Less Is More

Release Date: October 02, 2009
US - December 08, 2009
Produced by: Michael Hunter
Format: CD



John Dunphy


Anyone who knows me or has read my past reviews knows how much I love Marillion. And, I want to love the new Marillion acoustic album. But, I don't. That doesn't mean I don't like it, however.

It's not that the songs – extending through the entirety of the Steve Hogarth years, which began with Seasons End in 1989, and represented here with “The Space” -- are awful. Some acoustic renditions feel strangely familiar. “The Space” acoustic appeared in almost identical fashion on a live disc, I think it was 1999's Unplugged at The Walls, while “The Memory of Water” already was kind of an unplugged song when it bowed on This Strange Engine in 1997. Which makes me wonder why they decided this was one of the songs that “made the cut,” as apparently the band had a much larger list of songs they wanted to try acoustically but decided to abandon. “Go!”, the opening track here, is not bad but I don't understand why, if Marillion was OK with recording “The Space”, why they would not repeat the same thing for the enormously superior version of this track from A Piss-Up in A Brewery?

Some tracks benefit from the experiment. The original “Quartz”, a groovy, punchy eight-minute number, keeps its beat with a glockenspiel while Hogarth croons through a jazzy, lounge singer pace and everything hums. “This is the 21st Century,” one of three songs representing 2001's Anoraknophobia, is worthy. The “mystery track,” “Cannibal Surf Babe” from 1995's Afraid of Sunlight, is not all that different from the original, which means it's still very enjoyable. Brave's “Hard as Love,” originally a much rockier track, is one of the most transformed songs here. The lone new entry, the piano-driven “It's Not Your Fault,” is emotionally dense in its simplicity and a very good track, with Hogarth's voice baring its owner's soul.

I had the good fortune of seeing Hogarth, guitarist Steve Rothery and bassist Pete Trewavas as “Los Trios Marillos” at the Bowery Ballroom in New York in 2005. Looking back, L=M is a lot like that lineup, but with keyboardist Mark Kelly and drummer Ian Mosley along for the ride. I loved that concert, and I am very certain these acoustic rendtions would translate beautifully to the stage.

Much of Less is More requires the listener to throw the original songs out of their mind and start fresh. Otherwise, you'll constantly compare the two. The acoustic arrangements offer some cool concepts, noteworthy moments best enjoyed in a comfortable chair with a glass of wine in a dimly-lit room and, like much of Marillion's extensive catalog, from beginning to end. But, even the best tracks cannot compare to the originals. Not that they should, but it's the risk one always takes when trying to reinvent the wheel. Call it a curse of creating a fantastic product the first time around. And that's not really a bad thing.









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212 Frech

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