The Thieving Magpie (La Gazza Ladra)

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1988's The Thieving Magpie is a sprawling double-disc live set which manages to tie up virtually all the loose ends from Marillion's years with charismatic frontman Fish. Like 1984's Real to Reel mini live album, Magpie offers mostly sterling performances packed with both feeling and technical precision, which often times manage to better their studio counterparts thanks to their road-worthy fluidity. But unlike that seamlessly assembled mini live album, it does suffer from the occasional silence between tracks, or even noticeable variations in sound quality, crowd noise, and general ambiance. Sure, most listeners won't give a hoot about such details when faced with the sheer creative breadth (some would say absurdity) of such Marillion magnum opuses as "Fugazi," "Script for a Jester's Tear," and "Chelsea Monday" to name but a few. First-time listeners should be advised against starting their Marillion collection with this challenging release (or risk their brains exploding like water balloons); but with the inclusion of a complete performance of the band's greatest masterpiece, Misplaced Childhood, Magpie becomes a real treat for serious fans.

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