8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Happiness Is the Road, Vol. 1: Essence (Audio CD)
Ah, boys - you've gone and done it again. Generally the most mature work to-date from a band who continue to grow AND surprise with every album.
As with their previous best works, HITR takes a few laps to get into gear but I reckon this is what you get from a band who have the freedom to create without record company intervention. Perhaps it makes it less accessible to the wider public (and thus giving them less success than we, the lucky ones, often proclaim that they should enjoy) but that's the catch - any more 'commercial' and yes, Marillion would no doubt recieve wider acclaim but at what price? We'd be without so much that makes a Marillion album special.
I'll admit that on first (and perhaps second AND third) listen, Essence came as a slight dissappointment. What I heard wasn't the progression I had expected from Marbles (their crowning glory prior to this album...) and Somewhere Else (which is STILL growing on me - sheesh, am I a slow learner??!)
Moving on to The Hard Shoulder provided an easier learning curve - definitely a collection-of-songs rather that the concept-album of Disc 1. Personal high points (at the moment) are Asylum Satellite #1 and Real Tears.
Now though, a few days in, and Essence has me under its spell. Liquidity and Woke Up are current faves but it's an ever changing scoreline....each and every track has some sublime moments - for me, the sign of a well executed and constructed 'concept-album'. The funny thing is that now I've started to appreciate Essence for all of it's textures and flavours, things that I first considered lumps-and-bumps, The Hard Shoulder now 'fits' as part of the whole work rather than a consolation-bonus-disc-for-an-awkward-and-risky-main-offering. Clever.
I'm now convinced that this will be a long-term love affair and I'm even thinking it may be better than Marbles - and I NEVER thought I'd say that....now I feel like I've cheated on the likes of Neverland!
If you haven't yet taken the plunge and bought this album, make sure you get the whole thing. Yes, Essence and The Hard Shoulder are very different, but like I said, after a while you'll see that they compliment each other perfectly, retaining their differences yet taking Marillion in a consistent direction with no filler tracks to make up the numbers. You NEED both parts!
To those who have expressed any dissatisfaction in other reviews here, I'd urge you to take your time and let HITR grow on you. It's an album that has evidently been made with a huge amount of honesty and pride while pandering to just about no-one. It's an album with too much on offer to dismiss - you owe it to yourself to get your head round it.
Appreciation IS the Road.