Remaster, with all the trimmings of the second ‘difficult second album’ from Marillion.
Release Date: 16th September 2022
Format: 3CD & BluRay / 4LP boxset
In his excellent essay that’s all part and parcel of the repackaging/remastering process, Rich Wilson quite rightly refers to Holidays In Eden as the second ‘difficult second album’ for Marillion. Like Fugazi from the so-called ‘Fish era’, Holidays In Eden (the second album of the ‘Hogarth era’) found a band struggling to recapture the spark after their joyous and deceptively effortless return with Season’s End. The album title clearly sees tongue planted firmly in cheek. The arduous process of writing and recording is thoroughly explored in the accompanying album documentary as the four members and the new singer attempt to meet in the middle and find common ground when it comes to starting with a blank page.
The honeymoon was clearly over and finding that common ground, the way forward between ‘the band’ and new singer Hogarth was proving a difficult task. The added weight of record company pressure (those were the days…) to find a hit single saw them employ the Chris Neil factor, seeking out three singles. After all, the impact that a hit single could make was evident from the Kayleigh days. The essay is a riveting read and sensitively handled by Wilson while the accompanying documentary softens what was clearly a make-or-break period for a band who in hindsight can probably look back with glasses that carry some rose tint.
The package itself continues the excellent work done on collating a definitive document. There’s album itself; some have already bemoaned the option to omit a flat transfer of the original album from the package, and nitpickers will be picking nits from what’s here and what’s gone, but we can play the trump card of Jimmy Page’s justification of ‘same picture in a different frame’ (or ‘different picture in the same frame’ – whatever suits) when regularly revisiting the Zep catalogue in these cases. Great to hear a new mix and the subtleties it reveals and the same for a lovely 5.1 option. Perhaps we’re generally spoiled these days with the mesmerising options, DTS-HD and all and many will sigh with longing for a simple two sided piece of black vinyl.
Whatever, what HIE reveals is a clear distinction and when you look at it; a clear continuum, from the more commercial to the more standard Marillion/prog fare on offer. In an interesting sequencing experiment , because we can, what would it look like? Maybe starting with the clear and obvious single, No One Can and then Cover My Eyes – Dry Land – (the ‘singles’ done) – Waiting To Happen – Holidays In Eden – The Party – Splintering Heart – This Town trilogy… seems to be as close as give or take a tweak or two.
Granted, No One Can certainly has that Kayleigh ring, the glitter and sparkle and a chorus that provides the earworm and there was some budge thrown at the creation of some elaborate (and softly focussed) videos that portrayed the new singer as a bit of eye candy should that audience lap up the offerings. As if to allow for the more commercial demands, the label (and Chris Neil) clearly didn’t want the existing fanbase, which included his son, to become alienated, so there’s plenty of classic and tasty music/songs on which to gorge. Several songs, Splintering Heart in particular as an opening number and the gorgeous “same sun is shining” section, have still peppered the set over recent years and despite some reservations, the HIE period does have many redeeming qualities.and to a non-believer, may actually be a gateway record into Marillion…
It’s what you might call their Abacab album – some compromise, a hint at a new direction yet with something to hang onto and of the non-album extra tracks of the period, How Can It Hurt and A Collection (surely a contender for a hidden gem along with The Release from the previous album, both of which still get live outings even now) aren’t hidden as an embarrassing faux pas.
The healthy collection of demos from the Moles Club and Stanbridge contained within are interesting period pieces that help track the road towards the finished album. Songs in gestation and the chance to monitor the process and progression of , for example, This Town and Splintering Heart is interesting. The former a little rougher around the edges while the latter benefitted greatly from the addition of the opening throb. Works in progress, studio takes
Inevitably, an even more than healthy collection of live material ensures the package can’t be accused of short-changing anyone. Two discs take up a full show from Hammersmith and it’s a genuinely huge show. All the new album is played in a 24 song set that also thoroughly acknowledges the Season’s End album. Splintering Heart is ‘in at #1’ as opening number, increasing the tension. An interesting contrast to the previous tour, Hogarth’sSam Sweeney first, where the band took to the stage without him for the opening instrumental part of King Of Sunset Town, saying hello again before the new boy appeared. Here, we see the reverse, ‘h’ now established and going it alone before the band appears which all plays out in the live footage.
A mention in dispatches too for the mini acoutsic-ish set where Holloway Girl gets a retsratined and dignified arrangement along with the aforementioned A Colelction whose gentleness belies the unnerving subject matter. Several tempos in the pacier number get a boost; This Town fairly rattles along as Marillion tae a leaf from the Metallica school of rock as Hook In You and Incommunicado do much the same. No wonder they could fit twety odd songs into the setif they play some at that pace. There’s also a nice segue from the end of 100 Nights into Slainte Mhath, one of several Fish era numbers cherry picked and dotted into the set, even a fun size treat of Misplaced Childhood getting an outing alongside some of the early days barnstormers.
Live footage also comes from the 1992 Rockpalast show from German TV. A truncated version of the Hammersmith gig, but again with Hogarth alone on stage as the gig begins, looking all mean and moody, long black coat and long black hair, providing a most eye catching spectacle as he would in later years appearing from all sorts of nooks and crannies to sing the opening lines. Like hispredecessor, he’s the central focus as he delivers with the presence we’ve seen over the past thirty years.
The gig ends with the home run of five Fish era songs. Perhaps a leftover nod to the days when their appeal in Germany was at a career high. These were the days when h even had a go at Script (and Freaks) and we can give thanks for the pairing of what are still two of Steve Rothery’s greatest solos in Easter and Sugar Mice in the same show.
The BluRay contains the Pain And Heaven story of/doculmentary as the ban dlook back with occasional rose tinted glasses, but with an element of objective criticism. The interviews were conducted separately, Mark Kelly bemoaning the lack of opportunity to experiment with keyboard sounds and textures (wonder what the album would sound like now should he be given a free hand to revisit the album?) and Ian (always a smile on his face) explains how his drum sound passed through the Neil filter. Hogarth too, muses on the way he might have been projected into the ‘pop star’ of the band and checking the promo videos that accompanied the single, it finds them dabbling with the soft focus fashions of the times – we see Pete’s hair go from the mass of curls to a tightly pulled back pony while the Hogarth locks seeing him settling into something much more of a Renaissance romantic image. Very entertaining. Quite revealing.
In hindsight, HIE is an album that holds a unique place in the Marillion catalogue. Perhaps not as strong as its predecessor but for sure, one that wouldn’t be relegated to the bargain bins. A good album with some nice singles; something you could say about a couple of Marillion albums. An album I personally play more than several others that followed it. Without it being what it is, the reaction that came with Brave might never have happened and what would we have missed with THAT album?!
Here’s (possibly) the star turn of HIE, Splintering Heart, live in 2007: