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

SCRIPT FOR A JESTER'S TEAR

Marillion

 

Neo-Prog

4.23 | 1989 ratings

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BrufordFreak
3 stars The debut album release from the most recognized Neo Prog artist in the world. Released unto the British public on March 13 of 1983, the single "He Knows You Know" was released on the last day of January. Mark Wilkinson's distinctive artwork would grace all of the band's first eight albums. I'll never forget the reverence with which my musical friend held this album in--it was as if the Second Coming (of PG-era GENESIS) had just happened! I heard this album the day it came to American record stores--my roommate bought it on the basis of album cover and proceeded to play it to death. While I was impressed that (finally!) a band was trying to imitate ("carry forward" I liked to say) the Gabriel-era GENESIS sound, I was dismayed with the quiet, murkiness of the sound--instruments and channels were so melded and quiet--I could hear the Gabriel-like vocals and Hackett-like guitar parts, and could see/hear the mythic references similar to GENESIS but it wasn't appealing--it wasn't catchy enough or inviting enough to draw me in, get me involved, get me to like it.

1. "Script For A Jester's Tear" (8:39) our initial introduction to "the new Genesis." The styling imitation is unmistakable but sound choices, engineering, and subtleties in Fish's voice make this not quite as close to the masters as one would try to have us believe. Still, an admirable construction and even higher praiseworthy performance from the lead singer. Organ and guitar are weak, drums and bass worthy. (17/20)

2. "He Knows You Know" (5:22) BABYLON-sounding electric guitar intro precedes sparse and simple foundation over which Fish's highly-theatric Peter-Gabriel-like voice tells his story. I find it hard to believe that this was well-received as a charting single in both the UK and USA. There must have been a lot of Old Genesis-starved consumers out there at the time. Gabe was never as demonstrative as Fish was. This must be where DISCIPLINE's Matthew Parmenter learned his chops. (8.75/10)

3. "The Web" (8:48) descending blues-rock chord progression (think the ending of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven") supports opening vocal until things soften drastically in the second half of the opening minute for a more delicate story-telling section. This 100-second heavy-delicate pattern cycles through thrice before Steve Rothery is given the first instrumental solo at the four minute mark. He does show some nice chops despite his thin, mixed into the back sound. Nothing very new or exciting here. (Once again, I may be handicapped by my inability to hear/process lyrics.) There are definitely some issues with the isolation with which each track is beholden to; the music never seems to blend. (16/20)

4. "Garden Party" (7:15) sounds so much like one of GENESIS's earlier more staccato songs (think Nursery Cryme). Yes there are a few unique flourishes here and there, and, of course, a new libretto, but the song could otherwise have been stolen from the Trident Studio cutting room where Nursery Cryme was edited. Fish here displays his usual exceptional theatric story-telling acumen but shows flaws in his actual singing voice (pitch and sustain). (12.5/15)

5. "Chelsea Monday" (8:16) though the music opens sounding a little more New Wave-ish (Esp. treated drums) but the vocal and even lyric sound like they were nearly directly lifted from a Peter Gabriel Genesis performance. AT 2:10 things kick into full force with a classic blues-rock Neo Prog vengeance. Steve Rothery's guitar seers in a solo of over 90 seconds (though he cheats a bit with the addition of a second track to reinforce and harmonize some of his notes). A soft tinkling synth and picked guitar passage ensues as Fish sings. Sustained and wah-ed lead guitar notes accompany Fish's transition back into full force voice and then Rothery really begins to soar and seer despite Fish's persistent vocals and shouts of "Chelsea Monday." Pretty good song; great performance from Fish and Rothery. (17.5/20)

6. "Forgotten Sons" (8:21) surfing through televisions stations is superseded by another pseudo-New Wave passage until 0:50 when synth and staccato power chords signal a shift. The guitar solo that follows sounds as if Rothery is trying to mimic the guitar sound of Flock of Seagulls' PAUL REYNOLDS. An annoying metallic rhythm guitar remains persistent throughout, even when the music style and sounds shift in the third minute. At 4:10 there is a pause and then another shift as increasingly numerous voices read a kind of prayer or declaration of grievances and power. At 5:48 a door opens into a completely lush GENESIS soundscape over which Rothery and Fish perform with notable confidence and restraint. This final section is almost enough to salvage this otherwise forgettable son(g). Nice way to end an album--leaving the listener with a positive impression. (17/20)

Total time 46:41

To my ears, the sound production on this album was always too quiet, too compressed. With all of the subtleties that were occurring on multiple layers at any given time, I felt as if I'm always straining to hear the music. I believe that much of the power concealed in this music has been trapped within this constrained, closeted effect. I have the same "problem" with all Fish-era Marillion: it does more to put me off and irritate me than draw me in. Too pretentious, too imitative, too weak melodically and certainly lacking in the classical and folk influences that the originators drew from. I'll take the lush simplicity of Hogarth-era Marillion over this stuff any day.

B/four stars; a nice addition to prog world but by no means the Second Coming.

BrufordFreak | 3/5 |

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