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Marillion - Real to Reel CD (album) cover





3.84 | 311 ratings

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3 stars This is an odd little live album from the earliest days of the Fish era. Marillion are certainly a band that has an affinity for live albums, having released more of them than they have studio albums over the twenty-five years or so of their existence, and even now offering their 'Front Row Club' where fans sign up for a subscription service and eventually receive a couple dozen additional live CDs from various shows over the years.

And why not? In general Marillion's live recordings are pretty well-engineered, and the band appears able to reproduce their studio sound quite well on the stage. And as far as this early recording, Fish was frankly born to be on stage, so the energy of the shows that provided these tracks is fairly evident.

That being said, there are enough minor annoyances with this collection that they are a bit of a distraction from what is otherwise a very good early look at the band on stage. First is the song selection, and particularly "Cinderella Search", which was originally the backside of several of the various "Assassing" singles and/or pictures discs that were released surrounding Fugazi. Not only is this kind of an obscure inclusion, but this was left in on the original British LP release of Real to Reel, from which the wonderful "Emerald Lies" has been cut ("Emerald Lies" appears on both the cassette and CD versions of this album). Considering vinyl albums far outsold either cassette or CD up until about a decade after this first released, it would have made for a much better album had "Cinderella Search" been cut instead.

Another irritant is that the cassette version lists each song as being anywhere from ten to forty-eight seconds longer than they are listed on the album. I'm not sure which is right, although I timed "Cinderella Search" and it played out at 5:46 which is what is listed on the cassette, although the album lists it at 5:24. All the other songs on the vinyl are listed with shorter times than they are on cassette as well. This probably means nothing, but one has to wonder exactly how much attention was really paid to the engineering and packaging of this thing. Marillion came largely out of nowhere in 1982, and this was clearly a promotional album aimed at both taking advantage of their fast-rising popularity, and trying to spur more interest in the group I suppose, but it would have been nice for the label to get it right the first time.

And speaking of getting it right, this album was re-released a few years later and packaged with a 'bonus' disc which was actually the Brief Encounter combination live/studio album that was released a couple years after this. If you can find that version, it's much better than this one because "Emerald Lies" is on it, as well as "Fugazi" and five other tracks from the first couple of albums. This one is actually a good deal, and since some of those recordings are from the same concerts as Real to Reel drew from, one has to feel a bit screwed in shelling out for the two live 'EPs' separately on their initial release.

Other than that, the production is quite good on Real to Reel, particularly on "Forgotten Sons" and "Incubus", which are near perfect execution by the band.

On "Market Square Heroes" Ian Mosley doesn't quite pull off the intoxicating rhythms he laid down in the studio when this was recorded, and as a result the song doesn't have near the biting impact as the original recording of it does. Also, Fish spends a bit of time introducing band members to the audience, and does that little thing on some of the choruses where he holds out the mic and lets the crowd song. I've always hated that on live albums - I want to here the performers, not the drunks in the near rows.

So all in all this is a good snapshot of the early days of Marillion on the road, with about half the tracks being very good, and the others just so-so. There are better live collections from Marillion, and unless you're intent on hearing what they sound like in their first couple of years, I would look toward picking up Script, Fugazi, and the Market Square Heroes original studio releases instead. If you're determined to have this just because it's live, at least pick up the remastered CD and get the Brief Encounter tracks as well. I give the original British vinyl release two stars, but since you're more likely to be able to get the much better value re-release with Brief Encounters today, I'll bump that to three stars.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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