Happiness Is the Road, Vol. 1: Essence

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Once upon a time, Marillion was unmistakably a prog pop band. But by the dawn of the 21st century, it was becoming increasingly clearer that the group was shedding their early prog direction in favor of melodic pop (akin to Radiohead's more focused and mainstream moments, or even comparable to Coldplay, if Chris Martin and co. were a tad more askew). This is especially evidenced by the first half of their 2008 double album, Happiness Is the Road (issued as two separate releases, "Volume 1: Essence" and "Volume 2: The Hard Shoulder"). By this point, the group's devoted cult following awaits each release with baited breath, and both neither volume should disappoint their post-Fish era fans -- especially on the simply soaring title track from Vol. 1. But on the second disc, the group gets to follow a much proggier path -- which you could have figured by taking a gander at the song title, "The Man from Planet Marzipan." Marillion continue to explore the artier side of rock without getting too crazy, as heard throughout both volumes of Happiness Is the Road.

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