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Chart Chat Classic Album Review : Marillion – ‘Brave’ (07.02.94)


Chart Chat Classic Album Review : Marillion – ‘Brave’ (07.02.94)

It’s hard to believe that this month marks the twenty year anniversary of Marillion’s top ten album ‘Brave’.  The album took nine months to write and produce with Dave Meegan meticulously listening to every tape listening out for any riff or link which could feature on the album.  The story came from a real life news story Steve Hogarth heard on the radio about a girl found wandering on the Severn Bridge.  What that was true, where she came from and what happened to her all came from Hogarth’s lyrical imagination.

Steve Hogarth admits that the band were initially unsure whether the fans would like the album.  He was right – initially I was very unsure.  Parts of it captured me, but other parts seemed more drawn out.  But what has surprised me is just how much this has grown on me – a little more each year.  Now I delight in sitting down and listening to the whole thing from start to finish, and really immersing myself in the story and expert musicianship on show.

The band played the album in its entirety for the fans last year and they admit that it is now even more of a struggle to play than it was twenty years ago.  That said the band and fans alike know it is a masterpiece which featured has featured among many lists including Classic Rock magazine’s top 30 albums of the 1990s.

To say this is a concept album for me is lazy journalism.  You can’t just lump in an album which happens to tell a story with overblown prog rock albums of the 1970’s. That said it does have to be listened to in its entirety, it’s not a package of hit singles designed to appeal to commercial radio stations.  If you have never owned a copy, or taken the time to listen here is my run through of the album track by track. 

Bridge

Atmospheric starter complete with eerie ship horns conjuring up pictures of the river and the bridge where the girl is found. As the lyrics say “when they ask her name / would she please explain / she simply chooses to say…nothing”.

Living With The Big Lie

The song gives us a first glimpse into the life of the girl as the lyrics describe her being alone at seventeen, and how she was made to feel worthless.  Musically it ebbs and flows between sparse instrumentation to heavy rock as it progresses.  Aside from the intro there are no short songs on the album, and this weights in a just under seven minutes long, but it doesn’t feel that long to the listener.

Runaway

This continues the insight into the girls life, describing her running away from her life.  The lyrics quote “so you cower in the towns forgotten places / and you make your bed with unfamiliar faces” and concludes with “did you cry when they dragged you home / poor little runaway”. For me as a song it is perhaps less immediate than ‘Living With The Big Lie’ but the crescendo’s serve well to add some drama to the accompanying lyrics.

Goodbye To All That 

i) Wave ii) Mad iii) The Opium Den iv) The Slide v) Standing In The Swing

A five part suite which runs for over twelve minutes and is arguably the centre piece of the album. This brings the story back up to date, and rather than dwelling on her past it looks at an appeal for information about the girl. Someone must be missing her, somewhere? ‘Mad’ sees Hogarth singing as the girl, a point he was keen to get across when the album was first released.  “Help me paint a picture / they say it’s a lie / tell me I’m mad / you’re a fine one to decide” scream her frustration at the situation she finds herself in.  The final three parts continue from her perspective and concludes with the line “easy / you said I was easy / this world sharpens teeth / eat your words…”

Hard As Love

For me this is a track which could have been selected as a single, and it’s one which still sounds great when played live.  Certainly one of the rockier moments on the album and still looking from the girls perspective she cries “well I hear that you were looking out to take me home / and I hear that you can handle it and you’re not scared / have you heard about the pictures on my bedroom wall?…”.   Definitely one of the albums highlights.

The Hollow Man

This became the only top forty hit from the album, peaking at no.30 upon its release as a single.   It’s a simple and straightforward song, played to a backdrop of a piano for most of it. “I think I have become one of the hollow men / as I shine on the outside more these days” are the lyrics which perhaps paint the most vivid picture.  A lovely track.

Alone Again In The Lap Of Luxury i) Now Wash Your Hands

A year after the albums release a film was made starring Josie Ayres as the girl and it’s hard for me to forget the imagery from that movie when listening to this song.  The film depicts her arriving home with her friends for lark about, fencing with golf clubs and smashing up vinyl albums.  The scene ends with her bleeding in the bath as she cuts her arms and legs.  It continues the theme of the girl wanting to escape her life with Hogarth singing “if only I had the nerve to leave this house / maybe somewhere by the sea… / take me somewhere, anywhere please!!!”.

Paper Lies

Another more rocky song but one which did not feature in the film of the story a year later.  “When you look into the mirror / do you see a face you hardly recognise” spill the lyrics as the girls story starts to head towards its conclusion. I think this is one of my lesser favourites but I rarely skip the song because as I mentioned earlier the album should be heard from start to finish.

Brave

The title track grabs you straight away and Hogarth launches into “what a brave, brave girl / never lied before” against a sparse musical backdrop.  We have really empathy with the girl by this point and it is now not long until we will find out what fate awaits her.

The Great Escape i) The Last Of You ii) Fallin’ From The Moon

Now here is where we miss having the vinyl copy.  The original release contained two grooves, one which concluded with water noise after The Great Escape (thus signifying the girl had leapt to her death from the bridge) and another ending with the track ‘Made Again’ where she survives and wakes to a whole new and bright world.  The CD format ended with ‘Made Again’, thus guaranteeing a happy ending every time though the two disc remaster included ‘The Great Escape (Spiral Remake)’ which was the one which ended with water noise.  It was this latter version which was selected as the ending to the film.

Although at this stage the ending to the story maybe unclear, the track starts with the distinctive lyrics “heading for the great escape / heading for the rave / heading for the permanent holiday” and ends with “I have fallen / fallen / from the moon / falling…”.

Made Again

And so to the ending of the CD, the ending where she lives to fight another day.  It’s a fine ending with Hogarth’s voice accompanied by just an acoustic guitar.  I will leave the last word to the final lyrics “I woke up from a deep sleep / I woke up from a bad dream / to a bright new morning / to a bright new world”.

The whole journey is an emotional one, for the band and for the listener.  But a journey worth taking.  As the sleeve notes advise – play it loud with the lights off.  Go on.  Just try it!

 

Ian Anderson (@chartchartuk)

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16 February, 2014 - Posted by | ChartChat

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