Marillion

Early Stages: The Official Bootleg Box Set 1982-1987

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Five years, six discs, and though it is certainly a flawed document, it is still unlikely whether there will ever be a more complete accounting than this. Between 1982 and 1987, Marillion first established -- and then confirmed -- their place at the vanguard of the U.K. prog scene. Of course they maintained it thereafter, but the loss of frontman Fish saw them lose a certain madness as well; things became safer and calmer once he was gone, and if you need proof of that, then this is for you. A treasure trove of revised and often radically different versions of some very familiar songs, five live shows open with a Glasgow, Scotland, gig taped just a week after Marillion signed with EMI in 1982. Compared to what they would swiftly become, it's a tentative display, but that's immaterial -- at the time, there was nothing else to compare them to, and this is the sound of the band that had already won so many hearts, long before the labels came a-courting. Still, it is entertaining to compare this show with the next one, recorded just three months later at the Marquee Club in London, and spreading across two sweat-soaked CDs. This is the band at its peak; bootlegs of these shows have circulated for years, and remain among the most prized possessions of any Marillion fans. Now listeners have an official release and it was worth the wait. Onward -- the Reading Festival in 1983, Hammersmith Odeon in 1984; these are Marillion the stadium rockers, but retaining the charm and majesty that the smaller clubs demanded, and for which their material was still best suited. There is something so magical about these shows, in fact, that you almost wish the box ended here. Instead, it continues on for one more night, a Wembley gig in 1987, and it's very slick, very professional, very smooth. They'd already lost a lot of the early fans by now and, listening to this, it's not hard to see why. It's still the same band, but it's not the same spirit, and maybe you can already see the cracks forming. Either way, the story was ending and this box retells it in magnificent style.

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