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Fish - Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors CD (album) cover





3.89 | 418 ratings

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4 stars The first solo album from the former Marillion singer is actually his best. Even though I recall him saying he hadn't the intention of continuing in the progressive music style, this is one of his most progressive efforts. Even though it does contain several influences from other musical styles, the progressive influence still is the dominant one and the other elements only enrich the sound.

"State of mind" was the first music he released on his own in the autumn of 1989. It sounds quite surprising different from the last studio Marillion recording but hardly defines the sound of Vigil in a . State is a pop track with an excitable rhythm section full of fabulous bass lines and great percussion. You can easily detect elements from funk and Peter Gabriel. Even though it has a great, catchy chorus, the lyric clearly is more important than the music. Fish focuses on observations of post modern society matters. His lyrics may be less poetic than they used to be, he writes more directly. Although I do not agree on some of his opinions, it least, it holds some interesting idea's.

b-side of the single also appears in the cd-version of this album. The voyeur has a haunting atmosphere which illustrates the paranoia in the subject of the lyrics perfectly. It use to remind me on the third Gabriel album and there's some similarities with the eastern sounding intro of "Assassing" as well. When I first heard this track I noticed this would sound great when performing live and actually it did. Fish used it for opening his European tour to support this album.

In the early beginning of 1990 this album finally was released. The title track which opens the album is one of the most ambitious pieces of music this artist has ever created in his whole career. One of the few moments on a rock album the lyrics and music form a perfect unit. I still treasure these lyrical ideas for looking at the world we're living in today. The music seems to add something to the message. On a more human level this track is about adolescence and the changing of one's view of the world and the uncertainty this feeling brings along. I still remember Fish opening his live shows being seated in the middle of the crowd when the wonderful opening tones were starting to sound in the venue. Musically the vocal lines seem to drive this track through majestic moments with traditional Irish folk elements. It starts with an atmospheric intro which is quite long. The melody of the chorus is unforgettable and the arrangements is highly symphonic, the bridge between several choruses or majestic interludes is reminiscent to the chords of The Wall from Pink Floyd. After all those years, this tracks still moves me.

In some countries Big wedge was a minor hit, not surprising if you hear the commercial approach. Fish use to defend his commercial tendencies by explaining he needed hits to ensure his musical future in the music business. Off course we know better now... With its horrible blazer section Big wedge is sounding like a hit single from one the eighties albums of Genesis or even Phil Collins. It must not be a coincidence Genesis used the same lyrical idea for the lyrics for "Jesus he knows me". Fortunately on the live performances this track was more enjoyable especially in the enlarged opening section where the tension is building up.

The Company is another highlight. This is one of the tracks which were intended for winning a bet between Fish and Bob Ezrin. Fish was to proof he was able to write a proper folk song. Ezrin was one of the first to be contacted to produce the next Marillion album in 1988 when Fish was still in the band. Obviously the lyrical subject of this song is about the hangover Fish had after leaving Marillion but one could easily interpret it for social issues as well. The atmosphere in this wonderful song does have some similarities with the arrangements of a Kate Bush album. This shouldn't be a surprise knowing producer Jon Kelly had produced Bush in the past. The folky elements are there but the song clearly improves by using a real orchestra. I suppose the influence of Mickey Simmonds who contributed a lot of great music for this album is heavily felt. For years Simmonds played in the backing band of Mike Oldfield and this is most noticeable in the piano part and the symphonic melodies of this song. Never again Fish was able to top the quality of this track. This song has been a concert favourite till the end. As quoted by Fish this is the drinking song of the album.

View from a hill is another lyric about Fish personal feelings on the departure from his former band. Janick Gers from Iron Maiden is the guest guitarist here and shows his talents in this guitar driven track. You can hear the musical theme from the opening chords on. The middle section of this epic is supposed to be wild but the power lacks a bit due to a production which isn't capable of getting the best out of heavy songs. Anyway there's some strong melodies in this wonderful powerful track.

Fish is dealing with the subject of family violence in the lyric of "Family business". The music on this great track is fine but this time the words seem to dominate the track a bit too much. Fortunately there's another important role for the piano and the great guitar lines of guitarist Frank Usher. He used to be a member of one of Fish' first bands before joining Marillion in 1981. Again the arrangements seem to remind me on Kate Bush.

"On a gentleman's excuse me" is a soft piano ballad with only the voice on some wonderful orchestrations. The lyric is some kind of a resignation to a love affair with a very romantic lady. The work of J.RR Tolkien always was a big influences in the work of many progressive artists. Fish uses just one of Tolkiens images as a part of the lyrical background. This is one of the points in the albums where the pathos is heavily spread but strange enough it works !

I can't imagine a song to be more of a ballad than Cliché. This is another example of the romantic side of prog. Sure it's cheesy but I don't believe anyone can stay indifferent when hearing this. Just listen to that guitar solo. What a wonderful way to finish an album.

One of my favourite songs on this reissue is Jack and Jill, originally on the flip side of big wedge. Today the keyboards sound hopelessly outdated but I do still enjoy the melody of this Marillion-like song a lot. To the end the guitar parts and the vocals get to sound more raw and violent. This is the Fish I like the most. A more rockier and emotional version of Marillion.

One could hardly call "Vigil in a ." a perfect example of progressive rock. It's clearly a transitional album between the progressive sound of Marillion and Fish'later solo works. This stuff is very melodic and highly accessible, the arrangements are more diverse than they have ever been during the Marillion years and Fish' voice is in excellent shape. Compared to the Marillion music of 87, it sounds fresh and new and the choice to start a solo carrier seems a logical one at this point in time. Fish should have moved on in this direction on his next releases.

Fishy | 4/5 |


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