Thursday, July 16, 2009

Albums of the Day

The Thieving Magpie, by Marillion (1988), and Tales from the Big Bus, by Fish (1998): What a difference a decade makes.

The Thieving Magpie (the title taken from the band's intro music, the overture to Rosinni's La Gazza Ladra) was the capstone on Fish-era Marillion. Recorded at various times and places over several tours, it provides an excellent survey of what Marillion, Mk. I, was all about. It includes a complete performance of Misplaced Childhood and just about all the high points from their other three studio albums (a couple of selections aside). At the time, the band was at its commercial zenith, as was Fish as the charismatic front man. Neither would hit these heights again.

Tales from the Big Bus, on the other hand, are a snapshot of a hard working band and its leader on the long road from club to club across Europe (his former band mates were in a little better shape, but not much). Ten years removed from the big venues detailed on The Thieving Magpie. The crowd is smaller, though no less enthusiastic. Also no less potent is Fish's ability to take the crowd, put them in the palm of his hand, and captivate them for two hours (even slipping in and out of German!). It's rougher, rawer, and ruder than The Thieving Magpie, but it works in its own way.

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