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Fish - Pigpen's Birthday CD (album) cover




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2 stars With only two solo studio albums preceeding, naturally this live-2CD contains Marillion songs quite a lot and that's nice principally. But they aren't well chosen: Punch & Judy, Assassing, Kayleigh, Lavender, Heart of Lothian, Sugar Mice - all single hits. 'Script' makes a good exception into the proggier side. Songs from Vigil and Int.Exile - emphasis on the first - are better chosen.

Now to my point. If there's someone out there who considers purchasing a Fish CD and thinks this (or any live album, he's released way too many of them) would give a nice package of some Marillion and early solo stuff - no, I really wouldn't recommend. I think Fish as a singer somehow loses his voice in a concert: it gets stuffy, airless. Not always (I don't remember hearing this problem in 'Thieving Magpie' for instance) but here undoubtedly so. To some extent it's true about the band's sound too. I borrowed this couple of years ago but found out there's nothing I wanted to waste my tapes on, as the songs work better on studio albums. Some Fish fans may think the opposite and say he has an intense stage appearance. But that stuffy vocal sound really irritates me.

Report this review (#39974)
Posted Friday, July 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars After Fish had crashed out of association with big record labels and started to make a go of it on his own in the early 1990s, he hit on the idea of putting out "official bootlegs" - sourced from soundboard tapes, so their sound quality is better than any audience tape could be, but with cheap and cheerful packaging which could be knocked out on a tight budget. After all, bootleggers had proved that there was an appetite for such releases - why shouldn't Fish tap into some of that to get some funds, especially given the financial straits he was in?

Some of these would be rather redundant - there's a clutch of them all sourced from late-ish 1991 with very similar track lists, and you have to ask whether Fish risked flooding the market there. However, Pigpen's Birthday fills in quite a significant part of Fish's live history which hasn't had much of an outing elsewhere - namely, the VIgil In a Wilderness of Mirrors tour.

Though an autumn 1989 show that actually predated the album's release got released as disc 1 of the Complete BBC sessions, this two-disc set hails from late 1990, with the backing band having become road-seasoned and Fish sounding as natural singing the fresh new material as Marillion classics.

In fact, the setlist incorporates most of Vigil, as well as an early outing for Internal Exile, the next album's title track - an early version of which was recorded during the Vigil sessions. In all, there's actually more Fish solo numbers here than Marillion tracks, which when you think about it is good going for this early in his solo career, and the Marillion numbers are well-chosen to play to the band's strengths and sit nicely next to the new material.

Trouble was on the horizon in the form of the legal troubles which would see Fish leave EMI - but at this point in his solo career, there was every reason to be hopeful, and this live set, with a sound quality just as good as any official release despite the bootleg-esque quality of the cover, finds a newly-solo Fish sounding like the master of his own destiny, buoyed up by his history with Marillion but by no means exclusively defined by it.

Report this review (#2588697)
Posted Tuesday, August 24, 2021 | Review Permalink

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