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Happiness Is The Road - Introduction

Introduction:  Album fifteen is another double album, produced by the band & Mike Hunter. The first CD is a concept album entitled Essence.

Essence is partly based on ideas from a new age/self-help book recommended to Steve Hogarth during the Somewhere Else tour, called 'The Power of Now' by Eckhart Tolle and concerns the notion of embracing the moment rather than dwelling on the past or future.

In an interview with  Sean Palmerston for Exclaim, Pete Trewavas said: "Well the original idea was to take songs we had left off Somewhere Else and put out a CD of those seven songs. I think it was that at the time. One or two songs got left by the way side as we started re-recording and thinking of working on one or two more songs. Then Mike got us to update some of our studio outboard gear and rigged us up for recording multi-track at every opportunity while we were jamming, rehearsing or arranging ideas.

"[This meant] that if we came up with a great idea while jamming on a particular day, it was already recorded and all of that recording could be dropped in to the finished master track. Which is what happened on more than one occasion. Or we could use the drums from a particular days recording if we felt that they were better than another take we had been working on. The same goes for keys, bass and guitars.

"This made the process of writing and recording quicker than on previous albums and having heard some of the results we took off on a particularly creative spur and were reluctant to stop the writing process. This meant that we had far too much material to put on a single CD. We found when we listened through that many songs had a theme running through them, while a far few others were just good songs we could leave behind. That decided, the double album idea was born but we felt it should be somehow separated a little more than just disc 1 and disc 2. So we thought that two definitive albums was the way to go. Seems to have worked. So far so good."

The album is a continuous piece of music à la Brave, with linking pieces connecting the main songs. Stylistically, the music is extremely lush and dense, taking in a myriad of different styles including soul and dub as well as more traditional Marillion territory. There is a lot of textures, particularly from the keyboards (some obvious reference points being Blue Nile and Sigur Ros), and not huge amounts of trad-style Rothery soloing - though what there is, is fantastic.

There's also a lot of vocal harmonies; it'll be interesting to see how this works live. Will Mark have a mic again..? This is possibly the most overall upbeat album the band have ever released, yet it contains so many moods that it's very difficult to put it into words with any real expectation of doing the music justice. Not all of the songs on this album require explanations.
The second CD is entitled The Hard Shoulder, and is a collection of unconnected songs of a generally more rocky nature. It would be a strong standalone album in its own right. There's much more rocky stuff on this album, but the lush orchestration remains a major feature. There's also a sixties vibe to some of the stuff here, though not necessarily the obvious touchstones (Beatles/Stones).

Lyrically, both albums contain some very intimate words, and Hogarth frequently uses sotto voce that gives the songs a feel of a confessional. This is greatly aided by some of the subject matter; there are songs that anyone with even the slightest intimacy with Hogarth's life must necessarily interpret as personal revelations and they can be uncomfortable.  It's for this reason that the album ends with a song about the dangers of packaging your pain for consumption as art; Real Tears for Sale.

Not all the songs on these albums warranted explanations.

Cover notes: The cover is taken from the illustration for Asylum Satellite #1 by artist Antonio Seijas. Antonio had previously created work for Gazpacho, who released records on Marillion's Intact label. Antonio's website can be found here.

The Essence cover features a glowing white satellite shape covered in what look like domestic TV aerials superimposed in front of a red photo manipulation that recalls the backgrounds used for the No One Can single from the Six of One album. The Hard Shoulder cover, is identical save that the background is purpley-blue.

The music is to be issued as two separate albums with the colours as above, and also in a boxed set, featuring both covers.

The entire album listing is included for completeness, but only songs with a link have explanations.

Volume 1: Essence
Volume 2: The Hard Shoulder

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1 comment:

  1. You will never I understand this album unless you grasp the thinking behind The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle. He writes of our Essence, of waking up to the reality of the Now, of positivity rather than negativity, of capturing the moment and time existing only in the present. These themes are found within the songs on this album. Read through Hogarths lyrics and you find the constant themes of Tolle's philosophy running through each song. The book is life changing. The album is challenging. Open your mind!


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