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Marathon biography
MARATHON was formed in 2019 by Mark KELLY, the keyboard player with MARILLION. The project is Mark's first full side project as leader away from MARILLION, although he has made a number of guest appearances over the years. Together with Guy VICKERS, Oliver M. SMITH (vocals), Pete 'Woody' WOOD (guitar), John CORDY (guitar), Henry ROGERS (drums) and his nephew Conal KELLY (bass), Mark KELLY turned his vision into reality upon the release of the debut (self-titled) album in November 2020. MARILLION bandmate Steve ROTHERY also joined the band and contributed the lead guitar to the song 'Puppets'.

The band recorded the debut album in separate locations between March and July 2020 in lockdown during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

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3.91 | 74 ratings
Mark Kelly's Marathon

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Mark Kelly's Marathon by MARATHON album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.91 | 74 ratings

Mark Kelly's Marathon
Marathon Crossover Prog

Review by tbstars1

3 stars It ill behoves me even to venture to pass critical judgement on the output of such an assembly of prog rock luminaries, but, with a current score of 4.22, I have to say this is pretty over-rated. I'm very taken with the Amelia suite and three parts of 2051, but I found the meat between these joyous slices to be relatively standard MOR fare, notwithstanding the undisputed technical excellence on offer.

If it was in any way still voguish to self-compile CDs (remember those?), I would happily merge tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 off The Ghosts of Pripyat with tracks 1, 2, 3, 7, 8 and 10 off this, to give myself about 72 minutes in total of unbridled Marillion-related listening pleasure. Just enough time to clean the bathroom, in fact. And I did. And it was.

 Mark Kelly's Marathon by MARATHON album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.91 | 74 ratings

Mark Kelly's Marathon
Marathon Crossover Prog

Review by lazland
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Well, it has taken some time for the Marillion keyboardist to lead his own project. 39 years, to be precise. Whilst he has made guest appearances over the years, most notably with DeeExpus, Mark Kelly's Marathon sees him presiding over a brand new band, and, make no mistake, this is a collective as opposed to a simple solo work. Whilst listening, for example, to Wakeman and the English Rock Ensemble, you are always conscious of the Caped Crusader being front, centre, and rear. What Kelly has done here, though, is to lead a genuine ensemble, allowing his band mates the space to breath and create. The album is a superior piece of work for it, as well.

Nowhere is this better exemplified by the standout track on the album, When I Fell, a quite gorgeous six minute piece featuring delicious vocals by Ollie Smith (sounding a wee bit more Ray Wilson than Peter Gabriel, but there we go). The track is descriptive of a dream, nightmare, and the themes of love and grief. Kelly's organ playing is a joy, and with some delicate guitar licks, the track is a triumph from start to finish.

The album is bookended by two longer pieces, each split into sensible segments, namely Amelia and Twenty Fifty One (as in 2051).

The opener is a lovely piece which sets to music and lyrics the story of the legendary Amelia Earhart, the pioneering aviator who disappeared on an attempt to circumnavigate the world in 1937, and was declared dead in absentia a few years later. Everything about this piece cries out quality. The guitar work, especially, is quite lovely, and the interplay with Kelly's keyboards at the close of the second segment is a joy. The story of Earhart and her navigator as proposed by lyricist Guy Vickers is at once intelligent and questing, and when the final segment segues into a closing chorus you are struck by the wall of sound and instant accessibility. A mention also for the type of synth sound probably not heard in these parts since the days of yore when Mark had a head of hair and looked across at a certain Mr Dick in his warpaint. I just love the ghostly vocal fade at the end as well.

2051 takes us into the future. I love the sleeve notes on the cd by Vickers, who explains the rational behind this discussion of what intelligent life is beyond our planetary shores, and how Kubrick and Clarke created their incredible vision of an unknown intelligent force guiding us. The music does justice to such a sweeping narrative. John Cordy's guitar work, especially, is revelatory. Conal Kelly, Mark's young nephew, forms one half of a mighty rhythm section with Henry Rogers, a superlative drummer who also shines on Pete Trewavas and Eric Blackwood's Edison's Children. The track provides us with the fascinating thought that any intelligence picking up a probe of the puny earth men will listen to Richard Strauss, The Beatles, and, erm, Scooby Doo. Love it! The third movement features a lovely delicate piano by Mark, and this then leads us to a rollicking finale in which the entire ensemble simply transport you to another dimensional beach.

The two remaining tracks are This Time and Puppets. The former is the one track which I will probably skip in the years to come. It is an interesting concept lyrically about modern connectivity, but the music, for once, to these ears fails to match the concept. Short enough as a single release, but it lacks depth. Not bad by any means, but rather throwaway.

The latter track features as a guest guitarist one Steven Rothery. Lyrically, the piece is a complex construct around philosophy, life, the universe, and everything, so perfect for some light relaxing background music during a pandemic lockdown! I jest, of course. This track is another joy, and it is a measure of the quality of the band Mark has assembled that even a fantastic contribution by my favourite modern guitarist does not lessen the sound of a band wholly at ease with itself and the project.

This is an extremely satisfying work, and one hopes that it forms the basis of a long term project. You do not need to be a Marillion fan to enjoy this album. In fact, all you need to take a great deal of pleasure from it is an appreciation of an intelligent, song-based approach to making music.

Very highly recommended.

 Mark Kelly's Marathon by MARATHON album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.91 | 74 ratings

Mark Kelly's Marathon
Marathon Crossover Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Well, it was quite a marathon to get this review done for PA in time for my top 25 prog albums of 2020, that sordid year of "silent stupidity" (to paraphrase Queensryche), so it is fitting that this review was done on January 5th of what will hopefully be a much-needed phoenix year. As soon as I got my hands on this nearly 3 months ago, it has sat at the number 2 spot with little challenge from below, as the very first audition was an endless source of eyebrow raising, fist pumping and high fiving (er?with myself, to paraphrase Billy Idol)! After such a storied career manning the Marillion keyboard arsenal, I really had no expectations either way, fueled more by the smile-inducing presence of drummer extraordinaire Henry Rogers, a Paul Thompson-like thumper who has beaten powerful drums on a few tremendous albums by Deeexpus, Final Conflict, Touchstone, Edison's Children, Heather Findlay, and a few others. I also remembered how Marillion eventually veered off into a more "accessible" style recently, but I was tempered by the fact that both Pete Trewavas and Steve Rothery put out very proggy albums, the former's work with Edison's Children and the latter on the sizzling "The Ghost of Pripyat" release hitting all kinds of pleasure nodes. Another promising clue was the stunning artwork (I am a 70s guy, so the number of albums I bought because of the cover? Oh my, lots!). The addition of two multi-part suites sort of sealed the reconnaissance deal, only to be confirmed immediately upon pressing PLAY. I have this daft ritual that is more of a nervous tick: I start laughing out loud when the sounds coming out of the speakers blow me away! I had a marathon's worth while ingesting this slice of musical revelry! So, the table is set for one hell of an enjoyable epic album.

The three-part, 11 minute "Amelia" suite sets the pace, a clever homage to Earhardt's famed flight and subsequent disappearance somewhere in the Pacific, near Howland Island, clicked with me immediately due to my friend Colin Mold tackling the subject matter on one of his last solo album "Now You See Me". The theme is how all the careful planning can be subverted by the smallest grain of misfortune, lack of communication or plain bad luck. Musically, it is pure prog in classic sauce, creating the mood, setting down an echoing groove, and smartly introducing the lead lung Oliver Smith, a smooth voice that glides effortlessly (neither Fish nor Hogarth, if you care to know), with Kelly's piano front and center and that trademark Rogers beat. The sweet electric guitars soar like a Lockheed Electra, veering into windswept vocal harmonies, fueled not by kerosene but Benedictine (clever that!). Slap on a slippery synth solo, a cracking bluesy, wah-wah guitar run amid the desperate pleas for Amelia, and conviction sets in. Respect.

The beamed spotlight is now firmly on Ollie Smith as "When I Fell" shows off some crafty pipes, as he modulates his vocal chops down to a whisper, all very Beatles-ish until Kelly wrestles mightily with his organ, a flurry of rustling notes that hits the spot. The final segment is prog heavy, a strong cosmic sheen fading into the mist. The sharp pop-prog on "This Time" is truly addictive, I thought I was listening to a proggier version of Split Enz or Squeeze, Ollie's voice showing an impressive tone and range, whilst the ingenious music supplies enough circumstance and pomp. Giggles and grins. The majestic "Puppets" is in my opinion, the highlight track here, a staggeringly attractive and passionate evocation of melody and structure, a powerful vocal delivery (man, can the guy sing!) that hits all the marks, slayed by a Steve Rothery guitar blast like only he can, brimming of beauty and despair, a Kelly synth intervention, twinkling piano and yup, more guitar. A second chorus and verse do this piece justice as it is a thoroughly enjoyable and creative ride. Big smile.

The four-part "2051 "showcases a 15-minute foray into a more symphonic realm, highly sci-fi cinematographic, laden with sweeping synthesized orchestrations, quirky lyrics and a world-class groove from nephew Conal Kelly on bass and the firm Mr-Rogers. Oliver croons of "sipping mai-tais at Trader Vic's", rekindling early Marillion hints, as the passionate microphone starts to sweat mightily. "A song unsung", lyrically dazzlingly perplexed, hymn-like passages and sonic effects galore. It gets tough when need be, bullied by chugging synths and beastly drum and bass headlights scouring the skies. The whole thing is tightly wound in pristine production and you can hear each vocalized syllable clearly. An old school Yes finale really forces the smile, what with a Squire styled bass roaming the lower end. Beam.

This album has everything to keep the fascination peaked (piqued?), technically blissful, contrast-laden, idiosyncratic, poppy at times, and totally devoid of dross. This is seriously entertaining prog of the highest order.

5 endless races

Thanks to lazland for the artist addition.

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