Script For A Jester's Tear


Sanctuary Records, 1983

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The first time I started listening to Marillion's past work - namely, albums recorded with original vocalist Fish, I couldn't help but think that I was listening to Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. (The album I was trying to get through was Misplaced Childhood - and I kept giving up because I kept losing track of what I thought the storyline was about. We'll soon get to that album on these pages.)

If you listen to the recently re-released and remastered 1983 debut of Marillion, Script For A Jester's Tear, you'll undoubtedly think the same thing. What you'll also hear is a band who wasn't quite sure which direction they wanted to take musically, a fact which occasionally distracts from the music.

Make no mistake, Marillion had their feet planted soundly in the world of progressive rock. But there are times when the surface starts to show cracks, especially when a more rock-oriented theme comes into play as on "He Knows You Know" and their debut single "Market Square Heroes". Not that such an introduction is bad; in fact, these two tracks are some of the most enjoyable material on this two-disc repackaging.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Oh great, I can hear the skeptics say, he's going to show how anti prog-rock he is by slamming the band for writing longer songs. Guess again; Fish and crew prove they were a cut above many bands of the same ilk. Namely, the songwriting is so interesting and the performances are solid enough to keep the listener's interest throughout - and before you know it, eight minutes have passed, and the song is over. (Then again, this is something that Marillion has done well throughout their career.)

There is an exception to this, however - the 19-minute epic "Grendel". Granted, it does seem to pass quicker than the timer suggests, but it's also hardly equal to some of the excellent songwriting that Marillion was doing at that point. (The initial premise - telling the story of Beowulf from the monster's point of view - is quite intriguing.) After about 15 minutes, I almost found myself wishing the monster had been snuffed.

The album proper of Script For A Jester's Tear plays well, though there are some inherent problems. One thing is that the volume of the disc seems to jump at inopportune times - for example, Fish's vocals to introduce the title track are almost whispered before the band kicks in at a higher volume. By the time the whole band comes in, it almost seems too loud - especially if you cranked up the speakers to hear what Fish was singing.

Problem number two is that some of the tracks almost seem to be piecemealed together, almost as if they really were two separate songs woven into one track. "Forgotten Sons," an otherwise enjoyable track, is a prime example.

Finally, you do have to invest some time with Script For A Jester's Tear to really appreciate it - another thing I've noticed with almost every Marillion disc I've ever listened to.

I don't know whether or not adding the second disc of goodies is necessarily good or bad with this particular title. On the good side, you get to hear some of Marillion's early singles like "Market Square Heroes" and "Charting The Single"; on the bad side, you have the "Grendel" monstrosity and demos of a few songs that don't seem to tell too much about how the tracks developed. (One exception: I liked the use of harmony vocals on the demo of "Market Square Heroes".)

This disc is still very much worth the time and effort to get to know it, and it provides a nice insight into how Marillion took their first steps in a world that still doesn't quite know what to do with them. If this is your first experience with Marillion, five words: have patience... lots of it.

Rating: C+

User Rating: B+



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sanctuary Records, and is used for informational purposes only.