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Fish - 13th Star CD (album) cover





3.79 | 252 ratings

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5 stars Despite being a fan of Fish throughout his career I have reserved 5 star ratings for some of the Marillion albums he did- until now! I loved the previous studio album 'Field of Crows' but it seemed at the time it might be Fish's last- his interest seemed to be focussing on acting. The success of the 'Return to Childhood' tour seemed to reinvigorate his passion in music hovere, and early in 2007 he announced the intention to produce '13th Star'- to be concept album.

Interested as always I was a bit surprised to learn that the main co-writer would be long-time bass player Steve Vantsis, who had not previously written - would it be any good?

Early in the process Fish got a show on UK radio station Planet Rock and through the next few months the demos for the new album were played - from very early stages through to unmixed final recordings. It started to become apparent that the new album had a lot to offer, and definitely was going to have some 'heavy' sections.

In the meatime Fish went on an emotional rollercoaster ride. He rekindled his relationship with Heather Findlay and got engaged, only for them to split in May just after the wedding invitations had been sent. The album was bound to reflect the upheaval.

The concept on the album is of a man trapped in routine trying to find his 'navigator' in life- dreaming of a lasting love, believing he's found that person and then the falling apart, before ending with some hope. It comes initially as a 10,000 unit limted edition digipak which features arguably Mark Wilkinson's finest album artwork ever, inspired by the lyric to 'Dark Star' . The album was produced by Calum Malcolm, who has given the album a superb sound quality, something which can not be said of all previous Fish offerings.

The album kicks in with 'Circle Line' , a dark, snappy groove, with plenty of guitars and atmosphere which really sets the scene for the album. Next is 'Square Go' which is based around a single very heavy riff and Fish spitting out a spoken section where he vents real venom in his desire for a 'fair fight' with the world. The song ends with a piano piece which reminds of the end of 'White Russian'. It ushers in 'Miles de Besos' , a piano-based atmospheric ballad written with returning keys man Foss Patterson.

Zoe 25 is next - here the album climbs onto the highest level as a hypnotic blend of acoustic guitar and piano and a warm production take you through a 'daydream'. Lyrically it paints a vivid picture, reminding somehow of 'Chelsea Monday' . 'Warm Wet Circles' or even 'Cinema Show'. 'Arc of the Curve' is an excellent song which could make radio. At this point the traveller thinks he's found his true love and it falls out of the speakers as an anthemic rock ballad with wonderful melody .Of course the dream relationship doesn't last and in 'Manchmal' the doubts creep in with the heaviest thing he's ever done- quite simply an astonishing riff that kicks along at pace as Fish wraps himself around the words with great passion. Halfway through the song suddenly changes into a gentler section, reminiscent to me of 'Waving at Stars' on the 'Raingods' album.

'Openwater' was written with guitarist Frank Usher and is another good heavy song. Again it snaps along and benefits from superb production.

At this stage the album probably needs the 'epic' and 'Dark Star' delivers big time. A slow, gloomy world as Fish reflects on the split suddenly has a ripping chorus which, after the second chorus climbs into a huge soundscape through which an excellent guitar solo hammers home the sound as worlds slowly collide.

Then it's ballad time with 'Where in the World' , heartfelt lyrics and superbly crafted music which progresses through two distinct sections.

Finally we get to the title track. Throughout the album Fish has been singing in a low range which suits his voice more these days, but on this one he goes even lower and is absolutely emotionally naked. In recording this he pieced together the vocal between being overcome by emotion and the tears can be heard in his voice through the first half of the song. Then the song climbs up to classic album closer mode with an uplifting, optimistic section where he resumes his search for the point in his life ..... the '13th Star' honestly brought tears to my eyes on first listen.

So, as a lifelong Fish fan am I being biased? I don't think so. Already there are people posting on forums that this is certainly his best sol album , some are saying his best album ever.Some people who admit they have never been totally convinced by Fish solo are saying they are loving this. I am certainly of the opinion that it's his best solo album and stands up well against the finest of his work with Marillion- I never expected soemthing this good and Steve Vantsis and Fish have made a great collaboration. From a prog point of view If you're looking for a new 'Script' it is not that, if you're looking for a 'Misplaced Childhood' or 'Clutching at Straws' for 2007 then you could do far worse than get hold of one of the limited editions while thy're available.

The album is currently only available from the website or at gigs, going to retail early in 2008.

oldcrow | 5/5 |


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