Originally written for the Marillion fanzine "The Rest of Both Worlds".
Okay, it took a fair while to turn up but I can't believe the negative reaction to the marillion.com bonus disc from some quarters. marillion.co.uk is a marketing tool - no-one was told to expect a second disc of unreleased material - and with the band's need to refocus on generating income direct through Racket Records, its target is clear: increase our mailing list and sell the punters our back catalogue. The decision to keep it back a few months was also sensible given the need to maintain regular exposure and that marillion.christmas arrived two months after the album itself.
Nevertheless, with a multimedia segment, including the Deserve video, neatly complementing a selection of tracks from Racket releases, including the latest live offering, 'Zodiac', it's not unreasonable to assume that at least half of the disc will be new to the average recipient. And it's free anyway. Lighten up! And welcome back to the circus.
Alright, so we're not expecting the moon on a stick (or to have our real names on the address label), but we do get a well chosen selection of musical adverts in the audio section of the CD, for starters. I mean I can't say I prefer the acoustic The Answering Machine to the Radiation version but it does showcase the superior production of Unplugged At The Walls, notwithstanding the happy-clappy atmos and the nagging feeling that Mark's going to launch into the theme tune to All Creatures Great And Small during the verses.
The exquisite Afraid of Sunrise from the same CD is also a worthy inclusion. Some fans seem to have a problem with this track - is it because it's in 7/8 perhaps? A rhythm you have to get into, for sure. A proggy band I knew in the early nineties used to have this singer who would always sneak on during a weird intro tape and jump up covered in facepaint as the band launched into a quirky 7/8 opener. Then he'd watch the audience desperately attempting to dance. At least the Oswestry audience don't try to clap to this one.
Deciding to include a track from Live In Caracas, the best of the early 'official boots', is pretty much a no-brainer - I'm not sure h will be entirely happy with the track choice though when he re-listens to the rather strained vocals at the end of The Space. Looking at the tracklisting for the Caracas concert CD, handily included with those for the other 'source discs' in the multimedia portion of .co.uk, I seem to remember there being potentially better selections - I'm listening to one of them, Waiting To Happen, now, if you see what I mean. Nevertheless, The Space neatly sums up the atmosphere available on Racket 2, even if the band do seem in a terrible hurry to finish it at the end (Mind you, it's not a patch on the laughably fast Hooks In You - knocking 25 seconds off a three-minute track - perhaps the band don't like it either?).
I personally find The Making of Brave fascinating from a muso perspective and am unsurprised that it's the demo version of The Great Escape, in itself a summary of the album as a whole (although lacking some of the lyrics in this incarnation), that makes it to the sampler. I'm not sure how many MoB copies will be sold as a result of this - anyone interested in the Marillos' songwriting process will surely have it already - but the inclusion of Afraid of Sunlight from Piston Broke actually made me play the This Strange Tour offering again and realise that I've been a little excessively critical of it in the past, so perhaps you ought to go get that.
Unless you don't have Zodiac yet, in which case toss your lolly that way instead. It has far more life to it, h's voice is considerably stronger and the overall sound better balanced. Zodiac also features neither 80 Days nor Hope For The Future on it, and Berlin is a great taster to insert here, with Ben Castle's sax contribution to boot; or is it a cricket bat?
To round off there's an unreleased track - a surprisingly effective bass and vocals rendition of The Bell In The Sea - also taken from last year's Oxford Convention shows, and an interview from the same time. Both of these lead us nicely to the marillion.co.uk multimedia experience, effectively presented by AMX Studios, as there's video for both available to complement the soundtracks. Actually the montage of .com sound clips that accompanies the jocular interview is worth a mention in itself - always makes me put the album on anyway.
The presentation of the enhanced elements, over the background from the rear of the .com packaging (no, I haven't trodden on mine yet and I don't have a dog) is excellent (and it didn't want me to downgrade QuickTime to run, eh-hmm), with a good mix of written info, pics and video - if the Deserve promo is anything to go by, the upcoming release(s) will be well worth the wait. The sentences in the biog are generally shorter and more intelligible than the one above too, although a little more detail would be nice in some of the song-by-song analysis. It would also be helpful if the packaging said specifically whether the disc ran on Windows NT ;-)
Steve Hogarth says "We're caught up in something here that's far more significant and precious and meaningful and spiritual than selling pieces of plastic." Well, ironically, the latter is precisely what this bonus disc is for but I, for one, ain't complaining, if continuing to ramp up Racket's sales gives us another couple of albums from the Aylesbury Amblers. And no, I haven't left a track out, no remixes of Memory of Water are included.
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