Earlier this week I received my copy of happiness is the road, Marillion's 15th studio album, which you can only buy physically from the marillion.com website, except in the US and Poland.
Although it is a double Album, it is being sold as 2 albums, unless you buy the Deluxe Campaign Edition, which is what I did. This edition comes in a special package with additional artwork, and the list of all people that pre-ordered the album before it was even completed. My name is listed there amongst a million other. This is essentially how Marillion funds their recordings these days, they get the money for the album before it is even completed from the fans. The have been doing this since Anoraknophobia back in 2001.
You can also download the album on various different formats from their site, as well as iTunes, emusic.com an I'm sure a few others.
I believe this is far better than the last two albums. Somewhere Else had a couple of really good tracks, but overall lacked consistency, and Marbles, well, I could never really get into it. Although Marbles has received a lot of good reviews, maybe I should really give it another go.
The first CD, Essence. is a a bit more laid back than your usual Marillion album. And it struck me as I was listening to it that Mark Kelly's Piano featured heavily which is unusual. You can always hear the keyboards, but as layers on the song. This time around it adds a different dimension, which I really like. Over the years, they have influenced a number of artists, but in Essence, you can hear their influences, and it is as if they were paying tribute to them, from Pink Floyd to the Beach Boys, and if you read the press release, it even lists Interpol (Anybody else thinks that's strange?) as one of their influences. You can definitely hear the influences all along, it is even good to hear a guitar solo or two from Steve Rothery that reminded me of the Marillion sound of the Fish years.
The second CD, The Hard Shoulder, is my favourite at the moment, and it brings me back to Albums like Afraid of Sunlight and The Strange Engine. It is a beautiflly layered album, where you can hear the playing a bit more. I have been a big fan of Pete Trewavas since I first tried to learn how to play Kayleigh. One of my favourite gigs was when I saw them in Vicar Street for the Anoraknophobia tour and I was standing just a couple of meters from him and was able to see how he played some of the songs. He supports the songs through different melodies that weave through the layers of the tracks.
I think this is a more accessible Marillion than in recent years, yet it won't dissapoint the hard core fans. But what do I know about this, I have been listening t this type of music for a long time, so of course I will find it accessible. It is difficult to name a favourite song at this stage. It is too much music to take in in only a few listens. However, at the moment "Whatever is wrong with you" its at the top of my list.
Marillion seeded the music on torrent sites before the album was released, in a move that caused a lot of controversy amongst the fans that had pre-ordered the album. However, when you download the album this way, you get a message from the band asking you that if you liked the music, to go to their website and check out other stuff.
Overall, Happiness is the Road is a great album! You should at least try it from the torrent sites, and o and buy it if you liked it.
Tony Levin on Bass and Music Man
3 weeks ago