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Marillion - Marbles

Marbles is Marillion’s thirteenth album. Like 2001’s Anoraknophobia, it was financed by a pre-order campaign but this time it was the promotion and publicity of the album rather than the recording. The pre-order was released on 27th April with the retail single compact disc version released on 3rd May 2004. While it is not a concept album, there are four short songs that share the same theme.


The album opens with the throbbing bass and sound effects of “The Invisible Man". It is just under fourteen minutes long and features Steve Hogarth playing a hammered dulcimer and some superb bass playing from Pete. The lyrics are introspective and are about feeling like a ghost to a past romantic partner. Listen closely to the mention of five major European cities and the cars not swerving as he is stood in the middle of the road. Powerful lyrics matched by equally powerful music and one of the highlights on the album.


"Marbles I" is a very short song and the first of the four Marbles pieces that link together (all of which are around two minutes long). The lyrics of the four pieces are about metaphorically losing your marbles.


"Genie" starts softly with a guitar arpeggio and simple drumbeat. There is plenty of tasteful guitar parts plus some very nice organ sounds. After about two minutes, the band let loose and things get a bit heavier but no less beautiful with a wonderful guitar solo from Steve Rothery.


"Fantastic Place" is another slow ballad style song. Starting with what sounds like electric piano and h almost whispering the vocals. It is another song with a simple drumbeat in the chorus that fits the song perfectly. There is another wonderful guitar solo towards the end of the song.


"The Only Unforgivable Thing" opens with a forty second church organ piece played by Mark. It then slowly builds up throughout the song with reverb heavy drums with lots of snare drum rolls and some pinched harmonics on guitar. It is quite a slow song and extremely beautiful.


"Marbles II" is the second of the Marbles pieces. This piece is about regressing to childhood and how playing marbles brought admiration of fame.


"Ocean Cloud" is the longest song on the album at eighteen minutes. It is the story of Don Allum who was an oarsman and the first person to row across the Atlantic in both directions. In 1986 and 1987, he sailed solo across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean island of Nevis and then returning from Newfoundland to County Mayo in Ireland. It is one of Marillion’s songs that sound incredible live with the visuals, lights and lasers but also sounds fantastic at home with the volume turned up and is not a song that needs a deep analysis but just needs to be enjoyed. One of the other highlights of the album.


"Marbles III" starts with a high octave piano riff and mid-octave synth pad. It is the third of the Marbles pieces and probably the best of the four with lyrics about using marbles as tennis balls and breaking windows.


"The Damage" is a hard rocking song with a Beatles influenced piano riff throughout.  While not one of the best songs on the album, it shows the diversity of the band. Listen out for Pete’s funky bass playing apart half-way through and a short lyrical section from ‘Genie’.


"Don't Hurt Yourself" is a mid-tempo song driven by acoustic and slide guitar and is another song influenced by the Beatles. Like many of Marillion’s lyrics, there is a lot of positivity in the song and that however bad things get, never give up.


"You're Gone" was released as a single. While it didn’t get much airplay anywhere, it still manged to get to number seven in the UK charts and number eight in the Netherlands.  It starts with programmed drums and throughout the song Steve Rothery plays an ebow on his guitar in order to get a high amount of sustain on the lead guitar.


"Angelina" is an eight-minute song about a late-night radio personality who insomniacs appreciate. It is one of the slower songs on the album and is meant to evoke a relaxed feel with lots of synth pads and very subtle bass and drumming. The guitar solo may not be technical but fits the song perfectly.


"Drilling Holes" may be the weakest song on the album but it is fun and funky and quite funny lyrically.


"Marbles IV" is the fourth and last of the Marbles pieces. It is the shortest song on the album and goes back to the first piece about losing your marbles.


"Neverland" opens with a simple piano line intro before changing to synth strings for the verses. The guitar playing soars on this but the whole band are on fine form. Lyrically it is inspired by the story of Peter Pan but is more of a love song than a story. It is probably my favourite song on the album and one that the band play live quite often but never gets boring.


The ninety-nine minutes double album version of Marbles is possibly one of the finest progressive rock albums ever made. It is not known how many copies the album has sold but it is not the number of sales that matters but what the music means to both the band and its fans (a Dutch friend of mine even named his accommodation after it). It is the best album Marillion have ever made and I would probably call it their masterpiece.

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