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Old 08-27-2013, 05:52 PM   #11 (permalink)
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The single release for "Punch and Judy" was, to be frank, pathetic in terms of extra value. Any Marillion fan worth his or her salt would at this point already have "Market square heroes", so what did they put on the B-side? Yep: "Market square heroes"! A new version admittedly, but if you were a true fan and had bought the other twelve-inch singles you already had by now three or four versions of the song, and no matter how much you loved the band you did not really want another one! Well, not in lieu of another track that could have been on the B-side. Also, they stuck "Three boats" on it. Why? This had already been a B-side. Talk about ripping the fans off! Even the twelve-inch version of the A-side was exactly the same length as the seven-inch! Nothing to encourage or entice you to shell out the extra few quid, yet we all did. Fans or fools? Maybe both? Perhaps the Jester had the last laugh there.

Fans pushed the single up to the number 29 position in the charts, but it was largely ignored on the mainstream radio.


Now as for "Assassing", well, that was a different story. Well, sort of. At least this time you got the full version of the A-side, though in fairness it was the same version as you got on the album, so points off for that. Still, if you scrimped and only bought the seven-inch you got a crappy three minute edited version, so there was that. Then the B-side. Well, that at least was value for money. A brand new track which had not been available anywhere till then, called "Cinderella search", and which came in two versions --- you guessed it: edited on the seven-inch and full on the twelve, so at least it was worth squeezing the extra few pounds out of your wallet or purse to buy it.

Chartwise, this did slightly better than its predecessor, reaching the number 22 spot and earning the band another performance on "Top of the Pops". Oh joy!
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Old 08-28-2013, 10:17 AM   #12 (permalink)
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From my perspective, Marillion have always been sort of both a blessing and a curse to modern progressive rock. Don't get me wrong, I love quite a bit from both the Fish and Hogarth eras...but I really think there are wayyyy too many "neo-prog" bands out there who seem to spend their careers trying to ape Script For A Jester's Tear (and to a lesser degree the 70's Genesis sound).

Now, Marillion have always had problems marketing themselves outside their core audience, but that's not what I'm really talking about here. Rather, it's like all of these knockoff groups are all under the impression of "Hey, if we stick an overly dramatic guy on stage and throw in a few guitar solos, we can appeal to the market111", and I think its done more harm to the genre's image than help.

That being said, really enjoying these reviews. I'm guessing Misplaced Childhood is next up to bat eh?
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Old 08-28-2013, 02:56 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Close but no bong!
It's actually "Reel to real" next...

Oh, and welcome to my humble thread, O font of prog knowledge! Help yourself to some ants. Or some beer. Whichever you prefer.
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Old 08-28-2013, 03:50 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Script for a Jester's Tear for me has always been a flawed masterpiece. It's an album of meticulous song writing and has an eerie beauty about it and in hindsight draws a huge amount of nostalgia from the early 1980s when it was released, and when I listen to it, it draws me right back to that time period. On its downside, as Anteater said its heavy Gabriel Genesis era influences are too dominant and it was largely responsible for giving us an over-reliance on a huge host of modern day prog bands, that just sound like Genesis and Marillion. Also the album has a couple of songs such as "The Web" and "Garden Party" which don't do that much for me, which if you tally them up, come to 33.3% of the album
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Old 08-28-2013, 04:11 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Close but no bong!
It's actually "Reel to real" next...

Oh, and welcome to my humble thread, O font of prog knowledge! Help yourself to some ants. Or some beer. Whichever you prefer.
Don't mind if I do!



US: Agreed for the most part. I actually like 'Garden Party' quite a bit though...it's got a nice pompy bounce to it.
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Old 08-28-2013, 05:24 PM   #16 (permalink)
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With all the interest that had been generated in them over the last two years and the live versions of various tracks that had appeared as the B-sides of singles, it was not that surprising that Marillion would come out with a live album, but I think personally they missed a trick. This gives all the impression of having been rushed out with not too much thought given to the tracklisting, as I'll explain.

Real to reel (1984) produced by Marillion and Simon Hanhart on the EMI label (Capitol in the USA)


I remember I had this on cassette tape, and I was so underwhelmed with it that I never bothered to get it on vinyl, nor did I update it when CDs arrived as I did all my other Marillion albums. Apart from the clever wordplay in the title, there's not a whole lot to recommend this album to any true Marillion fan, apart from its place in history as the first live Marillion album and being one of only two that featured Fish on vocals prior to his departure in 1987. It's material taken from two shows, one in Canada and one in Leicester during what one would assume must have been the "Fugazi" tour.

There are two songs each from "Script" (though not the title track, amazingly) and "Fugazi" (three, if you bought the cassette or later CD version), one B-side and the immortal debut single. Yeah. Not a whole lot to get excited about, methought when I first saw the track listing, and me continues to think now. I really feel that Marillion should have resisted perhaps the label's pressure to get some live stuff out there until they had a third album, or at least gathered together the material for a proper live album with more than just six songs (seven, on CD and tape): they had after all already pushed their fanbase by doing this twice on their studio albums.

I'll be perfectly honest: even after all this time I can't review this album because I have never listened to it all the way through. The content just puts me off, and I felt cheated, even buying the tape, that they hadn't put more thought into it. But for what there is of it I'll quickly go through the listing.

1. Assassing (7:29) --- An appropriate enough song to start on, both given the dramatic, eerie introduction and the fact that it was a single, not to mention that at that time it would still have been in most people's minds as the first song they heard when they put on the new album. It's marginally longer than the studio version, but we're talking seconds here. Good start, but then...

2. Incubus (8:43) --- A good song from "Fugazi" but why not take the title track? Or the sinuous, reptilian "She chameleon", not my favourite track on the album but I think it could have worked really well in a live setting. Again a longer version but again only by ten seconds or so. I guess the crowd enjoyed it, especially shouting the phrase "Just like a greasepaint mask". Oh, we fans!

3. Cinderella search
(5:45) --- For once a good choice, as this track was only available on the B-side of the "Assassing" single, and is in fact good enough in my opinion to have made it onto "Fugazi" itself. In later reissues of course it was there, but by then it was well known. Good punchy ending and again the crowd must have enjoyed screaming "Welcome --- back to the circus!"

4. Emerald lies
(5:28) (Tape/CD only) --- Ah, one of my favourites! Glad at the time I bought the tape, even if I didn't listen to it. Never been terribly big into live albums if I'm honest. Again an extra twenty seconds, but I did get to see Marillion perform this in 1984 in the Hammersmith Odeon, with the new album back at my hotel in a bag and never having listened to a track, so I know how powerful he could make this in a live setting. Should have been on all versions.

5. Forgotten sons (10:36) --- Now we're talking! A whole extra two minutes almost, allowing Fish the chance to engage in those stage theatrics he became so famous for. Couldn't really see any live Marillion album without this on it, but I would have kept it to the end. Showstopping in every sense of the word, and a real parable for the times.

6. Garden party (6:32) --- Never one of my favourite tracks off "Script", but given that it had been a single I guess they felt it needed to be included. Plus of course it gave the big Scot the chance to use the line "Oh what a crowd!" Not to mention the fans surely had fun singing, with unabashed gusto and delight, "I'm rocking, I'm FUCKING!" Yup: can't censor a live show, Mister BBC!

7. Market square heroes
(7:32) --- Yeah I guess it was always going to be there, but you know, as much as I love this song I think even at this point, with all the different versions we'd had of it I was getting just a wee bit tired of Marillion's debut single, and quite frankly, a seven-minute-plus version I could do without.

So as a first venture onto vinyl for Marillion in a live setting, to be honest I think I was happier with the bog-quality bootleg tapes I was buying aat the time from various dodgy geezers on O'Connell Street. At least on those, despite the crappy sound, you were getting a full concert. This just felt a little too stripped-down, a little too sanitised, a little too record label. Reminds me of that line from "Welcome to the machine" --- "You gotta get an album out, you owe it to the people!" Yeah, but they owed us better than this.

And yes, I'm aware of the irony of putting something down which I haven't even listened to, but I think I'm enough of an authority on this band by this time to know that listening to "Reel to real", even after all this time, is unlikely to blow my mind. Not really a case of too much, too soon or even too little, too late. More like too little, too soon.
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Old 08-30-2013, 05:24 PM   #17 (permalink)
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And so we come, eventually, to what is without question Marillion's best-selling album and the final one in the trilogy described by Fish as "bedsit thoughts", "hotel thoughts" and "home thoughts". It would also feature something of a change in Marillion's style, with the by-now iconic Jester being retired (you see him only on the back cover of the album, escaping out the window) and Fish using the last album as a way of tackling and dealing with his burgeoning alcoholism.

Misplaced childhood (1985) produced by Chris Kimsey on the EMI label (Capitol for the USA)


ALthough there were similar themes and ideas running though the first two albums (I've already talked about the "kitchen sink drama" on "Fugazi") this was Marillion's first actual concept album. It would also be the one that would almost --- almost! --- give them a number one hit single and which would give them a number one album. After this, anyone who didn't already know Marillion at least knew of them, and Fish and the boys had officially arrived. The story running through the album concerns mostly the trials and traumas of childhood, but given that Fish is said to have conceived the idea during an extended acid trip, there's a lot of allegorical, semi-autobiographical and downright weird material on it.

1. The pseudo-silk kimono (2:14) --- Essentially an introduction to, or overture of sorts to the album, it's short as you can see and it opens on a deep, heavy keyboard melody from Kelly as Fish sings of what appears to be the safety and comfort of the womb, and watches a spirit approach him in the form of a child, which either evokes his own memories or dispenses the child's, we're never sure which, as he sings "The spirit of a misplaced childhood is rising to speak his mind". The song is almost entirely driven on Kelly's synths and like every other track on this album segues directly into the next, making the whole thing one long piece of music, apart from the ending of side one.

2. Kayleigh
(4:03) --- Drawn directly from his own past and now the most famous and well-recognised Marillion song despite its being over twenty years old, "Kayleigh" speaks of a doomed love affair and Fish's regrets over same, with the vain hope he could go back in time and repair the damage done. It's a bouncy, uptempo track driven on Rothery's almost poppy guitar but with a very prog rock squealy solo in the middle (shortened for the single, damn them!) and it was so well received --- surprisingly really, given that the band had had two albums prior to this whose singles had not touched the charts except in the most fleeting way --- that the single went all the way to number two, in a sad twist of fate only failing to reach the very top because there was a charity single holding the number one slot, and you can't fight a song written to commemorate the victims of a footballing disaster, nor would you want to. Still, what could have been...

3. Lavender (2:25) --- Perhaps the first ever instance I've heard of where a song had to be lengthened in order to make the three-minute limit for a single! Almost acoustic from the beginning and driven on Mark Kelly's soft piano, Lavender takes the old nursery rhyme and updates it, becoming Marillion's first true ballad since "Jigsaw" and certainly their shortest song, at least up to then, and probably afterwards too. In order to make the song long enough to be released as a single, Fish had to add an extra verse and because it trails off directly into "Brief encounter" Kelly had to take the piano ending that appears a little later in "Blue angel". Still one my favourite songs from them, simple and innocent with a veneer of sardonicism over it, and Marillion's second most successful single, taking it to the number five slot.

4. Bitter suite (7:56) --- Marillion's first multi-part composition, "Bitter suite" is comprised of five parts, each of which I will treat separately here.

(i) Brief encounter: With an atmospheric introduction similar to the beginning of "Assassing", consisting of mostly drum rolls and cymbal flurries, it's Steve Rothery's guitar and Pete Trewavas's bass that lead the melody as Fish mostly speaks a soliliquoy, setting the scene for what is to follow. Dolorous, pealing bells in the background add to the bleak, stark atmosphere here, and in Fish's spoken vocal you can really hear his Scottish accent leaking through.

(ii) Lost weekend: A short section, in which Fish begins actually singing, the music not really changing all that much, getting a little stronger. The lyric seems to concern a father's disappointment with his less-than-beautiful daughter, as he moans "She was a wallflower at sixteen, she'll be a wallflower at thirty-four."

(iii) Blue angel: The action shifts to Lyons, in France, where Fish meets a callgirl, whom we may presume is the daughter mentioned above, and has an amorous liaison with her, noting with apparent disinterest the "ring of violet bruises, pinned upon her arm", attesting to some sort of abuse. The percussion cuts in properly at the start of this, a chiming sort of guitar from Rothery taking the melody after a soaring solo and the musical theme from "Lavender" returns, carrying the rest of this part of the song. As mentioned already, the piano ending and guitar solo to this section is the one Kelly and Rothery took to end the extended version of "Lavender" for the single.

(iv) Misplaced rendezvous: The guitar riff from "The Web" returns in part to carry the first part of this section, as Fish muses on it "getting late for scribbling and scratching at the paper", and I must admit I've often wondered that this part is about. The line "The weekend career girl never boarded the plane. They said this could never happen again: so wrong." has always confused me and I really don't know what he's trying to say here. But it's a short part anyway and really only serves to provide a short lull before we head into the closing section.

(v) Windswept thumb: This in fact segues into the next track, and opens on the piano line that begins the title track on "Fugazi", so you can see a lot of stuff is being reused here. The final part of the song seems to concern a drifter, moving on, never staying in one place too long. It's even shorter, with just piano and bass accompanying Fish's voice before the whole suite melds with "Heart of Lothian".

5. Heart of Lothian (4:02) --- Although not broken up into as many parts as "Bitter suite", this is divided in two, with the first part, "Wide boy", describing the antics of the local lads down the pub on a Friday night --- "The trippers of the light fantastic ... spray their pheremones on, this perfume uniform" --- as they try to bag a partner for their bed --- "Rootin' tootin' cowboys, lucky little ladies at the watering holes, they'll score the Friday night goals." It's basically an affirmation of life and fun, though couched in a very sad and depressed way, almost with an "is this all there is?" idea, and an opportunity for Fish to revel in his Scottish ancestry as he sings "I was born with a heart of Lothian."

If "Wide boy" is the drunken night out, then "Curtain call" is the morning after, a serious comedown where Fish just wants to be left alone to nurse his hangover, but "the man from the magazine wants another shot" and he has to play the part he's expected to play. Kelly takes over here, a big, droning, thick synth line supporting Fish's tired vocal, as at the end he sees what he has become: "And the man in the mirror had sad eyes".

6. Waterhole (Expresso bongo) (2:13) --- As its parenthesesed title implies, this short piece features a bongo rhythm from Ian Mosley, with an opening quite similar to "The psuedo silk kimono", then frantic keyboard strokes from Kelly, hard riffs from Rothery and Fish at his most manic as he seems to talk about the same subject tackled in "Wide boy"; it's almost a continuation of that song, though I think this time it concerns Fish when he is now famous as opposed to the previous song where he was a nobody trying to score, and probably failing. Now everybody wants to be his friend, and every woman wants to sleep with him, and it seems he's bored with it. A very short song, and leads into another short one.

7. Lords of the backstage (1:52) --- A sparkly keyboard line and sprightly rhythm drives this again short track as Fish seems to be gloating at an unnamed lover, telling her how successful he has become. The melody is very slightly reminiscent of "Wide boy" and is uptempo and features tough guitar and hard-hitting drums, chiming keyboards which again leads directly into the next track.

8. Blind curve (9:29) --- The second multi-composition (not counting "Heart of Lothian") and certainly the longest, at this point, studio album track (as mentioned, the live version of "Forgotten sons" runs for over ten minutes and of course "Grendel" is over seventeen, but that was never on any original album) this is also split into five sections.

(i) Vocal under a bloodlight: As everything slows down in a dark, doomy melody the basic theme from the ending of "Script for a jester's tear" comes back, with high keening guitar and slow, measured drumming, another short piece as Fish thrashes out the differences in his lovelife. "Last night you said I was cold", he sings, "untouchable: a lonely piece of action from another town", while admitting "I just want to be free, I'm happy to be lonely."

(ii) Passing strangers: The song slows down more but acquires a harder guitar edge and includes a great emotional solo from Rothery, the basic story continuing and then changing in part three.

(iii) Mylo: On a more uptempo keyboard line and then chimy guitar, Fish sings about Mylo, whomever he may be. The lyric contains a great line, a typical example of Fish's talent for mixing up concepts and yet having them sound right: "Some of us go down in a blaze of osbcurity, some of us go down in a haze of publicity". He's badgered by a reporter, ambushed and so he reluctantly starts giving the interview but the reporter seems disinterested; perhaps Fish is not saying the things he wants to hear. "So I talked about conscience and I talked about pain, and he looked out the window and it started to rain."

(iv) Perimeter walk: Like "Brief encounter", this is a spoken vocal, no singing from Fish, with a heavy, ominous synthline from Kelly and some softly crying guitar from Rothery. Fish's voice comes almost from far away for much of the piece, as if he's mumbling or muttering the lines, and there appear to be either backing vocals or a multi-track doing the same thing. As the music gets stronger in the background, the word "childhood" and then, inevitably, "misplaced childhood" come through clearly, until he's snarling the lines and we power into the closer to this song.

(v) Threshold: The most dramatic and punchy of the parts, it returns to the theme of "Forgotten sons" as Fish rails about war --- "I see priests, politicians, heroes in black plastic body-bags under nations' flags. I see children pleading with outstretched hands, drenched in napalm: this is no Vietnam!" --- and the injustices in the world --- "I see children with vacant stares, destined for rape in the alleyways: does anybody care?"

9. Childhood's end? (4:33) --- On a lovely little guitar line and a rising synth melody, this is the sun shining through after the rain, the calm after the storm, the hope amid the hopelessness as Fish realises that there is perhaps strength in the innocence of childhood. It bounces along nicely but with a soft melody, until the chorus where it gets a little stronger. "I see, it's me", Fish sings, "I can do anything! I'm still the child! Cos the only thing misplaced was direction, and I found direction. There is no childhood's end!" Great solo from Rothery and a driving beat from Mosley and Trewavas, then Kelly takes us out on a descending arpeggio, very Genesisesque.

10. White feather
(2:25) --- Perhaps an unnecessary closer, I certainly thought so. A militaristic drumbeat as the song marches along and Fish recounts Marillion's rise to fame. "I hit the streets back in '81, found a heart in the gutter and a poet's crown." A rather superfluous children's choir accompanies the fadeout, but as a closer I find this very weak, possibly the only weak track on the album, which is a pity as a bad ender can totally destroy the feel of an entire album. This doesn't happen here though --- "Misplaced childhood" is too good a product for one small component to ruin it --- and I suppose "Childhood's end?" does not finish satisfactorily enough, but maybe a reprise of "The pseudo-silk kimono?" Anyway, there it is, it's the track that ends the album and I'm afraid I don't have much positive to say about it, but it's something of an aberration on an otherwise close to perfect album.

The thing about concept albums, and particularly those in the progressive rock genre, is that it's often hard to interpret what they're about. Okay, "2112", we all get that, and "Dark side of the moon" to a degree. "The wall", yes, too, but what about "The Lamb"? Wtf is that about? This then leads me into the trap of trying to figure out what these songs mean, and how they all come together to form one entity and present a vision, when in fact I could be way off. My brother's simplistic explanation, for everything from "Supper's ready" to "Dark side" was, "it's about a mad fella!" and while I'd like to use that getout clause, I don't think that would be fair.

So if someone else knows I'm wrong then by all means enlighten me, but I think if you conceive a whole album while dropping acid it's a fair bet some of it may sound better to you when you're stoned than when you sobre up. But anyway, the basic premise remains, that "Misplaced childhood" is a journey backwards though youth, growing up, mistakes made, chances missed and by a roundabout route coming to some sort of acceptance of who you are, and your place in the world.

But more than that, it's a fine example of later progressive rock, a marker to show concept albums are not yet dead, and a damn fine album. Witness the fact that it is far and away Marillion's best chart performance --- both for album and the singles from it --- and yet is a concept, basically ten pieces of music that flow almost seamlessly together, and you'll get some sense of how incredible it is that the album sold so well. Okay, probably mostly to fans, but if that were the case why didn't "Script" or "Fugazi" perform better in the charts? Certainly some people who had never heard Marillion before must have taken a chance on the album based upon what they heard on the singles. Whether they were disappointed, confused, annoyed with what they heard thereafter or whether they became fans is something I can't say. But your average singles buyer traditionally hates concept albums; they want to listen to something they can pick tracks from, listen to when they want to. They're not overly fond of having to sit down and listen to someone tell a story through music.

And that's what you have to do with this album. Yes you can listen to tracks out of sequence, but it is somewhat like only watching certain episodes of your favourite TV show, or coming in during the second hour of a movie, or leaving after the first. You lose something by not experiencing the whole thing, and the fact that enough people were willing to buy the album to send it right to the top is to me nothing short of amazing. No Marillion album after this would ever achieve this feat, although the next album would make it to number two and spawn a top twenty single, which would signal the end of Marillion's flirtation with the charts.

The end of one era --- that featuring their mascot, the Jester --- and the final album in a trilogy that began with "Script for a jester's tear", "Misplaced childhood" was always going to be hard to follow. It took them another two years before they tried, though personally I think they failed to achieve that until 1994.

But that, my friends, is a story for another post...
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Old 08-30-2013, 06:27 PM   #18 (permalink)
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F***ing love Marillion. Even though Metal was a defining factor for me growing up in the 80's I loved them from day one and I will delve into your posts a lot more when I am at full mental capacity and give you my thoughts.

Even if it is me and you listening eh?
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Old 08-31-2013, 03:29 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Of the early stuff Fugazi was always my personal favourite and I never quite understood why it was always seen as a far lesser album than those either side of it. Disjointed but with great moments is how most reviews tend to see the album.

Btw this review would flow a lot better in my opinion if you were to give each album a rating out of 5 or 10. Then at quick glance anybody can see how you've rated the albums.
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Old 08-31-2013, 08:50 AM   #20 (permalink)
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F***ing love Marillion. Even though Metal was a defining factor for me growing up in the 80's I loved them from day one and I will delve into your posts a lot more when I am at full mental capacity and give you my thoughts.

Even if it is me and you listening eh?
You're always welcome in my threads, Lee. I know you're a big Marillion fan too, so great to have you along!
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Of the early stuff Fugazi was always my personal favourite and I never quite understood why it was always seen as a far lesser album than those either side of it. Disjointed but with great moments is how most reviews tend to see the album.

Btw this review would flow a lot better in my opinion if you were to give each album a rating out of 5 or 10. Then at quick glance anybody can see how you've rated the albums.
TBH I don't rate Marillion albums as I think I would find it hard just to give them a simple X out of 10: they're more complex than that, and I would prefer just to drone on and on about them. Also, if someone were to see I'd given, say, "Radiation" a five, they might decide the album was not worth reading about/listening to, which would certainly be wrong. I think to get the best appreciation of these albums you need to dig deep, which is what I'm trying to do here.

But if you want a simple "best of" thing, well, if you twisted my arm I'd say


Ouch!

and then tell you that this would be my order:

1. Script for a jester's tear
2. Brave
3. Misplaced childhood
4. Fugazi
5. Clutching at straws
6. Marbles
7. Happiness is the road
8. Season's end
9. Afraid of sunlight
10. This strange engine

But that's just thrown together on the spur. Certainly the top 3 would never change but the rest could be quite fluid. There's only one Marillion album I don't like, and that's "Somewhere else"; the rest are all favourites of mine and it's really hard to rate them.

Also, what makes you think anyone else is reading this?
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