Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Marillion Discover Dry Land After Fish

Meanwhile Marillion faced a dilemma of Genesis-like proportions, with having to find a replacement vocalist for Fish, who would not only meet with the band’s approval, but satisfy the demanding expectations of their loyal fan base. They didn’t have the benefit of a Phil Collins already within their ranks, but they eventually found a worthy replacement in Steve Hogarth (ex-The Europeans). Hogarth proved a glove-like fit for the Marillion sound, and before long had won over the majority of former Fish devotees. He not only managed to handle the vocal duties but became the band’s chief lyricist, in partnership with John Helmer. 1989’s album ‘Season’s End’ (UK#7) was a strong start to the new vocalists tenure, yielding the moderate hit singles ‘Hooks In You’ (#30), ‘Uninvited Guest’ (#53) and ‘Easter’ (#34). The follow up pop-oriented ‘Holidays In Eden’ (UK#7) proved there was still a considerable legion of support in the British market, but the halcyon days of churning out top 10 singles were behind them. That said, Marillion maintained a regular presence inside the British top 40 throughout 1991 with the singles ‘Cover My Eyes (Pain And Heaven)’ (#34), ‘No One Can’ (#33) and ‘Dry Land’ (#34).

Aside from the compilation album ‘A Singles Collection 1982-1992’, which featured the arguably miscalculated attempt to cover Rare Bird’s song ‘Sympathy’ (UK#17), Marillion kept a low profile over the next couple of years. The extended break proved beneficial, as they re-emerged in 1994 with one of their most critically acclaimed albums ‘Brave’ (UK#10). It was a return to the conceptual roots rock Marillion had done so well a decade or so earlier, fusing elements of folk and pop-rock with layers of symphonic atmosphere. It featured the hit singles ‘The Hollow Man’ (#30) and ‘Alone Again In The Lap Of Luxury’ (#53). Marillion’s final studio album for long time label stable EMI was 1995’s ‘Afraid Of Sunlight’ (UK#16) which yielded the band’s last top 30 single for some time, in ‘Beautiful’ (UK#29). The band members then took a brief sojourn from group duties to pursue a number of side projects.

Marillion then shifted to the Raw Power label, and marked the new phase in their career with the more commercially accessible soft-rock album ‘This Strange Engine’ (UK#27) in 1997. The band were scheduled to tour Europe in support of the album, but they advised fans via their internet site, that due to lack of label support a tour of the U.S. was off the cards. Marillion are renowned for being one of the first major commercial artists to embrace and utilise the potential of the internet for interacting direct with its fan base. Even in its relative infancy, the power of the internet proved profound when fans of Marillion worldwide networked together to co-ordinate raising over $60,000 to underwrite the cost of a U.S. tour leg, resulting in the group’s biggest tour undertaking in North America in over six years. 1998’s album ‘Radiation’ (UK#35) showed that far from being an isolated musical entity, Marillion had a willingness to absorb influences across the entire music spectrum, this time taking on elements of the Radiohead sound, with Beatle-esque tones. The band dipped its hat to the internet with the title of their next album ‘Marillion.com’ in 1999 (UK#53). 2001’s ‘Anoraknophobia’ (great title) was a relatively low key affair that had been funded by fans pre-orders, but 2004’s ‘Marbles’ marked a welcome return to form, and yielded the UK hits ‘You’re Gone’ (#7) and ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’ (#16), the band’s first top 20 singles in over a decade.

Marillion’s next studio offering came with 2007’s ‘Somewhere Else’ (UK#24), featuring the #15 hit single ‘Thankyou Whoever You Are’. With a long time loyal fan base, now supplemented by a new generation of followers, Marillion are experiencing a well deserved renaissance in their career, captured by the two volume album release ‘Happiness Is The Road’ in 2008 (the second volume available to fans via the group’s website). Despite Steve Hogarth having been Marillion’s vocalist for more than twice the tenure of Fish, rumours still surface periodically linking the former front man with his old band mates. But Hogarth’s place is assured, with the only one-off ‘reunion’ between Fish and Marillion occurring in 2007 when they performed their first hit single ‘Market Square Heroes’ in their home town.

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