the way in which the music continually evolves within every track. This band never sit back and write simple verse/chorus. Every verse has evolved from the last, every chorus has extra bits in. Even better, and one of the things I love, is that some absolutely wonderful tunes appear just a single time. This fits so beautifully with the concept of the album, that you have to live for the moment and try to catch the spark in life. By far the best example is in 'Wrapped up in Time', where the beautiful 'Echo of You' section comes and then is gone - an evanescent moment. Any other band would have flayed a tune this good to death.

Choosing stand-out moments is near impossible, but 'State of Mind' is perhaps the best individual 'song', 'Essence' would be the track which best represents the spirit and vibe of the whole CD, and the musical climax in 'Woke Up' was the bit that got me spinning round the room and singing my heart out.

DISC TWO - THE HARD SHOULDER

It's amazing that a band that has been around since the early 80s can create a disc of tracks as diverse and modern-sounding as this.

It includes breathtaking musical soundscapes (Asylum Satellite 1), glorious vocal melodies (Half the World), a driving rock anthem (Whatever is Wrong with You) and complex, dense, multi-layered musings on identity and emotional exposure (The Man from the Planet Marizpan, Real Tears for Sale).

Special mention goes to the opening track Thunderfly, in which the band manage to seamlessly merge hook-laden rock with ambient oases of gentle colours and sound, to create a single track which I promise sounds like nothing you will have ever heard before.

There are bands out there approaching their 'difficult second albums' that would kill for material this good - god only knows how Marillion manage to keep this up at their 15th attempt.

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Send comments to yorkiemarillion (BETA) | Report this review (#186488)
Posted Monday, October 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
debrewguy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars First , to start with two points - 1) thank you to those who tore this album apart in initial reviews and posts in various threads. I initially bought it through their digital download as a way of encouraging this distribution model. Once in my possession, I listen & re-listened to it to see if I could understand the backlash against this album and particularly Hogarth era Marillion; 2) I will not do a song by song review. As with many prog albums where atmosphere is part of the appeal (Floyd's WYWH, not to compare the two), I will rate this one on the whole, rather than the parts.

O.K., now that this is out of the way... In many positive reviews of the better Marillion albums since Fish's departure, the reviewer often states that the best starting point is to clear from your mind that you're going to listen to the album as a prog piece of music. I.E., just listen to the music without pre-conceived notions or expectations (thank you & bravo Gatot).

I listen to this album 3-4times a week since I've bought it. Call it melancholy prog, mood prog, pop prog, whatever. Once done, disc one and two, I am calmed. I feel my melancholy (sorry for the repetition) worked through and done with. I feel relaxed. I feel a mellow & peaceful joy.

A day or two later , the album calls to me again. As if to say, let me take you away for an hour and a bit. It has seemed like an oasis. It doesn't present me with complex chord structures to figure out, it doesn't show off virtuosic playing to analyze, it just feels like taking a deep breath and releasing it along with your stresses and cares. Happiness is the Road.

P.S. for those who did purchase the initial digital download, you should have received an email advising you of the availability of an upgraded mp3 - 256bit version , that you can download at no further charge. They are even humble enough to point out some bugs and I quote :

Now, I know what you are gonna say... Those screens at Music Glue look a bit unfinished! Sorry about that, we have put it together very quickly and it still needs a little work on the aesthetic side of things.

P.P.S. AS a comparison, I have also bought the new King's X, Cynic, AC/DC, Metallica albums recently. None have been played as much a Happiness is the Road. And this is from a big AC/DC and King's X fan.

Heck, toss in a few dollars and download it. Tell yourself you're supporting a promising new method of distribution which may bring greater financial support to musicians than the traditional (and dying) physical CD, with its' attendant money grubbing middlemen - the major record label and distributor. Then give it a listen or three while you're reading or posting something to a PA thread. Who knows , eh ?

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Send comments to debrewguy (BETA) | Report this review (#186666)
Posted Wednesday, October 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I must admit I'm an album scanner - when I get a new CD I like to skip through, see if there's some really accessible material and make my first judgement. That was my mistake with Happiness is the Road, sure 'Whatever is wrong with you' is good, and 'Half the World' and 'Real tears for sale' stood out, but the album didnt grab me. Skipping through the Essence CD failed to deliver, then I gave the album more time, in fact about ten repeat plays of CD2 to start with and it really grew on me, until giving CD1 a go and I suddenly realised that this is an album on a par with, dare I say, Marbles. The Essence CD holds together so well - tracks like 'Woke Up', 'Trap the Spark' and 'A state of mind' are great and the album just gets better with each listen. Give this album some time, it may not be an immediate rocker but like Marbles it holds together so well and will stand the test of time as one of h-era Marillion's better albums.

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Send comments to dazkgoodwin (BETA) | Report this review (#186713)
Posted Thursday, October 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
lazland
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I have been a fan of the band since the very start, watching them at The Marquee when Market Square Heroes was released. So, I get a little depressed when people post how disappointed they are with Hogarth. Please[- you will not get Fish, so get over it!!

The new LP is right up there with Brave and Marbles, two works of utter genius, and by far the finest works by the band. Happiness Is The Road comes at a particularly creative period for the band.

I will not review track by track - it would take too long.

The LP is produced magnificently and the soundscapes and atmosphere are intriguing and beautiful. Mark Kelly's work is particularly to the fore in this LP and Steve Rothery is used somewhat sparingly, but, as ever, adds so much. And yes - Steve Hogarth dominates with his vocals, and rightly so. Listen to Essence to see why I regard the man as the greatest vocalist in modern day progressive rock.

So....you will not get any early Genesis sounding tracks (and I love these, by the way). What you get is a modern band still pushingthe boundaries of progressive music and creating true radical music - surely what we are all after?

Download this from the Marillion website. You will not regret it.

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Send comments to lazland (BETA) | Report this review (#187252)
Posted Tuesday, October 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars When I received an offer from the CD inlay of "Somewhere Else" by the time I received the CD from amazon, I said to myself that "I am not gonna pre-order" the next album of Marillion. My words seemed come true after I had listened to "Somewhere Else" for a couple of times even though my chief reason for not preordering was previously that I was afraid the band would not keep their promise like they did with my Marillion "Marbles". Well, you know my rating for "Somewhere Else" at this site and I really hoped the band comes back to form like what they did with "Marbles", at least. There was great song from Marbles that I cannot deny .it's called "Drilling hole" and it's truly a masterpiece. I was quite happy that the band still could compose the music brilliantly with their Drilling Hole track. There was another excellent track "The Invisible Man" as well as nice pop song "Don't Hurt Yourself". Unfortunately, I cannot find here in this "Happiness Is The Road" album.

It's OK at track level

Trouble with this new album by Marillion is that you will find some good individual track but not good as an album in its entirety. Why? I tend to get bored because the music does not seem to move in energetic way from one track to another. There sounds like no balance between hi and low points, everything moves in a flat mode. I presume you would say that there are nice songs at the first three tracks "Dreamy Street", "This Train Is My Life" and "Essence". I would guarantee you would love them individually or in fact the three of them played consecutively. But then try spinning the album until the end of disc one, I would suspect you would be bored with the mellow style in almost every single track or you turn sleepy while the music is playing. The more I spin the album, I find some other track is good at track level. That means, every time I play this album, I should not play the whole album in its entirety. Rather I should select three songs and play other music and then play another three tracks and so on and so forth. Otherwise, I get bored. By the time I am writing this review, my Sennheiser PX-100 is playing "Especially True" of disc two that sounds excellent to my ears. But how come when I played the album in its entirety I could not feel the same thing about this song? It's because the music has lost its beauty when it's played in its entirety.

Crossover Prog?

Since their Anoraknophobia album the band proclaimed their departure from being neo progressive band. However, they actually did not create new sub-genre of prog music because the music was bit of Radiohead-like, not something unique, Marillion sound. The music direction is more towards what so called as Crossover Prog (progressive music in crossroad? Well, you may guess it .). Unfortunately, the kind of music Marillion makes nowadays is something that has Muse, Radiohead or U2 in it, nothing special about it. I know, Mr H voice is quite unique and I admit that. But it does not really help the overall composition of the music.

As a matter of fact, while I played this album (it has been a month already) I also played the music of Kayak at the same time period. Let me tell you, I'd rather play Kayak's "Starlight Dancer" or "Daughter or Son" or "Daphne (Laurel Tree)" or "Woe and Alas" than Marillion "Happiness is The Road". Kayak is a crossover prog band with its tendencies of being pop, but it's really enjoyable compared to Happiness Is The Road.

Straight forward structure

Most musical compositions offered here with this album are straight forward in structure. This is different with their excellent "marbles" album where you can find many tracks with curved structure like "The Invisible Man" or the masterpiece "Drilling Hole". But here you will not find such track. In fact the title track "Happiness Is The Road" is actually a nice track but it's too straight forward in structure, even though the melody is quite good actually. One crucial thing that is missing is also the lack of inspiring interlude. In fact there is barely no interlude at all in all music offered here with this album.

Conclusion

If I put more negative words on the above review, it does not mean that this is a bad album. It might be my expectation is high with this band. I have been emotionally involved with the band since the day of its debut album release in 1983, and the reason I am still listening to this album is because of my emotional involvement. I was disappointed when Fish left but I tried to love H era as well. Most of my colleagues who preordered this album have the same reason: "emotional involvement" with the band. They feel guilty is they don't order and especially they don't want the band they have loved so far die or turn to dust. Unfortunately, I am quite disappointed with the band's recent music direction - no energy, no power, no killing melody. As a matter of fact right after reviewing this album there is an energetic and heavy music that embraces my ears and when I look at song list at my iTunes, it's Megadeth's "Holy Wars .The Punishment Due" .it cheers me up! (even though it's not prog at all. Well, actually Happiness Is The Road is not prog album also ..).

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW (i-Rock! Music Community)

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#187774)
Posted Monday, November 03, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars After listining to this CDs several times at home and in my car since September, in my opinion it gets better day by day, even my wife, who doesn't like Marillion, likes some of the songs. HitR is no Marbles and and off course no Brave, but it's better than most of the H-era Marillion CDs. Many of the reviews i read compare todays Marillion again and again with the Fish-era. I think, that's not only boring, it's really not fair as Marillion are alive (instead of Fish, who's repeating only himself and the Marillion-material), even if they are doin' less prog than in the old days. So, don't judge H, just listen to the music. And that's the prog faktor, Marillion developed their sound year by year. In one of the former reviews i read the question, how they manage it that one song sounds like the others. Since listining HitR so often, i can't find any song which sounds like other. The only thing, a lot of songs are sharing is a little dark or melancholy mood, simulary to Marbles.

Maybe, it would have been better, not to release SE in 2007, HitR in my ears is a well done follow up to Marbles, SE instead was a fallback to Radiation or Com times, just an (unnessesary) filler.

Again the question, is HitR really prog? I think yes, it's prog like (nowadays) Porcupine Tree or Radiohead, not prog in the terms of early 70's or even the 80's neo-prog!

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Send comments to Abominog (BETA) | Report this review (#188164)
Posted Thursday, November 06, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars After listening to Happiness is the Road a few times I've come to regard it as a very good album, much better than Somewhere Else. So far the reviews have really not been fair. I think people are still expecting Marillion to revert to the neo-prog Fish days, and that's not going to happen.

After a few years Marillion seems to have seemlessly absorbed other influences and managed to sound like no one else. Where you hear Marillion now you know it's Marillion, not a regressive neo-prog band playing the same stuff over and over again.

Musically they have matured so much since the Fish days; especially Steve Rothery. People have complained his guitar is somewhat absent on this album, but it isn't he's managed to create more sounds and textures and grown exponentially since the early days. On the first 5 Marillion albums the solos were great, but they all began to sound the same.

Musically this a much more varied album than Somewhere Else with Mark Kelly creating some great soundscapes and Pete Trewavas and Ian Mosely sounding much more alive. The songs take you on a journey; I find you really can't judge this album on the first listen which I feel many have on PA.

I find this album more complete than the last couple as there are no dreadful rockers like Most Toys, the Genie or the Damage. It really sounds like they crafted something this time out as each song seems extremely well thought out. The highlights for me are Happiness is the Road, ThunderFly, Planet Marzipan and Real Tears for Sale. Whatever is Wrong With You is their best single since the Marbles album and A State of Mind would and should be a hit.

I would give this album 5 stars if it were not for H's constant use of his falsetto, but he has learned he can not sing past his range, if he tries to scream or sing too loud he loses any tonality in his voice.

Overall an excellant album that rewards repeat listens:)

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Send comments to Wanorak (BETA) | Report this review (#188188)
Posted Thursday, November 06, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Happiness is up there with Clutching At Straws, Brave and Marbles as one of the great marillion albums. It sounds great in the studio version - spacey, open production - and also live - check out the downloads of the happiness on the road tour.

The concept part Essence builds slowly through the first few tracks then bursts into excitement and tunefulness on Nothing fills the Hole, Woke Up, Trap the Spark, State of mind and culminating in the title track - wonderful.

The Hard Shoulder disc is more immediate with a serious of strong and quirky songs, my favourites being Thunder Fly, Half the World and Real Tears for Sale, though this changes as I become more and more familiar with the album.

It needs 10-15 listens before it is really there in the mind, but it's a fabulous album and I highly recommend it.

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Send comments to ProgmanT (BETA) | Report this review (#188889)
Posted Wednesday, November 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars To me an essential element of a great prog album is it's longevity and depth. I feel that some of the reviewers so far have either reviewed it after the first couple of plays or based their opinion on listening to a downloaded version.

Having pre-ordered the album I had a listen and it didn't immediately grab me at all. Much of it was pretty indistinguishable at first. However I felt obliged to listen to it more and more. So worthwhile - I played disc 2 over and over in the background and then disc 1. It's so really grown on me. It's a fantastic album of varying soundscapes and ideas - i'm still learning about this album. There are a few tunes on the album that may never completely get me but many that will be a pleasure to listen to fo many years to come and (having heard them sung in Manchester last night) know that will also be great tunes to see and hear live. (Steve Hogarth is a genius at work when watching him live)

Given the level of patience that some reviewers seem to have I would have passed over Script and Duke and Foxtrot and would never have been a fan of prog for the past 20+ years.

Also surely by now if you've decided that you only liked Marillion with Fish in it then don't bother buying albums 20 years down the line expecting some kind of return to this and then being disappointed. They're a fantastic band - they were back then and they are now but musically they've moved on so much - which by definition makes them a great prog band.

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Send comments to barnimup (BETA) | Report this review (#189403)
Posted Saturday, November 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars I cannot understand this band anymore - what is the use of producing and releasing the same type of unadventurous albums over and over again. There is nothing new or original compared to MARBLES and SOMEWHERE ELSE - so if you liked those albums then you should like this also.

I cry out for the days of BRAVE - it seems light years away today from a compositional perspective.

I also see no use for the 2CD project - wasn't one CD enough for this type of music ?

Be careful before you go for this - you could be disappointed as you would expect something different and better from the MARILLION monicker.

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Send comments to tanc66 (BETA) | Report this review (#190471)
Posted Tuesday, November 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Sold as individual volumes in the U.S. I find Happiness Is The Road to be a nice rebound from "Somewhere Else". Having listened to both albums multiple times it grows on me as a good musical work should. This Train Is My Life and Happiness Is The Road are personal favorites from Vol-1. While much is dismissed regarding marillion's progressive stature I disagree with most positions taken. Progressive music was about change within the band's making of music as much as within the style of music they took. I find a certain soulfulness in Hogarth's vocals. He also has the distinction, or perhaps misfortune, of having a highly distinctive vocal style and timbre. It took some time for me to get used to from other albums based back in the '90s, but now that I know that style, I look forward to it. Disc 1 is a bit more somber and low key, mind you, the dynamics are wonderful and artfully executed with some of my favorite playing from guitarist Steve Rothery. In fact, the overall sound quality and tightness are more than enough to impress most non-progressive rock listeners, and believe me, I've turned a lot of them on to Marbles and now both volumes of Happiness Is The Road. There are many excellent but mostly subtle moments on Disc-1. and Disc-2. although I think Disc-1 is a bit more accomplished in terms of writing.

As for Disc-2., and in answer to tanc66's review posted here, I see plenty use for two CDs being released as Disc-2 the hard shoulder is considerably different in feel and substance. It is a much harder rocking album with more traditional song forms that still bear the Progressive mantle, instead of doing so with intense arrangements and musical largess, the songs use the same mix of traditional rock forms and progressive elements. Having paid less attention to the song titles I can't nail down all my favorites but I do remember liking Real Tears For Sale and Asylum Satellite #1. I like The Man From The Planet Marzipan but don't think it's one of Hogarth's best moments writing lyrics.

I don't consider 4 or 5 listens per album to be close to definitive, but I know that both have grown on me with each listen as I find new and rich segments I didn't catch the other times around. If people are judging this double set based of downloads, forget it, the sound quality matters quite a bit. In general the layering and overall production is nicely done and one of the parts about both CDs that make them so enjoyable to listen to. Before throwing these two fine albums on the slag heap that so many commercial artists put out, trust me, there is quality in all areas of the musical spectrum. As usual, the band play marvelously with a crushingly tight rhythm section. Pete Trewavas is incredibly a underrated bassist who together with Ian Mosley on drums put down some of the tastiest rhythmic arrangements. The keyboard and synth work are also excellent, not only in their tasteful arrangements but also in choice of timbres and creative use of sounds and the right places to put them. Rothery's guitar work is excellent with a fine range of tones and clever use of effects. The band plays with great precision and heart. It's one of the things that can be missed by fans of more dazzling bands. If you listen critically, one thing you'll notice is how well everything is arranged. There isn't much, if any, noodling to be found on either album. Hogarth, depending on your viewpoint visa vi whether he is a good fit for marillion, a foregone conclusion if you discuss their work since he joined the band, may be accused of overdoing things, particularly on CD-1's unnamed hidden track, but it is an extra, and it sounds good in a psychedelic Beatles phase kind of way.

The lyrics and their delivery are mostly exceptional to fine and again, Rothery is almost a perfect ambassador for the slow and steady, melodic guitarist that knows where to put a lead, or fill, or rhythm guitar fill, although some guitar was played by Trewavas. I take mild exception to some reviewers that miss the point of good music by people that know what they are doing and complete 100+ minutes of fine material...counting both CDs. It's fair to say it isn't your cup of tea, or that you miss the more traditional progressive music by marillion. I take artists work for what it is. I can accept people that find the songs uninteresting or bland, but it's nice to know why one thinks that way.

As for comparisons to Marbles: no, Happiness Is The Road is not Marbles, nor should be. For me Marbles was the high mark of marillion's work for many years. It was a wonderful listen and fantastic to see live, as was the live DVD promoting the album. Still, Happiness Is The Road is it's own set of moods and moments. It would have made a better follow up to Marbles than Somewhere Else, but there's probably people that disagree on that assessment which is perfectly fine with me. These are reviews after all.

Before some of you go writing Happiness Is The Road, give it a couple more listens, there's some really fine music awaiting. For those who just can't - or won't - give it a listen or two in a few months. These songs may take a while to sink in but they are worthwhile. If a new band's name were credited to these two volumes, I suspect people would be recommending these two new albums, strangely released as different volumes.

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Send comments to x_bruce (BETA) | Report this review (#190547)
Posted Wednesday, November 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
Moatilliatta
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars After stumbling a bit with their previous release, Marillion get back on track with their second double-disc album, Happiness Is the Road. The album is actually comprised of two unrelated discs that are more the result of the band overflowing with ideas than anything else. The first disc, titled Essence is a conceptual disc, in which songs flow together and revolve around the theme of celebrating life while the second disc, The Hard Shoulder is a disc of individual songs that still function together very well. The sound shows the band continuing on the atmospheric, progressive pop- rock path they embarked on in the 21st century but expanding their textural palette through some added instrumentation and a more diverse set of songs.

Happiness Is the Road may not be perfect, but it is overall very consistent and a large quantity of songs featured on each of these two discs is of the highest caliber. I'm quite shocked at the negative reception this album is getting; it really doesn't seem deserved. I think what the band has done here is taken the shorter, highly pop-tinged sound of Somewhere Else's bulk and refined it, and the dark, brooding, spacey sound of the remainder of that album and made it more dynamic & epic. I don't want to analyze all of the tracks here, but suffice it to say that all of the tracks are good, and most are great. "Dreamy Street" sets the perfect mood for the first disc and the album really, and "Real Tears for Sale" ends the album with such power and emotion that only Marillion is capable of expressing. The band starts to slip in the middle of each disc but they manage to stay upright both times. I don't skip through any tracks. Odd as it may seem, the band is possibly more consistent on double-disc albums than they are on single discs.

Marillion has always been on the vanguard of creative means of disbrution, so it should not have come as a surprise when they announced that they would release their album for free before it's official release. I don't know if the band's sales went up as a result of their experiment or not, but I hope they did. The band has been working hard for years, and though they have a track record of inconsistency, when they're on, they're on. And they are definitely on on Happiness Is the Road.

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Send comments to Moatilliatta (BETA) | Report this review (#191859)
Posted Friday, December 05, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars For me, Marillion is a band like no other in that it has the power to monumentally both overjoy and dissapoint... this time, its a big dissapointment.

There is a certain unfinished feeling that pervades this album, its songwriting being repetative, unambitious, and performed in such a way that it becomes introverted. The persistent sombre feel makes it difficult to make an impression, and even more difficult for the listener to connect with the lyrics. Even the band seems uninterested in these songs, since they lack literal and figurative depth in their sound and timbre.

Rothery pretty much phones this one in, his rare solos bouncing right off the listener, while the rhythm section feels lost-- like they're going through the motions without knowing what direction the album is suppossed to be going. The song's laid-back, wishy-washy feel makes it sound like they're playing time in many sections.

While song writing remains the largest problem, Hogarth's usually stellar performance does nothing to turn the tide. He sounds very tired, detatched-- off in his own world crooning out half-finished lyrics without caring about the listener. After his amazing singing in Marbles and the only slightly less amazing Somewhere Else, this is a big let-down for me.

A few highlights don't make up for two-discs of filler, which unfortunetly puts the sombre Happiness is the Road near the bottom of Marillion's offerings.

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Send comments to Prog Leviathan (BETA) | Report this review (#192574)
Posted Wednesday, December 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 4.5 stars for "Essence" and barely 4 stars for "The Hard Shoulder". The music and the lyrics are so positive and emotional on the first disc "Essence". It's very atmospheric and it really plays out like one piece of music. It took me many listens to really get into it but i'm hooked now. The second disc is a collection of unrelated songs really that are more immediate and catchy. I can see why a lot of people would enjoy the second disc right away, but for me it's not as good or consistant overall. By the way the pictures in the liner notes on these cds are both thought provoking and beautiful.

"Dreamy Street" is my least favourite song on here which is disappointing considering it's the first song. It's only 2 minutes long though. Piano and vocals lead the way on this one. "This Train Is My Life" is relaxed with a beat and vocals to start. It does get fuller 1 1/2 minutes in and it sounds amazing. It's even better before 3 1/2 minutes. So much emotion. Nice guitar solo follows. "Essence" builds from a whisper to a full sound then settles again 2 1/2 minutes in. It then builds again to a good guitar/vocal section 4 minutes in. I like when Hogarth shouts "Live in the moment or you'll never be free". Nice. "Wrapped Up In Time" has lots of atmosphere as reserved vocals come in after 1 1/2 minutes. A fuller sound 3 minutes in. "Liquidity" is an instrumental of piano and lots of atmosphere. Beautiful. "Nothing Fills The Hole" is interesting the way the vocals and sound get clearer as it plays out. Like a picture coming into focus. A calm before 2 minutes to the end. "Woke Up" features prominant guitar as vocals join in. Love this song. "Trap The Spark" opens with a relaxed sound and vocal melodies before Hogarth starts to sing. I really like when it calms down 1 1/2 minutes with piano. Another great section 4 1/2 minutes in as guitar and piano play out.

"A State Of Mind" features light drums and keys with the sounds of nature. Vocals join in. I like it ! My favourite lyrics on the album are on this one. Check out the passion 3 1/2 minutes in. "Happiness Is The Road" is easily the longest track at 10 minutes. Floating synths to open as fragile vocals join in. Emotional section. Drums before 3 1/2 minutes. Piano and guitar join in as well. Vocals follow and they become more passionate 5 minutes in, especially on the chorus. Pure emotion before 7 1/2 minutes. Check out the line "And each baby-a human sunrise". There is a hidden track called "Half Full Jam" which has it's focus on the vocals early. Strings come in. It kicks in 2 1/2 minutes in. Great sound. Emotional vocals, and check out the drumming !

On "The Hard Shoulder" there's a song called "Especially True" where Hogarth sings about watching baseball (my favourite sport). Anyway it's pretty humerous. If your into atmospheric music with great lyrics and plenty of emotion, then this is a must have.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#192751)
Posted Saturday, December 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars optimism is the key...

in fact, steve hogarth's apparent new found happiness is the key to the success of this album, following a rather hollow period in his life that is probably better documented elsewhere, which, as we all know has resulted in the utterly dreary, bland and whiny "somewhere else" in 2007. i came down really hard on that album in my review of it here, but, still being a huge fan and supporter of the lads that have provided an at times perfect soundtrack to all of my adult life, i thought that it would only be fair to give this all new offering a concise and critical dissertation.

and i'll go straight for the jugular: set one, "essence" is a straight ***** in my book.

it is virtually faultless, the warm ambience of its soundscapes, ideas and lyrics literally carries one off to a better place, if necessary, or even enhances the one that one's enjoying at the moment of listening. songs, if they can be called that, flow into each other and often rarely touch more than just one grand idea before the mood swings once more - it is rather like one big mantra, with h murmuring forth his ideas of finding solace and his inner sanctum, yet never preachy or obnoxious, but always within the context of the music, once more tastefully and masterfully presented by his bandmates. once more, newness and discovery prevails throughout with the new stax and marvin gaye influences that occur during parts of "nothing fills the hole" and "a state of mind". the haunting and chiming CP70 piano in "liquidity" will stay with the listener for a long time - hey, even the rough and ready and only very slightly silly hidden track "half full jam" only enhances "essence" as it brings everything back down to earth, albeit with many great ideas and those little whimsical details that marillion have become so good at.

mind you, though - "the hard shoulder", set 2, goes some way in dragging down the mark a little and it's slightly tarnishing influence will finally earn this album a good *** bordering on ****.

here we find many of these indie-ish ideas that marillion frequently dish out to prove that they can still cut it with the hippest of them without paying too much attention to the correct hair style (i am being cynical of course), however, never quite hitting the mark. the late60s psychedelia of "thunder fly" (complete with vox continental organ) has some nice movements and a lovely garage-y production yet ultimately seems to go nowhere, as does "the man from planet marzipan", which can be very very good indeed at times. latter day marillion fans will find plenty to enjoy, but it is a good idea of approaching this band with a clean slate and not a history of two decades of listening.

some songs like "older than me" and "real tears for sale" are quite lovely at times - but it is the stunning center piece of that CD, the sprawling space blues ambience of "asylum satellite #1" that grabs the high score. and, just like on "somewhere else" our big friend steven rothery totally steals the show on this one, as in many more great moments on these CDs. he seems to mature in his guitar playing like good wine and offers a stunning display of taste, mastery, innovation and creativity. like a great artist he paints the canvas laid out for him by the others, who are just as masterful in their performances.

one day, somebody will spray "rothers is god" onto a tube station wall - and we'll all acknowledge it with a knowing smirk...

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Send comments to iguana (BETA) | Report this review (#193867)
Posted Tuesday, December 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
maani
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Founding Moderator
3 stars Like some others, I, too, am shocked at the generally negative comments about this album. And I am as deep a Marillion fan as anyone. First, however, let me get the quibbles out of the way.

I agree with those who feel the album is not well recorded. In fact, there seems to be something amiss with the EQ, as volumes and relative volumes seem to change from track to track, and there is an overall (but only slight) "muddiness" to the recording. (In fact, had the production been better, I would have given the album four stars.) I also feel that the segues between songs on the first disk are a bit too amorphous: they could (and should) have been more "specific." Finally, I agree with those who feel that H overuses his falsetto: it is a wonderful tool, but its overuse causes it to lose its expressive power.

That said, the suggestion that this album is not "progressive" enough is bizarre: if anything, there is almost TOO much creativity going on. And although one could quibble that that creativity is not always as well-realized or cohesive as it might have been, HITR is unquestionably the most "thoughtful," creative and PROGRESSIVE album since AOS (with the sole exception of Marbles). And I agree with the reviewer who noted that the album has a sort of "melancholy" feeling about it. But that is fine with me, since that feeling is the same one I get from Brave - which to my mind is the best H-era album of all, and among the best progressive rock concept albums ever.

Re the musicianship, I agree with La Villa, who noted the superb performances. Rothery may seem "AWOL" at times, but this is a misperception. Not only are his solos among the best - and most urgent - he has ever done, but he has never been more "Hackett-like" in his subtle contributions to the overall sound. Mosley is simply amazing here, more present and "crisp" than he tends to be, and he meshes with Trewavas better than the two have in quite some time. But this is definitely Kelly's album: not only are there lots of great piano parts, but his atmospheres and textures, both overt and subtle, are among the best I have heard from him.

Although I will not go song by song, the standouts for me on disc 1 are This Train, Essence, Woke Up, Trap the Spark, and the title track. [N.B. The "Half-Way Jam" - which is superb - appears on disc 1, at track 12. Amusingly, track 11 is two minutes of silence.] The two obvious standouts on disc 2 are The Man from Planet Marzipan and Asylum Satellite #1. Both of these hark back to AOS in many ways, both lyrically and sonically (amusingly, Marzipan is the first title food reference since Gazpacho). Also interestingly, if you tweak the production just a bit, both are amazingly Bowie-ish (the Eno period) - one could even imagine Bowie singing them.

All the other songs on disc 2 are about women and/or relationships. And H (romantic that he is) is as masterful with his lyrics here as the band is masterful with its arrangements. There is the lovely Older Than Me, the weirdly Beatlesque Throw Me Out, the playful Half The World, the amusingly ironic Whatever Is Wrong With You, and the sardonic Especially True. Oddly, the band chose to put the most "depressing" song last, as Real Tears For Sale is almost too painful to listen to.

As noted, although it does not measure up to Marbles, HITR is without question Marillion's most creative and progressive album since Afraid of Sunlight. A better production would have lifted it even further. But it nevertheless stands as a solid contribution from the band, and a must-have release from them.

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Send comments to maani (BETA) | Report this review (#198525)
Posted Monday, January 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Happiness Is The Road, Vol. 1: Essence

This album just keeps on growing on me each time I hear it. The dynamics are subtle and the general tone of the album is soft and slow, but it avoids the inconsistencies of some other Marillion efforts. I don't hear any "pop-prog" on this one - I hear a continuous flow of music linked together by lyrical subject matter, and a series of short instrumental interludes. For the purposes of this review, I divide the album into four sections, the first three marked by a pairing of songs that contrast a negative and positive view of life.

1. Dreamy Street/This Train is my Life/Essence

After a short and evocative introduction (Dreamy Street), the album launches into one of the best songs. This Train is my Life looks at the discontinuity of life (especially a life on the road), and builds subtlely towards a great climax with a superb guitar solo from Steve. It then flows into Essence, which expresses the desire to find the underlying essence of things. This too starts quietly and builds towards an inspiring chorus at the end: "sit in silence and watch the sky." This song speaks to me on a personal level that affects me in the way that Yes songs affect me with its big cinematic climax.

2. Wrapped up in Time/Liquidity/Nothing Fills the Hole/Woke Up

Wrapped up in Time also begins with a brief, rather psychedelic, instrumental intro dominated by Mark's keyboards before launching into a nostalgic and emotional song of lost pasts. This contrasts with Woke Up, the two songs linked by a bridging section of shorter sketches: the instrumental Liquidity and the up-tempo Nothing Fills the Hole, which leads into an atmospheric link to Woke Up, a song of revelation. The passage ends with an Eastern influenced closer that suggests a mystical form of awakening.

3. Trap the Spark/A State of Mind

This is the most conventional section, with two relatively straightforward songs - one resigned to the inability to pin down the spark of life, the essence, and the other recognising that it really is a "state of mind". Trap the Spark ends with a strong solo from Steve which lifts it out of its melancholy and adds a harder edge. A State of Mind is another uplifting song, and the closest the band comes to rocking out towards the close.

4. Happiness is the Road

This ten-minute epic ends the album without coming down strongly on the side of negative or positive. The long slow opening seems to suggest a positive message, with words of hope for a new day dawning. It then leads into a poweful middle section describing h's encounter with a therapist which intersperses a number of shorter segments between the verses. The most striking of these is the segment that follows "and each baby, a human sunrise" with the full band playing one of the most moving parts of the album. The song concludes with some very strong drum work from Ian.

"Essence" ends inconclusively - unless you got the download version, which contains an extra track, the "Half Empty Jam", where the band allow themselves to rock for once. Of course, it really isn't the end, since Volume 2, The Hard Shoulder follows, but that's another story - and an even better one than Essence.

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Send comments to Andrew A. (BETA) | Report this review (#203594)
Posted Wednesday, February 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
RP
3 stars I had high hopes for this album after the rather disappointing Somewhere Else. There are some wonderful highlights across the 2 CD's but honestly, this could have been a brilliant single album rather than an average double. I believe that Marillion function best when Steve Hogarth isn't allowed to dominate the output and sadly, there are too many self-indulgent pieces on here, particularly The Man from Planet Marzipan, which Hogarth amazingly describes as one of their strongest ever songs.

Amongst this, there are moments of sublime quality, these being Asylum Satellite #1, which really is one of the best ever Hogarth-era songs and This Train Is My Life. Too much of Steve Rothery's guitar playing is low-key on the album. Sorry, but I expect a few sublime soaring solos from Marillion and these aren't delivered here. Long term fans like myself will of course purchase the album, but it left me wishing for a few tracks less and not more for once. 3 stars is a fair review for me.

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Send comments to RP (BETA) | Report this review (#205593)
Posted Friday, March 06, 2009 | Review Permalink
hvk
5 stars This absolutely one of the best albums, which I have ever listened - and there are very many. I can't understand reviewers, who listen album two times and give judgement album: progressive music takes time to grow.

Kelly and Rothery seem to be primus motors of the band and I have learned to accept Hogarths voice and even like it nowadays (at first I thougth Hogarths voice spoils Marillions great music).

But the music is the best, there is an incredible amount of good tracks on these two albums. I like tracks like 'The man from the planet Marzipan', 'Asylum satellite', 'Trap this spark', 'This train', 'Happiness is the road', 'Essence', 'Thunderfly'...

The album is absolutely underrated.

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Send comments to hvk (BETA) | Report this review (#206280)
Posted Wednesday, March 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Two albums in two years, and this latest one ends up as a double feature ? Marillion are known to be notoriously slow with the creative process, yet they seem to have been inspired by some secret muse through 2007 into 2008. Surely some of this output must simply be filler, an effort to appease a hungry fandom ? But no, this assumption fails and they are truly writing music that is nothing less than passionate and exiting. How they are doing it does not matter, I'm just grateful that it is happening. Happiness Is The Road is a excellent listen from start to stop. To follow up 2007's fine Somewhere Else so quickly , the band must have somehow discovered some way of writing together that just.....well,....works ! There are new sounds on this record, and it has a really interesting vibe as well. The Essence disk has more flow throughout relative to CD2, The Hard Shoulder, but even then, it's a toss between them which is the better listen. In comparison, Marbles ( 2004 ), their last double-disk, had grander peaks, but it also slipped down a bit lower. A few spins and I'm certain quite a few of the new tunes will rattle around in your mind. The next thing you know your pass-port will be stamped and you'll be off to The Planet Marzipan. Final words for the road.....fun and inspirational.

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Send comments to Progfan1958 (BETA) | Report this review (#210958)
Posted Friday, April 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Happiness Is The Road: Essence

Rather than being a wannabe-pop album, as some state, Happiness Is The Road: Essence should be regarded as one song: each track flows on into the next one...

Essence commences with an introduction consisting of 2 beautiful tracks (Dreamy Street / This Train Is My Life), which let us know what, according to h, the problem is with us.

The solution-track (Essence) brings us a powerful intro, which changes into a bit cheesy chorus, yet the theme of the track is obvious, which is its sole purpose. All songs on Essence evolve around this thing which clearly had been on h's mind for quite some time: where has the pure essence -The Happiness- gone?

The closing song (apart from the bonus track Half Empty Jam) is where it all comes together: h explains, after a short recapitulation of the entire CD, where this concept of his all started: Utrecht, Netherlands. (NOTE: the whole key-vocal intro was in fact just a jam!)

"Happiness ain't at the end of the road: Happiness is the road." - h

Happiness Is The Road: The Hard Shoulder

The second disc of this MARILLION album is just a bunch of songs, with some outstanding highlights as: "The Man From The Planet Marzipan", "Asylum Satellite #1", "Especially True" and "Real Tears For Sale".

The Man From The Planet Marzipan starts after some tingling with a powerful, a bit clumsy sounding bass line, however if you carefully listen to the bass you'll notice some nice loops, etc., which you would probably haven't noticed due to the fact that they simply don't stand out next to the overwhelming base-bass-line of the song. It has a beautiful MARILLION bridge at 3:08, and builds nice and slowly to a climax, with yet another bridge in the bridge just before a gentle, pre-climatic explosion penetrates your ears.

Asylum Satellite #1 creates a nice spacey environment in its instrumental prologue, gentle vocals and sad lyrics accompany the listener through a timeless space, the understanding depth of the vocals summons sympathy for those left there. A beautiful, epical song.

Especially True is just an ordinary love song, about some guy and girl who could never be together due to the different environment where they were raised. It's a typical Romeo & Julliet story, yet in a modern way. It commences fairly tranquil to fall in a wave of anger and frustration at 2:50.

Real Tears for Sale is the story of Britney Spears, just take a listen to this song: emotion will surround you.

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Send comments to Basíleia (BETA) | Report this review (#212111)
Posted Wednesday, April 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
E-Dub
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Unlike when Somewhere Else was released and felt I wanted to get a review in immediately, I wanted to give Marillion's 2008 release Happiness Is The Road a good long soak (probably a bit too long). I thought people were hasty and a bit harsh on Somewhere Else, but the popular opinion was that the follow-up to the masterful Marbles (2004) fell way short, so everyone was wondering if Marillion would 'right the ship', so to speak.

Happiness Is The Road is divided into 2 separate albums: Essence and The Hard Shoulder. As both embody different characteristics, I feel it's only fair to judge them separately rather than a cohesive whole. The first disc, Essence, is more conceptual touching upon spirituality and the search for something more. Much like numerous Marillion albums (especially since Steve Hogarth came on), the listener is eased into a warm tranquil state with "Dreamy Street", which is a short meditation that leads directly into "Train Is My Life". A brilliant track that isn't very musically dynamic, but flows very nicely and picks up a bit. The title track "Essence" is a very interesting track, while Hogarth implores us to 'Choose life. Choose living,' the song acts as if it's going to really kick in, but relaxes a bit. And if anyone thinks that Hogarth's vocals have diminished only needs to hear this song with it's triumphant climax. Beautiful track.

The middles section of Essence gets trippy with "Wrapped Up In Time" through the Motown (Yes, I said 'Motown') influenced "Nothing Fills The Hole". "Wrapped Up In Time" is absolutely stunning, yet unassuming. The music just sort of sways for 5 minutes. Funny track as I can't say it's a favorite, but so very pleasant. Sandwiched between this and "Nothing Fills The Hole" is the cohesive "Liquidity", which is a musical interlude between songs.

Essence finishes off strongly with "Woke Up", "Trap The Spark", "State Of Mind" and "Happiness Is The Road". Up until now, Marillion haven't really let it fly. "Woke Up" is my personal 'sleeper track', with swirling keyboard work from Kelly and the undeniable slide work of Steve Rothery. Just absolutely killer! "Trap The Spark" continues with exquisite arrangement that solidifies what I love about this band. Hogarth has been exercising his right to the falsetto throughout Essence, and the guy can still hit those high marks.

The album closes with one of my favorites in "State Of Mind", which starts off a bit jazzy (like maybe a Keane song), but really changes into a sonic orgy for the senses with the band exploding at the end with Rothery's guitar cutting right through and powerful lead vocals by h. Not played on the Happiness On The Road tour, Marillion did perform this live at both conventions and it works brilliantly in a live setting. This and "Real Tears For Sale" are instant classics for me.

Side 1 closes with the soft and soulful "Happiness Is The Road", a 10 minute therapy session pumping us with optimism. The first few minutes showcases the synth heaven of Kelly and h's voice. Mark Kelly gets my MVP vote for this song, as his orchestrated textures add so much to the meaning of this song.

Wrapping up Essence, I find it to be masterful, exciting and yet another layer explored by Marillion. I find it funny to hear people refusing this incarnation of Marillion because Fish is no longer a part of this band; however, Marillion continue to push the envelope, refusing to become a dinosaur band by trying new things and refusing to settle. Essence is unlike anything they've ever attempted. Highly respect this band. 10/10 rating.

Disc 2, The Hard Shoulder, still remains an enigma with me. As some songs just strike me immediately with exhilarating musicianship, production and arrangements, some songs just seems like throwaways and I tilt my head in wonderment on how they could've made it. These songs keep Happiness Is The Road as an album to be considered a masterpiece like Marbles, Brave and Misplaced Childhood.

The first three songs start off very promising with the rocking "Thunder Fly", "Man From The Planet Marzipan" and "Asylum Satellite #1". From what I've gathered with talking with others is these three songs will ultimately be favorites and live staples for a while. These songs confirm that Marillion still have the 'it' factor with progressive bands--exploring other ways of making a statement without dipping into the same old bag of ingredients. "Asylum Satellite #1" is especially interesting, and hopefully not a true prediction of the future where people of different viewpoints are exiled to a far off satellite because they no longer belong on Earth. And while I agree that we need more Rothery, he does pull off one of his most memorable solos, and one that he truly enjoys playing live.

Now, this is where The Hard Shoulder starts to lose me. Sprinkled in the next several songs are some gems, like "Half The World" and "Whatever Is Wrong With You". But songs like "Older Than Me", Throw Me Out" and "Especially True" just leave me cold. I've tried and tried, but feel they have no place being included. "Especially True" shows promise with some nice guitar work from Rothers, but the lyrics are 'silly', for lack of a better word. This is where I lose a step with this album. But, it does end on a very promising note.

I'm reserving this spot for the amazing "Real Tears For Sale", which could be in my top 5 Marillion tracks of all time. About the pitfalls of losing oneself into a world of glamor and fame, the song is like a razor and it cuts through with some harsh lyrics ("Even whores don't kiss with tongues"). So relevant in today's society of placing these 'stars' on a pedestal and assigning them God-like status; however, strip away the make-up and designer clothes, they're no different than the rest of us. Marillion do a brilliant job in expressing this in both lyric and music. And for me, "Real Tears" is a tried and true formula where a powerful song has an exclamation mark stamped firmly on it with an absolutely killer finish (like "Somewhere Else" before it). This song saves The Hard Shoulder from falling completely off the tracks after starting off so strongly. Rating for The Hard Shoulder 7/10.

Although VERY solid, Happiness Is The Road still doesn't measure up with Marbles. I do believe Mike Hunter did a brilliant job with the production and keeping it simple; whereas, Dave Meegan likes to tinker a lot with little nuances. Meegan is in a class all by himself, but Hunter handled this beautifully. As for Marillion, I still hold on to the fact that they could've easily cashed it in and played "Kayleigh" at festivals and sleep walked through the remainder of their career. I don't believe I see a band out there today working nearly as hard as Marillion in keeping their music fresh, relevant and alive. Most bands don't make music THIS good this far into their career. Yes, some spots on this album comes up way short, but as a whole it's still a brilliant album.

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Send comments to E-Dub (BETA) | Report this review (#212402)
Posted Saturday, April 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
1 stars I'm not the one who says "Marillion with Hogarth suck". Many people don't like his voice and many were saying that when he joined Marillion music of the band became shallow. I still love Seasons End, Holidays In Eden and Brave. Even some later albums are good to my ears if played not too often (Radiation, Anoraknophobia, Somewhere Else). But this time they really fell into something that smells bad. I can live with the fact Marillion are not rock band anymore. I can understand they want to experiment a bit. But when I heard Happiness Is The Road I was about to ask: what's that? To record 2 CD's album you have to have many ideas and enough time to complete work. Let me see Somewhere Else was released in 2007 and this 'masterpiece' so short after that? 2 CD's? It couldn't work trust me. Of course it's impossible to take it at one spin. You have to get drunk first and skip couple of parts of this torture. This is certainly one of the most boring releases I've ever heard. Don't expect songs or any interesting ideas. This is kind of wall of subtle sound that scratches your ears with psychedelic nonsense and Steve Hogarth sings like he was about to die from exhaustion. This isn't music to me. This is wall of sound. I read some reviews of this release and I see there are people who really like this album. So it means they like wall of sound. Each to his/her own taste. If you don't want to die from boreness don't even touch this record.

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Send comments to LSDisease (BETA) | Report this review (#212403)
Posted Saturday, April 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
Slartibartfast
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Let my happiness fill your hole.

I was first introduced to Marillion with the Script For A Jester's Tear album. I liked it a lot but not enough to follow their career after that until I was re-introduced to them after Afraid Of Sunlight came out. That one and Brave remain my favorites and have yet to be surpassed for me. I've never been interested in exploring the earlier Hogarth era albums, but I have added a couple more from the Fish era. After Sunlight I've always picked up their new releases whenever they came out. I consider them to be good and there is the occasional great song, but I can't even find the album Marbles, probably one of the best regarded of their most recent output, to be a great album. Maybe it's just each new release tends to be overshadowed by something else new I'm listening to at the moment. If so, the Happiness twins are no exception. I think I prefer Volume 2 to 1.

To the extent that I have a problem with this is group is that there tends to be a lot of repeat of musical and lyrical themes. They've certainly found their sound but at this point I feel they really need to stretch out and do something completely different. But perhaps a certain staleness sets in after a while. After all the only personnel change in their 25 or so years has been the vocalist.

So, definitely one to try before you buy. And why not as the band is offering the whole thing as a free download? The music is always enjoyable but if you want groundbreaking, you'll need to look, uh, somewhere else.

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Send comments to Slartibartfast (BETA) | Report this review (#218232)
Posted Monday, May 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Crow
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars What a surprise!

After the very good but maybe not excellent "Somewhere Else", and after only a year after its release, my expectations about "Happiness is the Road" were moderated. But to my surprise, it's a great double album, almost reaching the quality of the masterpiece "Marbles".

The style of this new Marillion statement is not really different from the last "Somewhere Else", but perfectionated and more cohesionated. Taking the best prog moments of "Marbles", the usual amount of pop elements, and a renowed epic feeling wich brings the best moments of the first Hogarth's albums, "Happiness is the Road" is a catchy album, full with great details, and marvellous songs.

The first Cd, "Essence", is specially fine... I like every track on this one, being maybe the most luminous and happy Marillion's album to date. This train is My Life, Wrapped up in Time (wich remembers me to You're Gone from "Marbles"...), Wokes Up (I love this one!), Trap the Spark, Happiness is the Road... This album is simply excellent, showing a band in top form!

Sadly, "The Hard Shoulder" doesn't reach the outstanding level of the first Cd... Although It's proggier, less pop, and darker. It has great tracks, like Thunder Fly, Specially True, Real Tears for Shale, the precious Older Than Me... And a curious return to the "Anoraknophobia" style in The Man from the Planet Marzipan. But it also has Whatever is Wrong with you, a failed Marillion's attempt to sound more actual, and Asylum Satellite One, wich is a bit dull. Nevertheless, the level of this album is also very high, specially the tracks I named before.

Conclusion: although "The Hard Shoulder" is under "Essence" in quality in my opinion, "Happiness is the Road" works really good in its integrity... The first Cd is happier, offering the best pop-prog that Marillion can do. The second one is deeper, proggier and more experimental, but it also has great songs. So if you call yourself a Marillion aficionado... You must hear "Happiness is the Road", because together with "Brave" and "Marbles", is their best album from the Hogarth's era (ok, "Afraid of Sunlight" is also great...)

"Essence" rating: *****

"The Hard Shoulder" rating: ****

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Send comments to The Crow (BETA) | Report this review (#225837)
Posted Friday, July 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
1 stars Not only has Marillion continued walking down the path of absolute yawn, they even decided to do it over the course of another double CD, lasting almost 2 hours and sounding like it's 2 days.

There's almost no music on it. It's all just voice, voice and voice, always on the same tone and emotion, aimlessly straying on top of forgettable piano and guitar drivel. I can't even find one song to single out and mention here. It's even a small wonder I can get 100 words together to voice my disappointment! With not one vocal or musical hook worth remembering over the course of 2 CD's, the exiting band that Marillion once was is far far gone.

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#236909)
Posted Thursday, September 03, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I remember reading the news updates on Marillion last year about this album. I only discovered H-era Marillion last summer. I fell in love with Marbles and immediately preferred Hogarth's vocals and lyrics to Fish's.

Marbles had some truly wonderful tracks on it - admittedly some of the tracks aren't to my liking, but they are in a minority. I've only listened to parts of Somewhere Else a couple of times and didn't enjoy it half as much as Marbles. It felt musically quite bland. So I was quite excited to hear that this new album Marillion were working on over the summer was more like Marbles. Hurrah! Good music in the near-future, surely?

But as I read the updates I realised that there was inevitably going to be a difference quality-wise between this new album and Marbles. Musically being different is fine - there is little point in releasing two near-identical albums, at least from an artistic point of view. The band talked about how excited they were with the content, about how the jam sessions had been going really well and they'd have enough material for two CDs of material rather than one.

Marbles notoriously took the band two-and-a-half years to produce, and it shows. There is a remarkable amount of polish on the album. So when I realised that they were producing one hundred minutes of music in less than a year, I was concerned that maybe there wouldn't be as much polish as on Marbles.

The difference another 18 months can make is remarkable. The production is not horrible, but the songs don't feel like they're going at full capacity. The recording overall sounds a bit muggy, like they forgot to tweak their EQ settings. I get the impression that the guys were so excited to finish the album and play the songs live that they weren't too bothered about how the songs sounded on the album.

Musically, the album is a mix between Marbles and Somewhere Else, as you'd expect. The album isn't nearly as varied as Marbles, though. There are long songs, short songs, instrumental tunes, elaborate orchestral tracks, but they all have a very similar overall sound. True, the tracks on an album all need an overall sound to unite them as an album, but HITR could have remained as a cohesive album but still explored greater musical territory.

There are some great tracks on this album. The tracks which really stand out are This Train is My Life, Liquidity, Woke Up, The Man from Planet Marzipan and Especially True. The title track is also very good, reminiscent of Neverland, although the beginning feels rather drawn-out. The first three-four minutes were from an unedited recording of a jam the band did over some of Hogarth's lyrics. Okay, it sounds impressive to say "oh yeah, that was just a jam", but, you know, is it actually GOOD? It's definitely not bad, just far too long. Two minutes, maybe, but not three. The rest of the song is very good, although towards the end of the song Hogarth starts singing "Happiness is the Road" as "Her Penis is the Road" (I'm not the only one who's noticed this so I'm not a perv). Ruins it a bit.

None of the other tracks are bad, per se... they just aren't that exciting. They don't grab you and say "I'M A GOOD SONG!" Most of the songs are a bit slow and plodding. If the album was a person, he'd be old, unable to walk in a straight line for long periods of time, wear plain grey clothes and grumble to himself. Oh, and he'd have loads of stubble.

That's the real problem with this album: it's undercooked. In my humble opinion, the band should've either released half as much music or spent another year or two working on the album. The Essence of the music is there (see what I did?), and it's perfectly listenable, but most of it won't blow you away.

The lyrics are in place (although some of the parts should have been re-recorded to get rid of the unfortunate innuendo, as mentioned above), the keys and pianos are there, but the drums and guitars and bass guitars are, for most of the album, a bit plain and neglected. The guitarwork in particular is disappointing: with the exception of Whatever is Wrong with You and one or two tracks I might have forgotten, there aren't really any strong, guitar-driven parts of the album. It feels like Rothery was away when the rest of the band were recording the album, then came in to improvise some bits over the top. It almost feels like the quiet guitar mix was intended, to make you forget that this band had a guitarist.

Overall, this album feels like a missed opportunity. As it is, it's a good album, there's no doubt about it. But there's a nagging feeling throughout the album that it was meant for greater things. If you're new to H-era Marillion, this album is not a good introduction: instead, try Marbles, Seasons End, Brave or Afraid of Sunlight. This one's primarily for the fans, and those who want to dig deeper into Marillion's discography.

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Send comments to Una Laguna (BETA) | Report this review (#238389)
Posted Thursday, September 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars An improvement over its predecessor, but too long for its own good.

MARILLION had, until this year, released only two real good albums during the Hogarth era: Brave, and more recently, Marbles. 2007's Somewhere Else was a disappointment, so I was not expecting much of Happiness is the Road. When I first heard it, my expectations were confirmed. But after repeated listens, it's safe to say that this is the third-best album in the second-era of the legendary neo-prog band.

The album, divided in two discs, still has a few flaws. It's still too long, which in the end can only mean that there are some songs that should have been left aside. MARILLION had a successful double-album with Marbles, because most of the songs were at least good. This time around, many of them feel like filler material, and that's why Happiness is the Road can't achieve the level of quality of that 2004 double disc release.

But when the album succeeds, it does it without compromise, true to the new MARILLION-style of slightly-progressive, atmospheric, calmed modern rock. Songs like "Wrapped up in time" have some of the nostalgic magic that the band gave us in their best times. The band can also, eventually, rock it out, in tracks like "Whatever is wrong with you", though Hogarth's voice is at its best in moody, darker songs like the short-epic that closes the fist album, the title-track, which is also the best in the whole work.

This is not Fish-MARILLION but a very rich Hogarth-MARILLION album that needs to be judged on its own merits. If someone doesn't like it because it's not progressive enough, it's not the band's fault, but the listener's, for not being able to understand that, after more than 20 years, this is no longer the same band. Judged as a piece of modern rock with progressive tendencies, or better yet, as a piece of music, Happiness is the Road is a flawed success.

I give this album three stars, which could've been four had the record been a little bit shorter (maybe as a single disc). I recommend, though, to any prospective listener, to give it time to grow, which it will definitely do.

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Send comments to The T (BETA) | Report this review (#239762)
Posted Thursday, September 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I fail to understand, as a Marillion fan, why the constant references to Marillion's past seem to act as a means on which to judge their newer works. Especially given that these songs are musically far more interesting to me than anything from the so-called sacred cow, 'Script for a Jester's Tear'. The simple fact that there are more chords, more melodic invention, and more musical technique on the first two cuts on this record than there is on 'Chelsea Monday', 'Forgotten Sons' or 'He Knows, You Know'. Marillion's original method of constructing songs in three parts has long since been consigned to the bin. A song exists in it's own sphere for as long as it needs before moving on. I don't call that mainstream - if it were they'd be much bigger. They still play with atmosphere, they still write existentially, they just don't sound like Genesis.

This album is quite touching, and has some moments of true greatness, Asylum Satellite, Real Tears and the title track standing out. But the whole first disc runs as a single piece to me, and is truly successful. The second disc could probably do without a couple of tracks, particularly the ones after Asylum Satellite which are fairly pedestrian - nice, but not blindingly good.

It's a wonderful sounding record, too. I find it a wonderful journey and vehemently defend it as a valid piece of work. If you can see past 1987, I'd certainly recommend it.

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Send comments to ilikethebeach (BETA) | Report this review (#284785)
Posted Friday, June 04, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I bought this one before it was even made!!!

And not at all disappointed.

Unlike many people, I find this album shares many qualities with the evergreen Marbles, and lots of that can be laid at the fingers of Mark Kelly. He colours the songs and sounds with great skill and the first disc, which I would call a '5', is a single work of great depth and emotion. As a fan of Steve Hogarth's voice in general, I find his singing to be both moving and impressive, Rothery is his usual fluid self and Trewavas and Mosely serve the music well.

Disc 2, on it's own a '3' features two of the very best songs on the album, 'Asylum Satellite #1' and 'Real tears For Sale'. The former has all the melodrama of the truly magnificent 'Out Of This World' from 'AOS' and 'RTFS' reads like a female version of 'King' from the same LP.

Since you can get this for nothing with the band's consent, you have nothing to lose. Try it, with an open mind, and you may find much to treasure.

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Send comments to theinvisibleman (BETA) | Report this review (#284789)
Posted Friday, June 04, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm not entirely sure why every Marillion release needs to create a battleground between prog "purists" and crossover fans, Fish nostalgics and H enthusiasts, but I really don't care. When I listen to a Marillion album, I am struck by the realization that the band has one singular goal when they enter the studio: to create something that will grab the listener. And for me, Happiness grabs me in ways that few other albums do.

This double volume release isn't perfect. There is no question that the mix is nowhere near as polished as say Marbles or Marillion.com. Yet I can also appreciate the fact that this may have been intentional. Happiness is the Road is about exactly that: an unanalytical euphoria for all of life's joys. It would seem almost hypocritical for the band to labor over the sound of such a deliberately undeliberate album until they arrived at the perfectly equalized experience. So in the end we have an almost improvisational and carefree approach to the acoustics that at some points enhances the raw jubilation of the first disk and at some points detracts from it. That being said, there is still no question that the end result is a mix that on the whole feels flat and unfinished.

The second disk is also not as powerful for me as the first. While the first disk takes me on an almost relentlessly joyous trip through joy and celebration, the second disk feels like an experiment for experimentation's sake, often coming up patchy and unmemorable.

Shortcomings aside, though, the first volume here has such a powerful effect on me that I'd feel like I was selling the work short by giving it anything less than 4 excellent stars. As soon as I'm asked to chill in the sunshine with some lemon tea in Dreamy Street, at the moment I'm brought on board a moonlit train to coast past sleepy homes and Christmas lights, I know that it will be ok to lay my stresses aside for a while and just enjoy the ride. And enjoy it I will, as the sound will continue to become lighter and lighter, giving the listener the palpable sensation that he is floating on air. I've read several reviews on this forum that have criticized this album for being undecided and/or too uncomplicated. But this is precisely what I love so much about it. If Marbles was intense, introspective, and brooding, then Happiness is the perfect antidote of cathartic liberation. Simply put, Happiness Is the Road makes me feel good. For me, that makes this album a huge achievement.

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Send comments to The Progmatist (BETA) | Report this review (#299633)
Posted Saturday, September 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
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.

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Send comments to J-Man (BETA) | Report this review (#593911)
Posted Wednesday, December 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars the two-face...

first of all, when "Happiness is the Road" came out... it did not come out. At least not for retail-buyers like me. ( Don't have a credit card - can't order from the net, so now you finally know it, I'm a poor musician ). And if Marillion would not have made a few exceptions, I'd not have had it in its year of release. But in Canada the Album had been released as two separate discs on MVD-records, and that's where my ( by now ) favorite retail-shop ( I'm glad there are any in my hometown still, this one's a pretty good one, especially when it comes to order imports ! ) had got them from for me. Needless to say I was happy that it worked, it did not take too long and it wasn't too expensive, either. In the meantime, though, "Happiness is the Road" has been officially released in Germany as well, as a double-disc.

As far as I'm concerned, in terms of quality this is a real two-face release and I think it quite fits that I'm owning it as two separate discs, but I don't mind reviewing them as "one", though the final rating has to be a "mixed-up" one... and, still, sometimes I wonder that other people do not share my impression when it comes to... "The hard shoulder".

As a "Volume 2" to the utterly magnificent 5-star effort of "Essence", it's such a immature and unfinished affair, bits & pieces, some okay, some seem to have been left at the state of rehearsal and are truly suffering from the production that, has to be said, is absolutely right for Part 1 ( Michael Hunter, see my review for "Somewhere else" ), but is a let down for Part 2... which means, well, "The hard Shoulder" is my personal nadir in the work of Marillion and, in this shape, I could have easily done without it, though it grew on me a bit since the first listen. It's straining me, still. More of an attitude than a finished collection of songs, with the exception of "Asylum Satellite # 1", a tune that, given better treatment to make it sound big and lush like f.e. "Marbles", would be outstanding. "Thunder Fly" is nice but, this time, far too close to U2's immature efforts on "Pop" to really impress me, "The Man from the Planet Marzipan" works as an experiment but does not groove like any of "Anoraknophobia", though it does belong to the better ones here, still. If there weren't "Older than me"... I'd have to struggle to give that album a second star. But "Older than me" is only but a nice short piece of song that, for once, seems to have been worked out well. But the last three should have stayed in the rehearsal-room and taken somewhere else, no, really, in spite of their good basic ideas they simply dissatisfy me - perhaps it was intended to keep " a raw edge" to these recordings, but that raw edge is nothing but the desperate sign that the band should have invested quite some more work in order to finish them - and, as a producer, I honestly believe that Michael Hunter should have told them to do so.

"Threw me out" is not much better, but for once we can take the self-pity while we must be embarrassed with "Half the World". This is a song I'd take and bash it onto Hogie's face - if I were his ex-wife. "I've cheated and left you but you're so wonderful" ? He, for once, would have been better off to simply confess "I've been an asshole, please forgive me, you really deserve better". Or just keep quiet, If you're asking me, it's annoying... disgusting... I'd be as angry as the woman must have been that "threw him out", really, and the music is a cheater, too. Please no more, the words may be right but he's the wrong man to say, even SING them ( being somewhat pitifully poured out, aren't they supposed to be the falsest of words to ever be heard ? ), a failure... shame on you !

But all is forgiven. because...

"Essence" is nothing less than the "essential masterpiece of progressive rock music" that "Marbles" seems to be for so many of you out there. It doesn't have a single flaw. It's magnificent. I can't say much more about it cause you have to listen for yourself. Marillion at their very best ! Inspired, mature, divine. Their best album since ".com" and, if you don't follow me on that underrated one, for sure their best album since "Brave". Cohesive, emotional, astounding, disturbing at times, full of beautiful melodies, a must-have. Love it... love it... love it... love it entirely, including the hidden "Jam" !

"Essence" is ESSENTIAL ! And it's prog, my friends, in terms of progressive as music can be, but you oughta like Marillion, of course, or else you may not get it - once more. Hard to name an outstanding track cause they all are... my personal faves being "Trap the Spark", "Woke up" and the title track(s), but the others are of no lesser impact. They must have given their all into "Essence" - and that's why they didn't have the power, nerve and sensibility to take "The hard Shoulder" any further. I guess they wanted to give too much - so, instead of keeping it in, they "knocked it out" once more. They would have been better off to think twice...

Given that, just treat "The hard shoulder" as a "bonus disc" of left-overs while "Essence" is the real album, then you won't be disappointed ( and you'll understand my rating ). Compared to U2, and I think I'm forgiven to do so cause the Marillos more than often have revealed a soft spot for that band, It's like "Essence" was "Achtung Baby"... and "The hard Shoulder" is "Zooropa", an EP that appeared to be an extended one but better not be counted as an album of its own right... cause by no means it can stand the comparism. But let's compare Marillion to Marillion, cause I know that there are many out there who think of "Afraid of Sunlight" as a masterpiece, too... so maybe "The hard Shoulder" can do the same for you, but beware, cause while AOS, at least, manages to sound like a shimmering diamond, "The hard Shoulder" does not. It's dull. Sorry. It's dull and my personal low-point in the history of that band. I'd even prefer "Fugazi", and you better read my review to that one.

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Send comments to rupert (BETA) | Report this review (#610462)
Posted Sunday, January 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Happiness Is the Road is a real grower; at first listen I thought it was another collection of more commercial songs along the lines of Somewhere Else, with some token longer tracks thrown in, but on closer inspection it seems to be much more interesting than that. The first half of the album, Essence, is a dizzying journey through a range of musical genres - including some pretty convincing soul on Nothing Fills the Hole - but the really progressive aspect of the thing is in how the tracks all fit in together, blending musical styles with ease in a dream-like trip. The second disc, The Hard Shoulder, sees the band mingling this approach with more obviously proggy pieces - the closing Real Tears For Sale sounding like an off-cut from Marbles.

On the whole, it's a wonderfully atmospheric album with some great songs on it, and certainly deserves the multiple listens it requires to unpack. It might not be stereotypically "prog", but it's certainly progressive in terms of its musical approach and its willingness to experiment.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#733052)
Posted Thursday, April 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
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"

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Send comments to FunkyM (BETA) | Report this review (#773480)
Posted Monday, June 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars 2.0 Stars. Driving off the road of happiness and crashing into the ravine of failure

Happiness is the road (HITR) is a double album which was released 4 years after their last double album Marbles. Despite the skin deep similarities they are in fact worlds apart in terms of quality. Disc one (Essence) contains some of the worst material the band have ever recorded and disc 2 (The hard shoulder) is a mixed bag with some excellent and mediocre material. I was unlucky enough to make this double album my first purchase from these guys and if I hadn't given them a second chance I would have never known what they were truly capable of.

Disc 1 starts on a terrible note with "Dreamy Street", which is incredibly slow, dreary and so lacking in life that its painful to listen to. "This Train Is My Life" is a pleasant and upbeat radio friendly pop song. Its nothing special, but disturbingly this is one of the highlights of Disc one. "Essence" is a complete and utter mess, there are lots of different moods and tempos packed into the song but no logical link between them. It turns what could have been a good song into 6 min of frustration.

Things get even worse between "Wrapped Up In Time" and "Nothing Fills The Hole" as the tempo is slowed down to a crawl and nothing noteworthy happens. A fair few reviewers have confessed to falling asleep at this point and I can't blame them.

Things finally improve between "Woke Up" and "A State Of Mind" where we are given some solid pop/rock songs (still no Prog). Unlike the previous songs there is a clear purpose to them which leaves a firm impression.

"Happiness is the road" starts very slowly, but unlike the previous songs the ambience works well with the emotional vocals and it doesn't leave me completely bored. After the 3 min mark there is a gradual build-up in energy and for the first time on this album things start to sound interesting. Its still typical Neo-Prog, but at least the song has a fair few twists and turns and is still able to keep everything catchy and coherent.

There is a bonus track ("half-full jam") at the end where the band go insane (no seriously, Hogarth sounds like he is having a mental breakdown!) and rock out as hard as they possible can towards the end. While the bonus track can be different from the rest of the album, it is so different that it sticks out like a sore thumb. A bizarre end to a horrendous album, 0.8 stars.

Disc 2 is far more Proggy then the last album and starts really well with "Thunder Fly". It switches between catchy rock and cool spacy interludes with the band being in complete control. It amazes me that they were able to compose such a well balanced song here but failed so miserably on "Essence". Speaking about that song, "The Man From Planet Marzipan" has just as many segments but unlike before they all work well together. The lyrics are also very interesting. But the real winner is " Asylum Satellite #1" which is by far the best song on both albums and the only thing to rival the content on their best albums. It has loads of drama and a fantastic extended instrumental at the end.

Sadly after that things return to the dull pop/rock that dominated Disc 1. The overall quality is better than before and some of them have remember-able segments, but they still pale in comparison to the first 3 songs. The last song however ("Real Tears For Sale") is a very good closer. Its probably the most heartfelt and emotional song they have done since Marbles and it finishes things on a clear high note. 3.2 stars.

Overall this has been a disappointing 100 minutes. There is some good material to be found here and there but to be honest there is simply far too much sup par material for this to be an enjoyable album. Not recommended unless you find a copy at a cheap price!

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Send comments to LakeGlade12 (BETA) | Report this review (#1048723)
Posted Monday, September 30, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars After seeing so many mixed reviews for this album I had to have a look see. Sure, this is not the old Marillion that I and many others loved, the old Marillion that almost single handedly rescued prog music in the 80's when much of the music that we all love here went on a very long downhill ride. I adored the Fish iteration of the band and it took me a while to accept Marillion without the fiery Scotsman at the helm. The "Season's End" album was a really good start to Marillion Mk 2 and I loved that album for its melody and emotion. Hogarth has a voice that is suited to the melancholy and the sad where Fish commanded anger, angst. disdain and sarcasm in his vocals. If I separate the two iterations of the band then I can enjoy both however I enjoy them differently. A constant throughout Marillion's music is Steve Rothery whose lead guitar is always of a high quality and those lead breaks soar a lot of the time. I don't enjoy radio friendly music and unfortunately a lot of Marillion's work after Fish vectored towards radio friendly territory however there is magic still in a great deal of it. The thing about Marillion post Fish is that I can't sit through too much of it in a single sitting as it all starts to sound the same to me and I guess that's due to Hogarth's voice which I do enjoy but it keeps everything in melancholy territory without much mood change. The first half of this offering from Marillion suffers from being too entrenched in melancholy. It's laid back music performed well but, my goodness people, break the mood sometimes with something different. The best track on "Essence" (the first half of the album) is the longest track being "Happiness is the Road" with its almost dramatic flair. The "Hard Shoulder" (second half of the album set) is more lively however I don't really like a lot of it at all. It's like the band are attempting to encompass a standard rock sound attached to the melancholy and that is not the bands strength at all. Marillion's strength are their ability to soar and be highly melodious and there is very little of that on offer here. We get a lot of Hogarth crying through the mike and we get way too little Rothery. Sorry fans of the album - I personally am not impressed at all and I have to vector in with those that don't like the album very much at all. Two stars from me.

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Send comments to sukmytoe (BETA) | Report this review (#1066427)
Posted Saturday, October 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars After the controversial "Somewhere Else" Marillion decide to return with a double album: "Happiness Is The Road" it seems that they are two separate and distinct album (each with its own title ) and stylistic differences between the two discs are fairly obvious.

The first disc, "Essence", a kind of introspective concept album, is characterized by a series of songs dominated by piano and keyboards and is pervaded by a melancholic atmosphere and dreaming, with songs that often are a pop-rock refined, and remember a few things from bands like Coldplay and Sigur Ros, and where are also found passages ambient and electronic, along with sweet melodies and solar, one of the best pieces we can mention "Trap This Spark" with a strong emotional charge, and the the title track, a suite than ten minutes that represents an album, which overall is very relaxing, but it always denotes class and enviable imagination.

The second album, "The Hard Shoulder " opens with "Thunder Rock", a piece that immediately sounds different, than the previous album, morecloser to prog and blues, futuristic environments, and neo -prog, including references to Traffic David Bowie and Pink Floyd, tend to continue with a more energetic rock and impact compared to "Essence". deserve to be mentioned also the beautiful, "Whatever Is Wrong With You", "Real Tears For Sale"

Overall, "Happiness Is The Road" is an album honest, no big surprises for the band's style, very compact and balanced, and not particularly brilliant episodes.

Given the long duration of the album, it might be a bit ' boring but the danger is averted, thanks to the fact that Marillion are a band with an unmistakable touch and be able to give life to the performances, that exude emotions to every single note.

It is among the best of their discography, but it certainly deserves to be heard with the heart.

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Send comments to agla (BETA) | Report this review (#1097913)
Posted Monday, December 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Marillion have once again proved that they are masters at their game. Some of the playing (notably drums and keys) are amongst the best they ever did. So why three stars? Steve Hogarth needs to forget the high tones, and Steve Rothery sounds like he forgot to turn up for recording and his best moments sound like he played them whilst in the bath.

This is a great album with a wonderful steady flow. There are no real stand out moments, but consistently good. BUT, this will never be their greatest memory. I cannot understand how some people can think that. CD1 gets a 4 star because of the dreamy state it puts you in, and the fantastic flow of the music (shame about lack of guitar input from Rothers or it could be a 5) CD2 stays in the box most of the time. Yawn. 2 Star (2.5 if it was an option)

Overall 3 stars (3.5 if available!)

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Send comments to Kevman28 (BETA) | Report this review (#1135969)
Posted Sunday, February 23, 2014 | Review Permalink

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