Time for some album reviews.
Fear - Marillion
I've been putting off writing this review since I have to say.... for me this isn't a classic brilliant album. It is very good but for me this isn't Marillion at their best. Odd isn't it first time in thirty years they get back into the top 5 with a release and get rave reviews and I'm left a bit like... hmmm... it's really good but... but what?
It is an epic work, there in lies some of it's problem, also reading how it was put together with the band working with long time collaborator Mike Hunter in the producers chair. From my reading of the interviews it goes something like this.... the band jam on stuff for hours - Hunter captures is all then starts to construct the pieces with the band from that and then they add in the details etc. For me it then means that these long pieces constructed in this way don't always for me as an entire "song" hang together. Now Marillion have always had long tracks and compositions - Forgotten Sons in their first album through to Gaza (which is quiet simply one of the greatest bit of music ever!) on their last effort Sounds that Can't be Made. However then you get a set of 5 - 6 mins songs that are of the more traditional intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, solo, verse, chorus, outro.... This album is all of the long songs with several bits - indeed the track listing on the CD actually runs to 17 "tracks" but three of the compositions are split into 4 or 5 tracks. I just missed a Beautiful, Easter or Map of the World and too often the joins are simply holding some suspended chord making you think - where's the bridge to the next bit. The next bit is invariably good but for me, I'm too demanding maybe, where's the clever link? Seems writing that I'm being churlish in that I'm hitting an album that is terrific for the sake of the odd few seconds of a rundown or drum flourish.
So despite being a manic Marillion fan and again stumping up my cash straight away on the now familiar crowd funder for the album and having my name on the deluxe edition and despite several of the parts being brilliant - Living In Fear (one of the two shorter songs) is my highlight - it's anti gun / violence topic being so prevalent to today's world. "We've decided to risk melting our guns". Throughout Hogarth's lyrics are the best he has written, if you feel it is right for bands to be making statements like they started in Gaza the album before. Of the longer tracks The New Kings is terrific, part 2 (Russia's Locked Doors) featuring one of Steve Rothery's legendary tasteful Gilmore like solos. The final part (Why is nothing ever true) is I can see a crowd pleasing barn stormer of future live sets.
Anyway - enough of my blathering - it is a great album, my fire for Marillion is never diminished, compared with most bands who've been banging out stuff for over 30 years they still are doing new stuff, relevant stuff, edgy stuff, political stuff... ignoring what the world is doing but reflecting totally what the world has become - hmmm... remember Forgotten Sons and it's highly charged political statements being so shockingly portrayed on The Old Gray Whistle Test... meet the new Marillion... still the same, only different.
You can listen on Spotify - go be converted it you aren't yet.
Wild - Joanne Shaw Taylor
To another trailblazer. It is a shame that I keep seeing statements like "the best female British Blues Rock guitar/vocalist". She is simply one of the best Blues/Rock players period - ignore her gender! This album moves her on a fair bit being recorded in Nashbville with Kevin Shirley in the producer chair. Yes him, the guy that has produced loads of Joe Bonamassa's stuff. Some of the backing band - notably Lee Thornbury's horn section - are from Joe's various efforts. This is by far her best and most accomplished effort to date. She is a stunning guitarist from the off with Dyin' to Know having a chunky Tele riff that has you into a smoky bar somewhere in a flash. I love her throaty voice too which is so suited to her style. I'm in Chains is another belter if you want to get a flavour from your favourite streaming service. Two covers also show how brilliant she is. Wild is the Wind the old song that Bowie covered on Station to Station is turned into an epic blues rocker. Just as you think it is finished after a great solo there is a reprise with one of the best blues solos on record ever in my humble opinion. Summertime is also given the Taylor treatment and it is a super reworking of the old jazz classic with her own style - something too many fail to do these days in covers she reworks these two into being her very own. That shows her brilliance in my mind.
If you like Jeff Healy, aforementioned Mr Bonamassa, Gary Moore et al try this out I don't believe you'll be disappointed at all.