“Less Is More” by Marillion

Artist: Marillion
Title: “Less Is More”
Label: Eagle Records
Release Date: 10/28/2009
Genre: Progressive Rock
Rating: 3/5

Simply put “Less Is More” amounts to Marillion coming off as an Easy Listening artist since its content finds the band taking a number of their tunes and minimizing them to the bare bones by not only slowing them down, reworking the melodies and delivering them acoustically as well. Based on this, it becomes an album that only a few choice fans of the group will be interested in giving a listen to. Before I continue on I must declare to the world that I am a long time Marillion fan and have been supporting them for a couple of decades now but lately their releases are making it harder and harder for me to do this based on how much distance they keep putting between the legacy listener and their own musical adventuring. The band originally formed in 1979 and had had singer Steve Hogarth at the helm since 1988. Over these past thirty years they have slowly morphed from an intensely lyrically visual Prog-Rock band into something more like Atmospheric Experimental Rock and as result lose fans from the past while making some new ones that would not have liked the old stuff anyways. Hearing these compositions acoustically is “nice” at best for me, but this is based on my wanting to be set straight by the group once again after the ill-received “Happiness Is The Road” double album that they last gave us. That release lost me, and I had hoped that its follow up would get back on track like they showed us could be done with “Marbles”. They followed that release with “Somewhere Else” which was uhm…..let’s move on shall we.

Sound and production wise this is a very solid release and the melodies and lyrics are crystal clear. I’ve always enjoyed how Hogarth sings and his powerful range works well within this context. I just wanted more of an exciting album from them as opposed to another brave experiment. Highlights come via songs like “The Space”, and “Hard As Love” which is the “heaviest” of the albums offerings. I also rather enjoyed how “This Is The 21st Century” transferred into the acoustic realm and I was impressed that the band chose not to try their hand at any of the legacy Fish material. Of course it’s probably safe to say that they no longer feel the need to do much of it since H has been fronting the band for more than three times the amount of years that Fish was in place. The release closes up with a few bonus live tracks and while not listed on the liner notes or packaging they begin with “Cannibal Surf Babe” which I always enjoyed and found amusing in the acoustic sense when it came down to it. They also do a soulful version of “Runaway Girl” and “Fake Plastic Trees” that finds some Hogarth banter to the audience before the band plays. Knowing Marillion there is most likely some video footage of the putting together of this release or the live shows that presented it to their fans and that we shall see this being released sometime in the future. For me, the strongest points for the album were in the bonus tracks and that is why my rating stands were it does.

I didn’t necessarily mind hearing how the band did some of their tunes acoustically, but the downside of this is that is comes off as so restrained that it can become boring to listen to for some people. That fact bothers me quite a bit since this is a band that used to excite me with each and every melody and has not been able to do so for quite some time now. Marillion has moved their sound away from a lot of the expectations that their fans had for them and with “Less Is More” surely don’t seem like they intend on stopping any time soon. That much is good for the ones who are interested in the constantly changing painting that they are musically putting out there but this is not for those fans who are longing for Prog-Rock mastery. Good at best in my opinion and for a strictly defined Marillion fan base.

Track Listing:
1. Go
2. Interior Lulu
3. Out Of This World
4. Wrapped Up In Time
5. The Space
6. Hard As Love
7. Quartz
8. If My Heart Were A Ball
9. It’s Not My Fault
10. The Memory Of Water
11. This Is The 21st Century
12. Cannibal Surf Babe – live
13. Runaway – live
14. Fake Plastic Trees – live

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

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