“Early Stages” – The Official Bootleg Boxed Set 1982-1987 by Marillion

Artist: Marillion
Title: “Early Stages” – The Official Bootleg Boxed Set 1982-1987
Label: EMI Music
Release Date: 11/28/2008
Genre: Progressive Rock
Rating: 5/5

I will be the first to admit to the readers that I am one of those fans that is referred to as a “Fish-head” when it comes to the music of the band Marillion. Of course I have to also offer up a little defense for myself as I am also one of those people who kept on following the band once the epic poet Derek Dick chose to move on from their ranks but those years are not the subject of the material that we are examining. While Fish was in the band he had recorded four extraordinary albums and each of them is presented in some fashion across these vintage concerts that were done for the BBC. Through these never before heard tracks we find early interpretations of the work we would come to find on “Script For A Jester’s Tear”, “Fugazi”, “Misplaced Childhood” and “Clutching At Straws”. Fish would move on to start a prolific solo career of his own and since his departure Marillion has released more than three times the amount of studio albums that he did with them along with an incredible amount of live recordings. Of course when Fish moved on there were also many fans that chose to move on as well because the band became a different group from the one that they had admired and was a lot less progressive in its song structure and seemed to be aiming for the ever elusive commercial market. While Steve Hogarth is a fine songwriter too many he was not the epic wordsmith that many felt that Fish was. Facts like these make an album set such as this one a terrific journey into the bands beginnings and time with Fish in the live sense because when it came down to the official releases we would only get “The Thieving Magpie” as the bands live effort. That album focused on “Clutching” and “Misplaced” the most and left far too much off for the heavy duty fan and that’s where these shows now come into play as an incredible find. They labeled this as “The Official Bootleg” boxed set and yet these are not the typical bootleg with lots of crowd noise and rumble instead of quality music and are instead high quality official recordings that were done with better equipment based on their audio sonics. There are six CD’s delivered in the set and they cover five different shows across the span of about five years and we’ve broken it down one by one to offer up some additional comments for your enlightenment.

CD1: The Mayfair Glasgow (9/13/1982): Garden Party, The Web, He Knows You Know, She Chameleon, Three Boats Down From The Candy, Market Square Heroes, Forgotten Sons.
*** Talk about a vintage show, this one is a gem and while I am sure that the band was already signed by the time of this particular concert, they had not yet released an album. This would not stop the hard core fan base from building for them . Obviously the core of the recording comes from the “Script” album and also presents some of the bands singles that we got later on in their recordings or on B-Sides. This recording seems to have the least sonics in terms of proper levels but Fish still sounds great and most of the band can be heard. Drums are by the bands original skins man Mick Pointer and he comes through rather clearly if not more so than the rest of the guys. Fish regularly engages the audience which is something about him that most folks like.

CD2 & CD3: The Marquee (12/30/1982): Garden Party, Three Boats Down From The Candy, Grendel, Chelsea Monday, He Knows You Know, The Web, Script For A Jester’s Tear, Forgotten Sons, Market Square Heroes, Margaret.
*** Continuing the interesting walk back in time to Marillion’s formative years we find the band performing at The Marquee Club and one of the most interesting points to note about this particular show was that it finds the band on the verge of releasing their first album “Script For A Jester’s Tear”. As a matter of fact, Fish comments to the audience that the title track had only been played twice before. The album would arrive in 1983 and be a skillful blend of Progressive Rock and incredibly interesting lyrics that would keep the bands fans on edge again and again. There are two CD’s for this show, so it seems as though we are getting the full performance. The execution of “Market Square Heroes” finds the audience singing along very loudly with Fish and it just begs to be played loud.

CD4: The Reading Festival (8/12/1983): Grendel, Garden Party, Script For A Jester’s Tear, Assassing, Charting The Single, Forgotten Sons, He Knows You Know, Market Square Heroes.
*** Simply put, this recording captures them now beginning to introduce more music from the album “Fugazi” and Fish gets into a long dialogue before “Forgotten Sons”. It’s interesting that “She Chameleon” which was on that particular album is not presented here, but instead came to us in this collection early on CD1. It closes out with an equally rousing “Market Square Heroes” which by now seems to be the crowd pleasing finale.

CD5: Hammersmith Odeon (12/14/1984): Assassing, Garden Party, Cinderella Search, Punch And Judy, Jigsaw, Chelsea Monday, The Pseudo-Silk Kimono, Kayleigh, Bittersuite, Heart Of Lothian, Incubus, Fugazi.
*** There are more than a few special moments with the Hammersmith Odeon show that Marillion fans would be very into and the first part is that this is where we first find drummer Ian Mosley as a part of the lineup. He is the third skins man to be found on this collection and of course as all the fans know full well, he has remained as a member of the lineup since that time. The second notable instance is when Fish introduces the bands new material and while he briefs us as “a direction that many of you didn’t want us to go”, he continues by informing us of the concept album that will come out some six months from this time and be called “Misplaced Childhood”. We get the full first side of what would have been a vinyl release originally and he mentioned that the concept record was in fact two songs, with the first being “Side 1” and the other one being “Side 2”. The songs were obviously still being fleshed out in some sense as “Kayleigh” has a lot of different words to it from what we have come to love since the albums eventual release.

CD6: Wembley Arena (11/5/1987): Slainte Mhath, White Russian, Incubus, Sugar Mice, Fugazi, Hotel Hobbies, Warm Wet Circles, That Time Of Night (The Short Straw), The Last Straw, Kayleigh, Lavender, Bitter Suite, Heart Of Lothian.
*** With the Wembley Arena show we find Marillion supporting their “Clutching At Straws” album, and while this particular concert does manage to feature a couple of their older tracks, the core of the performance is the “Clutching” album (seven numbers) and then it closes out with the first side of “Misplaced Childhood”. It’s pretty close to what we will find on “The Thieving Magpie”, but it gives the fans of that album the chance to enjoy another concert recording from around the same time period. The band opened up for Queen at a number of Wembley dates but we learn that this show was from a benefit concert of some kind. From the audience reception we hear during this show it is clear that Marillion is a band that is well-loved and keeping everyone’s interest.

It’s a very healthy release and a lot to absorb even for the most hard core of Marillion historians. My advice is that they start at the very beginning and take a breather between each one so they might read the very in-depth liner notes that we are offered from Fish himself. There is a sixteen page booklet included and there are no real photos to speak of but instead all small type commentary that addresses each of the CD’s or shows individually. I really enjoyed the time that was put into this area as it’s very educational when it comes down to band history. The release is listed as a strictly limited one but I hope that the interest in it changes this status so that more people will be able to get their hands on it. It’s packaged in a deluxe box with art by long time Marillion artist Mark Williamson and each CD comes in a sleeve that presents different artwork and lists the tracks on the back. With six CD’s making it up, it is also a rather pricy item, but believe me this is well worth the investment since the tracks have never been released before. Add to this the fact that they are outstanding recordings as well, makes it something that all “Fish heads” should investigate and even those who follow the band in today’s music world who might be curious. I didn’t find a moment of disappointment and instead quickly loaded them onto my music player so I could hear them during my daily adventures.

Fish has been out of Marillion for more than twenty years now and still manages to celebrate these classic years during his own solo concerts. He has recorded a full live version of “Misplaced Childhood” which was released on CD and DVD, and much of his solo material follows along the same premise of what he did while a member of this very influential Progressive Rock group.

Track Listing:
1. The Mayfair Glasgow (9/1982)
2. The Marquee (12/1982)
3. Reading Festival (8/1983)
4. Hammersmith Odeon (12/14/1984)
5. Wembley Arena (11/5/1987)

Official Website: http://www.marillion.com

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